A New Pace

Finding a new pace

Challenging times have meant a change of pace to all our lives. And,  this is also relevant to those of us who volunteer on the Society's Family History Help Desk.  Like the rest of the nation the initial lock down in March 2020 meant an immediate cessation of all our Help Desk activities and finding new ways to fill our days and new ways of doing things.  And, as the days and the weeks have passed this has even meant learning new ways to research our family history!

Changing pace

MLFHS Help Desk volunteers initially rallied by offering our Help Desk services via a 'Virtual Help Desk' and also filmed and posted a number of 'Hints from the Help Desk'  videos on our website and Society Facebook pages.

Larger organisations like Ancestry and Findmypast started to change the way they have been engaging with their audiences and offered live videos and chat sessions via Facebook and also increased the number of informative blogs.  Perhaps you have seen or been tuning in to some of them?

Groups like the Family History Federation and RootsTech have also gone online trying to recreate a family history conference experience.  There are pluses and minuses to all these new  experiences. But hopefully you have managed to pick up some useful and helpful tips in order to move your research on. A new digital revolution is upon us to be sure!

Gathering pace

However, we recognised, and were very realistic about our situation towards the end of 2020 and mindful that we would not be returning to our usual Help Desk structure at Manchester Central Library for some time.  So, with this in mind we redeveloped new methods of operation. On a trial basis we  reopened the MLFHS Family History Helpdesk with bookable spaces only, once a week on a Monday with restricted times from 11.00 am to 2.00 pm. We also continued to assist people via our Virtual Help Desk.

We were not allowed to use our usual Help Desk position on the ground floor and temporarily were based on the 3rd floor.  Unfortunately, we were also not allowed to implement zoom assistance from the library as we had wished.

Access to computers and film readers remained very limited in the library (2 meter rule!).  However, we did have two readers moved upstairs to the 3rd floor so our visitors had the exclusive use of those.  We continued to iron-out and modify our service. All visitors to Manchester Central Library had to comply with library/Covid restrictions and wore a face mask or face covering. Assistance at the Help Desk was provided in a distanced manner.

Unfortunately this system was only in operation for few short weeks before we were plunged into Lockdown #2 and this limited operation had to cease. We were never able to reopen the Help Desk again after that point.

Regaining our stride

Now, as we head towards the June 2021 date set by the Government which suggests that we will be able to reopen we are busily working on a plan to enable this. So, for those of you whose circumstances allow do consider paying a visit to us at Manchester Central Library when we re-open.

Some things have not changed: the wealth of information contained in the archival collections and local history books, information found only in the microfilm and fiche collections and our course our commitment to providing quality assistance to family history researchers.

Please continue to look at our website or Facebook page for further updates.

Leslie Turner
Help Desk Co-ordinator