Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What If...

As I was sitting in my office this morning, paying my monthly bills online, I realized it was time to renew my genealogical society membership. I figured while I was at it, I might as well renew my membership with another gen-so that I had let lapse too. I pulled out my checkbook, wishing I could make an online payment along with the rest of my bills, when my thoughts drifted back to Denise's commentary on the article written by Jim, and to the comment I left on Denise's article.

The gist of it all is that Jim is lamenting the fact that membership in genealogical societies has dropped and he's hoping that the new Internet researchers will realize what they are missing and join genealogical societies in large numbers once again (his "Big Bang Theory). Denise then wrote about how she's had a "much more satisfying experience online" than she ever did at her local gen-so. I agree with Denise, as my comment reflects.

So then I looked down at my renewal membership form and asked myself what I'll get out of my membership. I'm really struggling with that. I rarely go to local meetings because the topics presented are geared towards beginners, which is a waste of time for me. I don't go to the conferences of the national organization because it's just never been feasible for me to travel to them. I do visit their web sites, but so does everyone else. They either don't have a special "members only" section or what they have there doesn't interest me. That leaves their journals, the ones I had to dust off and move recently when I got new office furniture. I quickly flipped through a couple of them and wondered if I should even bother keeping them. Trying to look up a topic, surname, or area of interest, in 8+ years of journals from two different organizations that overlap heavily on their content (Polish genealogy) would be a nightmare.

I thought about just not bothering to send in my dues since they don't provide me with information I can use in a way I can use it. But what kind of message does that send to the organizations? Would they understand that I believe in and value what they are doing and providing to their membership but not their methodology? I know from past experience as a board member of a gen-so that the folks who do not have or want to use computers/internet are quick and loud to complain, insisting that things continue to be done the traditional way. But does anyone else give their board members feedback about wanting them to march forward with more efficient ways of doing things? Have you ever written the gen-so board you belong to to tell them that it would be ever so nice if all of their past journals were searchable online? Or have you ever spoken with a board member to express how much you would value webcasts of meetings? I mean, think about it. If the only voices they are hearing are the ones who say, "don't change", is it any wonder that they are so slow to move forward and make changes?

I'm thinking it's time to start a campaign. A write-in campaign. What do you think about sending a letter in with your dues the next time your gen-so membership is up for renewal? Do you find your gen-sos lacking like I do? Would you be willing to let the leaders of the gen-sos you belong to know that you are not satisfied with the status quo and specifically identify what direction they should take to keep you as a satisfied member? (Assuming that you are dissatisfied like I am.) Food for thought.

By the way, I've decided not to discard my old issues yet. I'm going to scan them so they are searchable :-)