Monday, 6 January 2014

Kent History Centre at the Kent History and Library Centre Maidstone

Although my efforts are mainly focussed at The Library Bromley which is home to Bromley Archives and local studies material in a library setting I also need access to material at Maidstone.
I have been disappointed in visits to Maidstone in 2013 as it appeared to me that archive material was remote and more difficult to access. Ordering material used to be a responsive service. Unless documents were ordered prior to arrival the online catalogue posed problems and I suspected that it was incomplete;experience reinforced by other regular researchers in Archives. I had the experience of library staff being unfamiliar with the document I wished to view. This is one of many other problems now under discussion with the Centre management team.
The Kent History Centre User Group are now actively pursuing these issues and other feedback see Kent archives user group
I have some concerns about the Library Bromley but document production is rapid and the staff are skilful in responding to the wide variety of requests made on them and the service.
The online catalogue within CARN is of high standard and is readily updated.
The major problem at Bromley is that archive material is produced on a gallery seating which includes Library general use . The facilities are noisy;the gallery area is immediately above the repositoned main desk with no enclosed or quiet space to examine documents. Add to this the noise of mobile phone ringtones and conversations and computer use for music and film and it becomes very difficult to progress in transcription work in early record sources,an already painstaking task.
I have seen a deterioration in conditions for the researcher and professional genealogist in both these settings. The modern "Library" approach brings an emphasis  on media access which poses challenges for the archival researcher.  Maybe after 44 years of archival research I am a lone voice locally in regularly using and experiencing difficulty in working with original documents. It would be useful if each Archive consulted its users. Maidstone is doing just that and the experience reflects difficulties relevant to other Libray based facilities.