Novel coronavirus COVID-19 resources for libraries

The following blog post is intended to provide general information and should not be construed as legal advice.The author relied on federal law and Indiana law, but did not research any other jurisdictions. Due to the rapid changes of this evolving public health emergency, the most appropriate information and recommendations will likely change daily. The information below is up-to-date as of March 18.

Libraries throughout Indiana are now embracing the dual challenge of meeting community needs while protecting the safety of staff and patrons during the current outbreak of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, as well as other pandemic diseases in the future. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

The COVID-19 outbreak provides an opportunity for local public libraries to educate the public using reliable and accurate sources for medical and public health information. See the National Network of Libraries of Medicine’s webpage A Guide to COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) for Public Libraries for a list of resources. The geographic spread of the virus also creates an opening to reinforce libraries’ traditional values of inclusion and non-discrimination.

Libraries are asking about their obligations to staff and patrons during a pandemic. The Indiana State Department of Health advises public facilities to take “every day preventive measures” to help contain the spread of COVID-19. These include:

  • Ensuring adequate hand washing facilities and supplies are available.
  • Posting signs encouraging proper hand washing and respiratory etiquette.
  • Encouraging sick employees to stay home.
  • Encouraging patrons not to enter the building if they are sick.
  • Performing routine environmental cleaning (cleaning all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace).

See the health department’s COVID-19 Information for Public Facilities and Organizations information sheet for more details.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that employers create an infectious disease outbreak plan in order to be ready to implement strategies to protect their workforce from COVID-19 while ensuring continuity of operations. See CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers for more information.

The U.S. Department of Labor suggests employers review their leave policies and consider providing increased flexibility to employees and families. Because flexible policies can open the door to discriminatory practices, DOL reminds employers they must administer flexible leave policies in a manner that doesn’t discriminate against employees because of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age (40 and over), disability or veteran status. Read more here: Pandemic Flu and the Family and Medical Leave Act: Questions and Answers.

Some of the measures that libraries are already taking include:

  • Increasing the frequency of sanitizing public computer keyboards.
  • Cleaning public contact surfaces twice per day.
  • Making hand sanitizer available in numerous locations (e.g., public computers, circulation desk and staff area) with signs encouraging use and encouraging patrons to use hand sanitizer both before and after using the computer.
  • Encouraging staff to wash hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Cancelling programs; either some or all for a temporary period.
  • Removing toys or other touch-heavy objects from children’s areas.
  • Curbing outreach to at-risk populations, such as retirement communities.
  • Temporarily suspending requirement of a doctor’s note for an extended staff absence.
  • Closing temporarily, reducing services or changing the services provided.

The following resources provide additional suggestions and information:

Indiana Library Federation: About COVID-19 and ILF Response
Every Library: Resources for Libraries on Coronavirus
Library Journal: What Public Libraries Need to Know about the Coronavirus
National Libraries of Medicine: Coronavirus: Library and Business Operations Planning
OSHA: Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic (Steps Employers Can Take)

Libraries do not need to start from scratch in designing new policies and procedures to address COVID-19 or other pandemic diseases. We urge you consult your library’s attorney before proposing changes or additions to your library’s policies, but the following resources can serve as templates to help you get started:

As we move through this ever-changing public health crisis, it is reassuring to discover so many organizations sharing freely of their time and resources to help us all figure out what we need to be doing.

Written by Cheri Harris, certification program director/legal consultant at the Indiana State Library

Nelson and Gilly Ann Perry in antebellum Indiana

When Indiana was established as a state in 1816, its very first constitution explicitly banned slavery. Decades later, attitudes had soured. While many white Hoosiers disavowed the institution of slavery, they did not necessarily want populations of free blacks living in the state. Thus, when citizens convened for a constitutional convention in 1850, this issue was hotly debated. Many delegates, all of whom were white, expressed concern at the influx of blacks migrating to the state, particularly from southern slave states. The result was Article 13 in the 1851 Indiana Constitution which declared “No negro or mulatto shall come into or settle in the State, after the adoption of this Constitution.” A further stipulation of this exclusionary act “instructed the county clerks to notify all Negroes who were residents before November 1, 1851 to register, ordered the creation of the register of negroes and mulattoes, and empowered the clerks to subpoena witnesses and to issue certificates attesting to the registration of legal residents.”1 In addition to name, age and place of birth, these registers also listed physical descriptions of each settler. The registration certificates served as proof that the bearer was a citizen of Indiana and therefore allowed to be in the state legally, but it’s impossible to ignore that the creation of these registers served as further persecution against an already marginalized group, making them even more vulnerable in a country that was bitterly divided over the issue of slavery.

Notice alerting Gibson County citizens of the registration requirement. From the Princeton Clarion-Leader (Princeton, Indiana), May 14, 1853

On Aug. 23, 1853, two settlers named Nelson and Gilly Ann Perry registered with Andrew Lewis, the county clerk of Gibson County, and received their official registration certificates. These documents are now in the Indiana State Library’s Rare Books and Manuscripts collection. According to the papers, Nelson was 33 years old, slightly over 6 feet tall, of stout build and dark complexion and was born in Pennsylvania. Gilly Ann was 28 years old, 5 feet 6 inches tall, of light build and light complexion. She was born in North Carolina.

Nelson and Gilly Ann Perry registration certificates, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library (Collection S1906)

Not much is known about Nelson and Gilly Ann, but some of their life together can be reconstructed from public records.

Years before they were required to register as free blacks, they were entered in another official Indiana registry, albeit for a more innocuous and mundane reason: On July 26, 1848 they were married in Posey County. According to the official registry, Gilly Ann’s maiden name was Eddy.

Marriage record from Familysearch.com

A couple of years later, they appear in the 1850 Census living in Mount Vernon in Posey County, Indiana. Nelson’s occupation is listed as a “cooper” which is a person who made wooden barrels and tubs. They also are living with a 50-year-old black female named C. McCalister,  but no further information could be found on her. Unfortunately, it is very probable that if she registered as a free black in Indiana, it was in Posey County and that registry is known to be missing.

Census entry from Ancestry.com

On Jan. 4, 1864, Nelson Perry enrolled in the United States 28th Colored Infantry Regiment, Company D. By this stage of his life, Perry was in his 40s but still willing to serve for the Union cause. A note on his military record indicated he had been “absent sick in hospital at New Orleans, LA since 7/15/65.” He was officially discharged on Nov. 8, 1865.

Later, Nelson’s name shows up in miscellaneous military paperwork including a list of Union Civil War veterans who were given official government-provided headstones.

Headstone application from Ancestry.com. Photograph of Nelson Perry’s tombstone from findagrave.com

 

No date can be found for his death. Presumably, he died prior to 1894 since that is the date on the headstone application. He is buried in Princeton, Indiana in Gibson County.

Gilly Ann is largely unaccounted for during the Civil War years and there is no evidence that she and Nelson had children. She shows up again in public records in the 1875 Wisconsin State Census, living in Beloit, Rock County near the Illinois border. She also appears in the 1890 United States Census of soldiers and widows, again in Beloit.

Image from ancestry.com

Interestingly, the Indiana State Library was given both Nelson and Gilly Ann’s Indiana registration papers from Beloit College where, presumably, Gilly Ann had donated them for posterity.

Official documents provide merely a rough outline of the lives of Nelson and Gilly Ann. What we know about Indiana history during the antebellum era can help flesh out their story even if, ultimately, any conclusions we draw are pure conjecture. For example, we know from her registration papers that Gilly Ann was born in North Carolina. Many free blacks and former slaves migrated to Indiana from North Carolina with assistance of North Carolina’s Quaker community. Quaker led caravans – sometimes made up of hundreds of people – made the long trek west. Migrating in such a manner was a safer alternative to escaping through other means, such as the Underground Railroad, because travelers were under the protection of their Quaker traveling companions. When the caravans reached Indiana, the free blacks would either continue to head further north to Michigan or Canada or they settled in Indiana, often within or near Quaker communities. It is quite possible that Gilly Ann was brought to Indiana from North Carolina in such a caravan.

In 1848 and 1850 we know that both Nelson and Gilly Ann were in Posey County. Based on the 1850 census, we know they were living in Mount Vernon, Indiana, a town situated directly on the Ohio River with Kentucky – a slave state – nearby on the other side of the river. In September of that year, the United States Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 which further compromised the rights of free blacks in northern states and made them more susceptible to kidnapping and being sold off to southern slave owners, even if they had never been enslaved before in their life. Being situated on the Ohio River, Nelson and Gilly Ann’s home was located in an especially perilous place as bounty hunters constantly roamed the area surrounding the river looking for escaped slaves or others who they could bring in for a financial reward. Bounty hunters could abduct people suspected of being runaway slaves with little or no evidence.

Clipping from Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis, Ind.), Jan. 25, 1848

Living so close to the Ohio River, it is entirely possible that the Perrys were involved in the Underground Railroad to some degree and like many other free blacks were instrumental in assisting others on their journey north. However, in 1853 the couple had moved a bit north to Gibson County. Perhaps they wanted to get farther away from the Kentucky border. Or perhaps they made the move because Gibson County was home to a larger number of free blacks and had several established black rural settlements. According to the 1850 census, Posey County’s black population was 98 while Gibson County’s was 217, almost double the size. Whatever the reason, it seems to have been a permanent relocation since we do know that Nelson Perry eventually ended up being buried near Princeton, a town located in Gibson County.

While all this is merely speculation, contextualizing what little is known about Nelson and Gilly Ann from public records within the broader narrative of general U.S. history allows for a richer and more complete story to emerge. That these registration papers were saved for decades, journeyed from Indiana to Wisconsin and were left in the care of a local college only to make their way back to Indiana is remarkable and a testament that Nelson and Gilly Ann must have wished their story to be remembered.

The Indiana State Library has numerous resources documenting this period of Indiana history. Some used for this blog post are:

Brown, Maxine F. “The role of free blacks in Indiana’s Underground Railroad” (2001). ISLI 973.7115 B879r
Hudson, J. Blaine. “Fugitive slaves and the Underground Railroad in the Kentucky borderland” (2002). ISLI 973.7115 H885f
LaRoche, Cheryl Janifer. “Free black communities and the Underground Railroad” (2014). ISLI 973.7115 L326f
1. Robbins, Coy D. Indiana negro registers, 1852-1865 (1994). ISLR 977.2 I385nr
Thornbrough, Emma Lou. “The negro in Indiana : a study of a minority” (1957). ISLI 325.26 T497n
“Underground Railroad : the invisible road to freedom through Indiana” (2001). ISLI 973.7115 U55

Online resources
Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources. Underground Railroad
Indiana Historical Society: Early black settlements

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

New year, new genealogy resolutions

If your New Year’s resolutions for 2019 include genealogy research, the Indiana State Library Genealogy Division can help! Whether you are starting your research for the first time or are a seasoned researcher, we have many resources and ideas for you. Here are just a few ways you can get started in 2019:

Read a genealogy book

Besides family histories and ethnic and geographic-based genealogy resources, the Indiana State Library also holds many books that cover the various practical aspects of genealogy research, such as genetic genealogy, organizing your research and research techniques. Check out our catalog for a selection of holdings.

Watch a webinar

The Indiana State Library offers free prerecorded webinars on genealogy topics such as Genealogy 101, vital records and wills and probates. Taught by Genealogy Division librarians, these webinars provide an overview of research techniques and resources with an emphasis on the materials and databases available at the state library.

Check out a new-to-you digital resource

Cited by Family Tree Magazine as being among “…the best state-focused websites for genealogy,”[1] our many digital resources can help with your research. As an added bonus, many of these resources are accessible from home.

  • The Indiana State Library Digital Collections contain full scans of materials from our collection, including manuscripts, family bible records, maps, Indiana government documents and more.
  • Hoosier State Chronicles contains nearly a million fully-searchable digitized Indiana newspaper pages covering a wide time period and geographic area.
  • Indiana Legacy collates many of our databases in one convenient search interface, including the Indiana Biography Index, the Indiana Marriages 1958-2017 database and the Indiana Newspapers on Microfilm holdings guide.
  • Indiana County Research Guides provide an overview to genealogical research in each of Indiana’s 92 counties, including a summary of our print materials and links to free online resources for each county.

Ask a librarian

The librarians at the Indiana State Library are available to answer your research questions even if you can’t visit the library in person. We offer an Ask a Librarian service where you may email or live chat with a librarian. We love to hear from our patrons and would be more than happy to consult our resources or provide research tips regarding your genealogy, whether you are just starting out or are working on a long-term brick wall.

[1] Rick Crume, “Cyber States,” Family Tree Magazine, December 2018, 18-21.

This blog post is by Jamie Dunn, genealogy librarian. For more information, contact the Genealogy Division at (317) 232-3689 or send us a question through Ask-a-Librarian.

Services for LGBT patrons

National Coming Out Day was Oct. 11, a day to honor civil rights for people who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, non-binary or otherwise gendered.

This presents an opportune time to ask the question, “Is Your Library Doing Enough for LGBT Patrons?,” as proposed in a blog post by Sandra Stacey on EBSCOpost last year. Stacey suggests tips to increase the value of your library for patrons who are LGBT+. Her suggestions include:

  • Include content with positive representations of LGBT history, themes and events
  • Enhance book displays with diverse faces and families
  • Label spines with genre (such as putting a rainbow sticker on the spine of books with LGBT content)
  • Present LGBT-genre reading lists
  • Decorate with welcoming posters
  • Display pamphlets from LGBT organizations
  • Include LGBT-related materials in other events (Banned Books Week, Holocaust Remembrance Day, etc.)
  • Provide both fiction and nonfiction resources
  • Encourage community involvement in collection development
  • Participate in Pride celebrations by having book displays or exhibits
  • Provide meeting space for LGBT organizations
  • Ensure that pro-LGBT websites are accessible
  • Offer career resources for LGBT patrons

While the LGBT+ community has unique library needs, the American Library Association (ALA) provides help in several ways, including directories to LGBT+ legal resources, outreach ideas and ideas for LGBT-friendly materials for children and teens. ALA’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table released a 2017 Rainbow Book list in January to help with collection development. The School Library Journal published a story in 2014, “LGBTQ & You: How to Support Your Students,” that discusses the importance of “finding materials in which LGBTQ students can see themselves—resources that reflect the stories of their lives and the themes that mirror their own questions and concerns.” It mentions that a collection title can be “a book that simply features an LGBTQ family within its story line. As many as six million American children and adults have an LGBTQ parent, according to the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute.”

As we strive to ensure all members of our communities are represented in our collections, remember that help is out there!

This blog post by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference & Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.