Disclosure:  I am a volunteer and general cheerleader for the California Genealogical Society but am not an official blogger for the society. This post tries to be a balanced account of the meeting, and I try to mention any of my bias.

The Membership Meeting at California Genealogical Society just concluded, here at the library in Downtown Oakland.  These meetings happen every couple of months and are always a great opportunity to meet new and existing members, hear about what’s going on in various committees and find out what’s going on in the coming months.

This month had a special feature: “Members Speak, CGS Listens.”  It was an opportunity to brainstorm with other members about what is working in the society and what is not, and hopefully, ways to improve.  It is one of the reasons I love this particular society: they are not content to keep doing the same thing just because “that’s how it has always been done.”  I’m not retired, and love to keep up with the newest technological advances, so “the way it’s always been done” doesn’t do me much good. I am happy to say that others in the society have ideas on ways to improve.

First, CGS President, Steve Harris, started with calling out our new members, a great opportunity to welcome the new folks and find out a little about them.  After that, the Events Committee Chair, Tim Cox, gave a recap of Ancestry Day last weekend, where over 900 people, including volunteers, attended what was by all accounts a successful one day conference.  The publications table sold out all copies brought of the new edition of Raking the Ashes by Nancy Peterson.  Also nearly 200 copies were sold of the brand new publication, Insider’s Guide to California Genealogy.  The Insider’s Guide will always have a special place in my heart being the first publication to which I contributed, so I’m glad it got a good reception, and hope to see it available for sale online in the coming weeks.

Finally, we got to the meat of the meeting.  CGS Vice President, Jeff Valliant, took over to lead the brainstorming session asking first, “What are we doing right?”  A lot of highlights were brought up:

  • Events, including the quality of speakers, and online registration.
  • People, including the wide range of ages, our volunteers and committees.
  • Technology, staying up to date on tech like twitter and internet presence.
  • Physical Location, free parking on Saturdays and near to BART
  • Research trips, like the annual Salt Lake City trip and this years Indiana trip.

But the love-fest was only part of the meeting.  Jeff asked “What isn’t working?”  It was actually hard for anyone to just give a gripe!  Most people offered how we could do better, with suggestions.

A big topic was library utilization.  The library is great, and not enough people take advantage of the physical books, a big concern for the society.  Many people don’t even know the society & library is here, and if they do, they assume it strictly addresses California, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  So some great suggestions came out directly relating to it.  We talked about:

  • Getting our catalog on Worldcat.org
  • Adjusting our hours or days open so we’d be more available to working members
  • Looking for ways to get Google to crawl our database
  • Marketing and outreach with suggestions like branding with bumper stickers and flash drives for sale in the library.
  • Creating more associations with other historical and genealogy societies in the area.
  • Including our brand new library map in New Member Packets
  • Creating handouts to highlight resources held in the library for each state, that could be provided in the library or posted online.

Plus other suggestions came up about ways to improve our existing members’ experiences, like:

  • Providing meeting/program notes for our distance members (thanks to Amy Coffin for bringing it up)
  • Getting more of our databases online for access by members from home.
  • Having an administrative support or office manager for the library.
  • Having more Special Interest Group meetings (ideas included different software packages, Mac users, professional genealogists, and general tech help).
  • Field Trips for members to visit other repositories in the area, besides the far-flung trips to Salt Lake City.

We covered a lot of ground.  Though it certainly wasn’t our most well-attended meeting, many members commented so that our Board of Directors, committees and volunteers can look at ways to keep the society vibrant and relevant to its members.

For anyone who didn’t attend, do you have anything to add?