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Some libraries and archives are opening...what do I need to know?

Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois

Like everything else during the pandemic, libraries, archives and museums were forced to close in some cases, for almost a year.. This was not just limited to our local communities but all over the world. Recent CDC regulations regarding masks and social distancing including local health departments have allowed many to open up although in a limited capacity. In some cases, others are beginning to expand capacity.

Most of the library and archive websites have managed to remain available with online

programs and check out indexes and records. This has allowed you to access online records and in some cases downloading digitized these records. In some cases, records that had been on microfilm for years have now been digitized and are available online. This has allowed the researcher to locate records that you would have otherwise had to search through at the archives.

Here in the U.S., we have seen libraries announce expanded hours. It is encouraging to hear that other facilities have announced they are either expanding hours in the next few months or opening their doors for the first time since March of last year! So, whether you're planning a trip to an archive in another city or the local library down the street, to do some research and check out the entry requirements.

This is certainly the case here in the U.S. but also in countries around the world. The National Archives in Kew, England just outside of London announced this past week that they have now opened up their reading room for research. There are specific requirements for reviewing documents and bookings are required. So if you plan on visiting this archive, here’s a link for instructions. The National Archives in Dublin Ireland has also re-opened recently but appointments for the reading room and accessing records is still required. At last check, the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) remains closed to the public.

The same is true in North America. At the time this blog was written, the National Archives research room nationwide including presidential libraries were still closed until further notice. Some regional and local libraries may be open but check ahead on these individual websites for the latest information. Also keep in mind that many of these libraries and archives here in the U.S. and overseas have social media pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This will also provide you with the latest information and restrictions for that facility. Any changes can also be found on these social media sites.

The bottom line is before you walk out your door, check out the library or archive's website and see what the Covid 19 requirements are for entry. Many local health departments in the city or country you are traveling to may still be requiring masks inside buildings as well as social distancing for those not fully vaccinated. You might see some exceptions if you are fully vaccinated but again this will depend upon the community where the library is located. You might also experience limited hours as well as reservation requirements in order to have access into the reading rooms. All this information should be located on the library's website. If they have specific requirements for entry, be sure to honor everything that facility requires. This might include calling ahead of time or emailing for a reservation due to limited capacity. You could be denied entry if you haven’t fully followed all the rules.

One other piece of advice. Do some research ahead of time before heading out the door. Since some of these records are now available online, you might save yourself some time when you find out the record you are searching for is actually on the website. You might actually save yourself a trip or give yourself a few leads in your research before you even head out the door!

If you can, make a donation to that archive or library. Remember many of these facilities house very important information and records on our ancestors. Most of these facilities have had their operations disrupted for almost a year in many cases. A small donation will help the facility as well as the staff get their operation up and running again.

As of today, non-essential travel bans remains in effect for many countries in Europe and the U.S as well as countries that still have closed borders for Americans. These regulations could change later in the summer.

Here are the links for international travel between the U.S. Canada, Mexico and some European countries. These regulations could change later in the year, so stay in contact with these sights for more information. This would include 14 day quarantines upon entering into that country and many countries still have closed borders for Americans as of today.

United Kingdom (There is also a link for Scotland and Wales)

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