Posted by Juliana Szucs on September 25, 2014 in Ask Juliana
The Newberry Library, Chicago.

Did you know September is Library Card Sign-Up Month? That makes it the perfect time for you or someone you know who doesn’t have a card to sign up. It also makes it the perfect time to share your favorite library memories.

As family historians, you probably have a lot of favorite library memories, like your first library card and how proud you were. I remember feeling so grown up when I got my first library card. It was in a small local building that prior to becoming a library had been the village’s first schoolhouse. It was hard for me to imagine that tiny building housing the school for the whole town.

I was an avid reader and my library card meant not having to re-read the Nancy Drew and other books in my own collection (although I often did anyway). Oh, to have the luxury of so much reading-time now.

I always seemed to be drawn to the biographies. I loved reading the stories of strong women, and perhaps that’s why I’m often drawn to the stories of the females in my family tree. I like to think I draw some strength from the things they endured.

My first family history research trips were to libraries in Chicago with my mother when she was doing genealogical research for clients. I wasn’t very helpful initially. I remember my first foray into newspapers on microfilm. I was probably about 14 and I kept calling my mother to come over. She’d come to where I was sitting and I’d show her some interesting advertisement or article that I’d happened across. Unfortunately, they had nothing to do with the obituary I was supposed to be looking for. I still have that problem. Squirrel!

On our first trip to The Newberry together, I was 15. Trouble is, you need to be 16 or a high school junior to research at The Newberry. (I wasn’t a junior, either.) That visit served as a good reminder to always check restrictions. Fortunately I had brought a book along, so I sat in the lobby and read my book. Despite my initial visit, I still love returning to that beautiful building and all of its treasures.

What about you? What do you remember about your early library visits—as a child or as a budding genealogist? What was your favorite section? Who took you on your first trip to the library?

Juliana Szucs

Juliana Szucs has been working for for more than 20 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program.

1 Comment

  1. Glenna Boswell

    I was an avid reader from the time I could look at a picture book. Mom said I memorized the stories and at 3 years old I would sit in a small rocking chair in front of a group and pretend to read the story to the congregation.
    When I was old enough to go to the small library in our small town I don’t remember getting a library card, although I must have had one. Mother took me once a week where I would load up with as many books as I was allowed to check out. I loved action stories – I remember reading an entire series on Tarzan, the Ape Man. I also loved mysteries and human interest stories. I developed a bad habit for a few years of reading the end of the story before I checking out the book. Eventually, I realized I spoiled the adventure of not knowing the end from the beginning. I NEVER do that now. Reading has been and still is one of life’s most enjoyable, inspirational, and worthwhile activities.
    I often try to find out particulars about the lives of my ancestors as I do research on them. It makes them come to life and helps me to appreciate their sacrifices and contributions that as a descendant I benefit from.
    One of my greatest blessings in life has been able to read good books.

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