Tuesday, September 20, 2011

More than one new thing a day ...

 I just got back from the Federation of Genealogical Societies (http://www.fgs.org/) conference in Springfield, Illinois.  Before I left, I had successfully managed to update my website without too much trauma to it, or too much drama for myself. There's more to do, but I hit the highlights in terms of the revisions I wanted to make. I definitely learned a few new "somethings" undertaking my own updates and the trip to Springfield provided a lot of opportunities to learn new things, as well! Probably a great many more than just one per day.

One of the benefits of learning something new is that you then have a new skill, and you can then use that new skill to support the genealogical society of your choice. One of the genealogical societies of my choice is the Rhode Island Genealogical Society (http://www.rigensoc.org/). I live in Rhode Island now, and when I moved "back home" one of the first things that I did was to become a member. I had very little in the way of Rhode Island roots since many of my families are late nineteenth and early twentieth century immigrants, and the older RI families seem to have more interested members within the society. But the programming and publications are great, and of course, it's a great way to meet other genealogists. 

But times are changing, and, slowly, so are the genealogical societies. FGS has some great new initiatives for societies to take advantage of, including radio broadcasts, blogs and website reviews. One of the biggest challenges that I see for many genealogical societies, including my home organization, is that technology seems hard. It isn't necessarily hard, but it seems daunting, like my experience with updating my own website. I procrastinated because I worried that it wouldn't go well, but a little bit of research, a little bit of help, and I was on my way. And so it is for our genealogical societies. "But we've always done things this way!" just doesn't work in appealing to who may be intrigued about genealogy due to the mainstream success of "Who Do You Think You Are?" and the mass marketing of Ancestry.com. Learning to do things in new ways to appeal to younger members seems hard, often because younger people are technologically savvy from birth, whereas the people who are often heavily invested in the management of societies are older, established members who may or may not still be in the work force and keeping up with technological advances through their jobs. I read recently that this year's college freshman were born the same year as the internet. Yup, for us old paper and pen genealogists, it's a whole, new ballgame, and we, as genealogical societies, need to learn something new everyday if we want to thrive, and not just survive.

So, as I learn something new, I often wonder not only how it might apply to my own business and research, but also to my genealogical society. We always need to be asking, is something that I have learned a skill needed by my society? It could be anything from marketing, graphic design, website development, databases, word processing, accounting or indexing. The best way to help your home society is by offering those skills to bring everyone into the twenty-first century. Of course, some of us are still getting into the late twentieth century, but that's another story for another day.

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