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Published: Sunday, 8/12/2001

Genealogy unit to sink its roots in larger, more comfortable space


Navigating the tides of Toledo history is about to get easier.

When the local history and genealogy department of Toledo's Main Library returns downtown from its exile on Summit Street, where it has been during the extensive construction, it will move into a dramatically expanded new environment.

“I think people are going to be amazed at the changes and surprised what the different areas will look like,” said Jim Marshall, manager of the library's local history and genealogy department.

The department will spread out over 16,000 square feet of the third floor of the main building, a change that will more than double its size.

“I think it's really going to give people a sense of just how big the collection is,” said Chris Kozak, the library's media relations officer.

The department's new facilities will also provide it with a greater degree of climate control, which is vital for the preservation of fragile historical documents.

The library has been collecting local history material since before the main building was constructed in 1940.

“At that point, they decided that there was enough material to have a separate room for it,” Mr. Marshall said.

The collection has continued to expand, and now boasts more than 5,000 volumes of local history books, more than 180,000 photographs, architectural plans of local buildings, extensive newspaper archives, and countless historical records and personal papers. It also has extensive genealogical records.

The local history department has long worked closely with the Maumee Valley Lucas County Historical Society.

When the society opened its Wolcott House museum complex in 1963, it decided not to have an on-site library, and instead entrusted its documents to the library's local history department.

“We have a symbiotic relationship. The local history department has become the caretakers, the custodians of the society archives,” said Chuck Jacobs, director of the historical society. “That involves safe-keeping them, administering them, and making them accessible to the public.”

With their new facilities, the materials will be more accessible than ever.

“For example, before we had two public computer terminals, and now we're going to have eight to 12,” Mr. Marshall said.

The increased accessibility of the collection will benefit the public.

“From a local historical standpoint, there are invaluable resources there, not only the genealogical records, but the community histories as well,” Mr. Jacobs said.

“I think that people recognize how important the collection is,” Mr. Kozak said.

“In the long run, I think it's going to benefit the entire community,” said Mr. Jacobs.

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