Preserving Family History

My name is Crystal Ward, and I am a librarian in the Genealogy Division. I have been asked “what does a genealogy librarian do; what is your job like”? As a genealogy librarian, I work to preserve the family history of the citizens of Indiana, and to ensure that the items we collect are preserved and protected for use by future generations.

One often overlooked factor in librarianship: preservation and conservation, environmental control; or more specifically, dusting, is one way that I help conserve the materials that we have in the collection. Yes, like housework, librarians dust the books in the collection to keep them in good shape. By cleaning books and book shelves of dust, dirt, and debris, we are creating a happy and healthy environment for the books.

This is not a simple task, and comes with certain tools. For example, when I clean my assigned section of shelves, I wear an apron, rubber gloves, and a dust mask, as in the glamorous photos above. I use a special brush with horse hair bristles, a HEPA vacuum cleaner, and I always have my iTunes playing.

I will spend up to an hour cleaning and dusting one section of books, and this task is made more enjoyable by my iTunes playlist. While cleaning a section today, I played several songs by the Beastie Boys, “Float On” by Modest Mouse, and Will Smith’s “Summertime.” I also run across some really amazing books and often keep my eye open for unusual titles. I was not disappointed in the titles I found while dusting today: “Magician Among the Spirits” by Harry Houdini, ISLM 134 H836N; “Alcohol Education for the layman” by Monroe and Stewart, ISLM 16.178 M753A; “Sorry but you’re wrong about it” by Albert Wiggam, ISLM 133.7 W655s; and “Frustration: the study of behavior without a goal” by Norman Maier, ISLM 132M217F.

This blog post was written by Crystal Ward, Genealogy Librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317)232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at