A tour of Rush Rhees Library

     I was among about 25 people from the Rochester genealogical Society to get a tour of the Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester last Thursday night. Our hosts were Alan Unsworth and Karl Kabelac. Alan, I think, is a reference librarian in the library. Mr. Kabelac has actually been retired from the library for 10 years. He used to work in the Rare Books and Special collections Department.

    The first place they took us was down to the A level (below ground) where there is a small collection of genealogies. This library uses the Library of Congress cataloging system so the genealogies start out with “CS.” They mentioned that the histories of Britain start out with “DA” then there is histories of France (“DB”) and then Germany (“DE”), etc. Someone asked about the long row of empty shelves. They said that they were for the book collection coming from the former library at Colgate Rochester Divinity School. It has been 2 years and they are still trying to marry the collection into the Rush Rhees Library.

     We went up to the second floor going through the old stacks where we almost lost a few people in the group. If you haven’t been to the library before, it helps to know that you follow either the blue tape to get to the old stacks or follow the yellow tape to get to the newer stacks. On the second floor is the Rare Books and Special Collections. If you click the link you can see what the collection encompasses. They mentioned the records of the Rochester Friendly Home, some local families manuscripts (mostly letters) and the U of R Archives. The didn’t mention that they have Monroe County Penitentiary papers, Hebrew Ladies Aids Society records, Women’s City Club records. Rochester Orphan Asylum records and many others. So you may want to go through the collection contents and see what interests you.

     The Rare Books (etc.) collection has some special rules. You need to show a photo ID and bring in only a pencil and whatever paper you need to write on. They have free lockers for coats, book bags, etc. Their hours are also shorter than the rest of the library.

     We then went to the training room for a demo of what is on-line at U of R. There are many databases that can only be accessed while in the library. Among those are the ProQuest Historical Newspaper Collection, Biography & Genealogy Master Index, America: History and Life. You may know that some of those databases are also on Ancestry.com. They also mentioned WorldCat which is available on-line to all. Some of you that have been doing genealogy a long time may remember this as OCLC. It is a catalog of thousands of libraries around the world. You can search for a book or article and it will tell you all the libraries that have it. It even tells you how far the library is from you if you put in your zipcode.

     The catalog of U of R can also be searched on-line. Most of their books only circulate to students or U of R employees. They mentioned that they have something unique on their on-line catalog. Once you find a book, you can click on the call number and you will see books that are supposed to be next to the original book. It is like walking down the shelf but on-line. It helps to find related books.

     Then Mr. Kabelac wanted to mention the databases of the Rare Books Department. One that everyone should know about by now is the Mt. Hope and Riverside records. These are images of the original records from 1837 to 2002. Plus there are other Rochester Local History Indexes. Those include indexes to biographies, pictures of people, Rochester businesses and views of Rochester. Mr. Kabelac created the biography index years ago while at U of R. It indexes 60 titles and encompasses 5000 entries. The database of pictures of people has 7500 entries. What these give you is only a reference to a book or pamphlet and not the picture or article. But it should tell you find a person is listed somewhere.

     It was a nice visit to the largest library at the U of R where just about everyone learned of some new sources.