A Loss for Tampa Bay

The John F. Germany Public Library in Tampa, Florida holds one of the largest genealogical collections in the southeast United States. I visit often and have always found the staff to be professional and helpful. Last month, my visit there saddened me.

I planned to drop off some donated books and as it was thundering, decided to park in the adjoining parking garage. It was mid-day and the lot was just about filled. I thought I was lucky to find one of the few remaining spots on the top floor. I took the elevator to the tube that joins the garage with the library. When I approached the library doors I was shocked to find them boarded up. I guessed that the facility was being renovated. I walked a level down and then half way around the block to enter from the front. Stopping at the information desk, I asked for the acquisition clerk who was expecting me. “I’ll have to take you up because the elevator needs a key for that floor,” was the response. I thought that was odd but with security as it is these days, I wasn’t too surprised.

On the way up I chatted with the staff member about the reason for my donation. When we arrived on the 4th floor, she accompanied me to another information desk. I turned over the materials and then stated I was going to spend the next hour in the Genealogy Department doing some research. Both staff members looked at each other and one finally responded, “This is the Genealogy Department.” Now I was terribly confused. I’ve been visiting this library for over 40 years and the Genealogy Department has always been in the annex and not in the main building.

Evidently, in June, with little notice, the City of Tampa who owned the annex decided that the library must vacate the building. The Genealogy Department was relocated to smaller quarters on the 4th floor of the main building. That floor once held the Administration Department which is why the elevator only stopped there with a special access key.

I understand progress but I’m dismayed that the City decided to relocate this genealogical gem because THEY’RE SELLING THE PROPERTY TO BUILD APARTMENTS. Now if housing was in such a shortage in the Tampa Bay area I could perhaps see the reasoning for the decision but as it is, there is much vacant land adjacent to downtown Tampa just a few blocks away that can be used for apartments. In the past few years, the City has relocated thousands of people as they’ve emptied out public housing high rises. They haven’t even demolished many of those vacant structures that are to be rebuilt for mixed usage someday.

Obviously, the City’s priorities are not the same as mine. Progress is important but not at the expense of the past. The library staff has done a wonderful job on short notice to accommodate the space shortage. Kudos to the library staff; Shame on the City of Tampa’s decision.


Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 27 March 2016.

Had an interesting genealogical experience last week that I want to caution you about!  I’m all over the web – you can find my blog, website, email, public tree on Ancestry, FamilySearch, Find-A-Grave, etc. and I’m visible for several reasons:

  • I strongly believe my ancestors’ information and stories should be shared with anyone who cares to learn about them.
  • I LOVE genealogy, history and family stories so I joyfully research and investigate the past.
  • I’m more interested in preserving what I discover than gaining monetary compensation for my efforts.
  • Collaboration works for me!  I like connecting with others who are interested in the same lines that I am; if I’m not visible how are they going to find me?
  • I understand if you don’t share these views; I’m not going to try to convince you to change your mind so don’t try to do that to me.

With that said, here’s what happened –  I received an email message that someone was trying to contact me via a public posting forum.  I went to the site and the individual was requesting contact information for the deceased’s living relatives, though it didn’t say why.  I responded publicly to contact me via my email to discuss as I don’t give out living people information, other than my own, in a public manner.

I soon received an email from a small museum who wanted to know who the next of kin was as the deceased had donated an item that the organization no longer could display.  The museum needed to know if the family wanted the item returned or if they could sell it and keep the proceeds.

I responded what my relationship was to the deceased but they wanted a blood relative.  Using the tools of the genealogy trade, I found a living adult child who didn’t want the item and emailed the organization that they could sell it.

So, now you have the background of the bigger issue here – what happens to items that you or your loved ones’ donate.  This experience jarred me because I never really thought about a museum discarding items.  I donated a lot of old sheet music to a local museum about 15 years ago because they were trying to grow their collection and we didn’t have the room for it.  If they decided to sell it I’d be fine with that.  Although ancestors owned the sheet music I wouldn’t consider it an heirloom.  When I gave it away I didn’t think about asking for it back if they couldn’t house it any more.  In my head, you give it away and you have no rights to it any longer.  Apparently, the deceased thought differently!

If you plan on donating items you need to educate yourself before you give.  Check out these links:  http://www2.archivists.org/publications/brochures/donating-familyrecs



and definitely check out the organization you’ve planned to give to BEFORE you make that donation.  Ask

  • Does the organizations short and long term goals mesh with the items being given?  If not, they may not want to keep them long term.
  • Do you understand the documents you’re going to sign?  Check with your lawyer and accountant before you make the donation.
  • Is it clear what will happen to your items in the event the museum no longer wants them?
  • If there is a provision to return items, how will the organization get in contact with you or your descendants?

Definitely food for thought while your devouring your chocolate bunny today!