Suzanne Malek is a librarian at Truckee Meadows Community College, where she runs the Open Genealogy Lab. Lab is held at the TMCC library, 7000 Dandini Blvd., on Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and is open to the public and free.
How did this get started?
Well, I’m new to this area. I only moved here about a year ago. I used to work at Antelope Valley College in Southern California. I worked there for 15 years. I had gotten into genealogy not long after I started there. The head librarian showed me some records, and I’d had a friend who I’d worked with at another school who showed me some records. … It really inspired me. I started thinking, “Hey, look, you know, I wonder if my ancestors go back to the Civil War?” … They would bring in all of these wonderful Civil War artifacts, these old marriage certificates from the 1800s. … I started thinking, “Gosh, well, why can’t I do it?” … I found classes online. I found classes locally through the genealogical society. I even found that there was a convention every year in Southern California called Genealogy Jamboree. … The interest became so intense I started telling everybody I worked with about it. … Before I knew it, almost every librarian I worked with was starting to do their genealogy, and we were all going to the conventions together. Then they started saying, “You’re so interested in this, why don’t we start buying books for it?” … So they gave me a book budget, and I started buying books, and, sure enough, they started flying off the shelves. And it was right about that time that my husband decided he had a better career here than in California. … So we got up here, and after a few months I got the job here, and I started telling everybody, “Gosh, you know, I’m really into genealogy.” Some people were interested. It wasn’t a huge amount of people in the department that were interested, but they could very plainly see that I had a real passion for it. … I said, “Look at Fridays. There’s nobody on campus, hardly at all on Fridays. This room sits empty, so why not use it?” … So I presented it to my dean, and he said yes, and we started it.
How has the reception been?
It’s been really good. We have some regulars that come almost every week. Some people just come once in a while. We get between—I would say, on a good day, we’ll get 12. On a bad day we might get four.
Students might enjoy small classes.
But it’s open to the public as well. It’s not just open to students. … We tell everybody we meet, “Tell your friends.” … I tell everybody who comes every Friday, “Go home and tell your neighbors.” You know, we want more people. We want to spread the word. Because it’s in a library, I want them to leave with knowing [more than how to do their tree.] … I send out an email every Friday morning. I spam everybody who’s on my list, … and I say, “This is what I want to go over today.”
Any great discoveries?
It happens every week, and we do show-and-tell as well, with our artifacts. … It’s a really sharing thing, where we all leave with an appreciation for something that we didn’t come in with. … We spend about the first 20 minutes of class learning a new concept, and then for the rest of class, we just spend working on each others’ trees.
Is it a class for newbies, too?
Absolutely. And the class is really appreciative of new people, newbies—because when they came in, most of them were newbies, too.