Columnists

A Chapter is Closing at the Library

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, especially after last week’s column on Kirk’s Hardware was such a downer, but I wanted to let people know the Noblesville (i.e. Hamilton East) library is about to lose one of its most valuable assets.

On April 22, Nancy Massey, the library’s Indiana Room Coordinator, will officially retire, depriving patrons of nearly 30 years of experience in researching genealogy and local history.

When Nancy began working in the Indiana Room in 1992, it occupied just a small part of the library’s second floor. Back then, a mere two tables were provided for patrons’ use, the book shelves only contained reference books that didn’t circulate and — shock! — there were no computers.

Today, the Indiana Room covers a considerably larger area and houses a treasure trove of genealogical and historical information on its shelves and in its databases. Much of that is a result of Nancy’s efforts.

Take, for example, one of my most frequently used sources, the vertical files. When Nancy started working in the IR, there were only eight file cabinets for Hamilton County subjects, Indiana subjects AND family histories. Now, there are eight file cabinets devoted to Hamilton County alone.

 (In case  you don’t know what a vertical file is, it’s the place to find valuable information too small or too fragile to be shelved, e.g. newspaper clippings, pamphlets, etc.)

Widely acknowledged as a local authority on genealogical research (in 2013 she was appointed THE Hamilton County Genealogist by the Indiana Genealogical Society,) Nancy has not only presented genealogy workshops and programs at the library, she’s also given presentations to various outside genealogical organizations.

Under her guidance, the IR has become a resource center for people all over the country seeking to fill gaps in their family trees. She even fielded one research request from Germany!

She’s equally knowledgeable about local history.

Whenever I’ve been pressed for time or couldn’t make it to the IR to dig up some detail for this column in person, I’ve always known I could count on Nancy to come up with what I needed.

I’m not the only writer she’s helped. You’ll find her assistance acknowledged in such non-fiction books as Scott Beekman’s “William Dudley Pelley: A Life in Right-Wing Extremism and the Occult” and Wendell Trogdon’s “America’s Stringtowns: Forgotten Communities.”

She’s also provided information for out-of-state fiction authors researching Noblesville as a historical setting for their books and has even produced a couple of books on local history herself — a pictorial history of Noblesville she co-authored with Carol Ann Schweikert (now Johnson) and “A Brief History of Noblesville” which she co-authored with me.

Of all her library accomplishments, however, the one of which she’s most proud is the acquisition of a Library Services and Technology Act grant that’s allowed the IR to undertake various digitization projects.

Thanks to Nancy, you can now use your computer to view items such as the Noblesville Mayor Docket books and Dr. Earl Brooks’ 1923 Hamilton County Centennial photos on the Indiana State Library’s Indiana Memory website.

You can also explore city directories and Evans-Godby-Trout Funeral Home records at ancestry.com, and local historical newspapers at Newspapers.com.

And those are just a sample of the Indiana Room’s ongoing digitization projects.

Best of wishes on your retirement, Nancy! I know you’ll be missed by a LOT of library patrons.

A Reminder: The Blatchley Nature Study Club’s first Spring Wildflower Walk will take place this Saturday, April 16, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Blatchley sanctuary, 125 Boulder Dr., Noblesville. It’s free and open to the public.

(Don’t worry if you miss it. There will be a second walk on April 30.)

– Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears on Wednesdays in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com