In addition to helping patrons of Evans Public Library find a book or other media through interlibrary loan programs, library employee Cathy Smith helps individuals with family research.
Evans Library has a massive genealogy and local history collection that includes newspapers and microfilm that dates back to the 1890s.
And Smith spends considerable time going through that collection, looking for such things as obituaries or other information about a specific family.
“A lot of people use us as a resource about their families,” Smith said.
“And we get requests from all over the United States,” Smith said, adding that requests also come from local individuals who don’t drive or are homebound.
Smith handles the requests as time permits, with old obituaries being among the most popular requests.
But, she said, “You never know what you’ll be asked to look up, and you never know what you will find.”
For example, Smith has been looked to find information about a young mother who caught her clothes on fire while cooking and died from her injuries, and a man who was riding the rails and died from injuries he sustained when falling from a train.
The amount of time it takes to do research on a request varies, oftentimes depending on the amount of information provided with the request.
“It may take 20 minutes for an obituary, but it sometimes can take hours,” Smith said.
The amount of information provided with the request is very valuable in getting the necessary information in the least amount of time.
“Sometimes, we have to tell them that we can’t do it for them because the time period they give us is too broad,” said Evans Librarian Jessica Blain. “We try to get them to narrow down the time period as much as possible.”
The library has a genealogy lookup request form to be filled out by the patron, and it charges a flat fee of $3 per request, which includes up to 10 copies.
“It’s not something we do to make money,” Smith said. “It’s just one of the many services that we offer.”
For much of her research, Smith uses the library’s new digital microfilm equipment, a purchase that was largely funded with money received from the Scarpaci and Ruemmelin foundations.
Smith, or an individual who does the research on his or her own, can print information from microfilm. They can also copy it to an external memory unit, or create a document and copy and paste the research information.
And, there are many others who do perform their own research, Smith said. Those who do so include “a lot of visitors from other towns and other states,” she said.
Blain said that Smith doesn’t do detailed lookups; detailed work is done by individuals such as Linda Hanabarger who spend considerable time on genealogical projects.
Hanabarger and other members of the Fayette County Genealogical and Historical Society are frequent visitors and users of the library, and society members hold their monthly meetings at the library.