Thursday, July 12, 2018
Lost in a Family History Center?
Most Family History Centers are so small that there is little chance of actually getting physically lost in one of them. But there is a real problem with being lost in the sense of having an active and viable Family History Center with real patrons and a supportive and actively involved staff. I have a friend who was the Director of a local Family History Center, who told me that he went to the Center every day for a year and did not have even one patron come in. He was truly lost in a Family History Center.
What defines a Family History Center? Simply put, a Family History Center is a place that has an internet connection to the Family History Center Portal. Facilities with computers and other equipment may have family history activities and even a staff but technically they are not Family History Centers. The current Family History Centers are listed in the Help menu on FamilySearch.org under the "Contact Us" drop-down menu choice.
Family History Centers are recognized as such by FamilySearch, a corporation owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, the facility and staff, including the director, are the responsibility of the local sponsoring Church unit or units. One Stake can sponsor a Family History Center or even sponsor more than one Center in the same Stake. It is also possible that two or more Stakes can combine resources and sponsor a multi-stake center. Over the years these multi-stake centers have undergone several name changes. The current name for large centers is a FamilySearch Library. Even more recently, FamilySearch Libraries are evolving into centers that sponsor a Family Discovery Center with the electronic equipment or software equipment to support such a designation. The prototype Family Discovery Center is now located on the first floor of the Salt Lake City main Family History Library.
The key here is the support and involvement of the local Stake leadership. The Family History Centers either thrive or die depending on this interest and support. If the directors are promoting the Center then it can survive with benign neglect for some time, but eventually, the operation of the Center suffers due to lack of staff and equipment maintenance.
Ultimately, the Director or Directors and the staff determine the amount of activity in the Center. If they have adequate support from the Stake leaders, they need to be proactive in making the Family History Center a place to come and do research and get help. One key component of a viable Center is training and classes for both the staff and the patrons. All of the successful Family History Centers are also open both during the day and in the evenings. Sundays, the Centers should be available for use by the resident Wards. There are a lot of variations as to staffing, equipment, and the actual facilities, but innovation is profitable in producing interest.
Don't feel lost in the desert. There are plenty of good examples online of successful, vibrant, and growing Family History Centers.