How Librarians Play an Integral Role When Searching for Historical Documents

June 25, 2012

The Center Square Journal recently published “Meet Julie Lynch, Sulzer Library’s Historical Search Engine,” an article that introduces readers to the librarian who oversees the archive of manuscripts, maps and photographs donated by residents of Chicago’s neighborhoods north of North Avenue.

According to the article, the Northside Neighborhood History Collection encompasses more than 30 collections that document the history of schools, religious institutions, neighborhoods, homeowners’ associations, local businesses, community leaders, parks, the Chicago River, and the streets and transportation in communities located north of North Avenue to the city limits on the east, west and north sides of Chicago.

Due to the nature of her work, Lynch is the human equivalent of a search engine. However, she differs in one key aspect:

“Unlike Google, Lynch delivers more than search results, she provides context. That sepia-tinged photograph of the woman in funny-looking clothes on a funny-looking bicycle actually offers a window into the impact bicycles had on women’s independence. An advertisement touting “can build frame houses” demonstrates construction restrictions following the Great Chicago Fire. Surprisingly, high school yearbooks — the collection features past editions from Lane Tech, Amundsen and Lake View High Schools — serve as more than a cautionary tale in the evolution of hairstyles.”

Despite the increase in technology that makes searching information as easy as tapping a touch screen, this article reiterates the importance of having real people to contextualize these documents.

Jasmine Ashton, June 25, 2012

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