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Examiner
  • Midwest Genealogy manager retires

  • Twenty-five years ago, Janice Schultz took a part-time job to help support her family.

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  • Twenty-five years ago, Janice Schultz took a part-time job to help support her family.
     
    Never, Schultz says, did she envision that position would evolve into a full-time career involving genealogy, a subject she knew little about when she started.
     
    “I never intended for it to be a career,” Schultz says, “but it became such a love that it has turned into a career.”
     
    On Friday, Schultz retired as branch manager of Midwest Genealogy Center, but her work with Mid-Continent Public Library started in August 1987 as a part-time page in Mid-Continent’s Genealogy and Local History Department, as it was then known.
     
    As the genealogy area of Mid-Continent grew and expanded, so, too, did Schultz’s own career as a professional librarian.
     
    Schultz, who had taught elementary education, was a stay-at-home mother who decided to go back to work part-time. The Genealogy and Local History Department, where Schultz reshelved books and microfilm, occupied about 3,000 square feet in the basement of the North independence Branch, sharing space with the periodicals.
    Genealogy wasn’t a subject that held much interest for Schultz prior to her Mid-Continent employment, but as she started working in the department, “I became fascinated with the topic and all of the resources that the library had,” she says. “It just became a love and a passion.”
    Within a year, Schultz became a substitute clerk, and in the late 1990s, she earned a master’s degree in library science from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
     
    Changes were taking place at Mid-Continent, too, as the genealogy area grew. In 1996, the Genealogy and Local History Department moved from the North Independence Branch basement into the upstairs 12,000-square-foot addition, which is now the children’s department.
    Two years later, the department became known as a branch, and in 2001, Schultz became its branch manager.
    Never, she says, did Schultz envision genealogy would one day have its own freestanding space.
     
    But, it does. In June 2008, the 52,000-square-foot Midwest Genealogy Center opened at 3440 S. Lee’s Summit Road, making it the largest free-standing public genealogy library in the United States.
     
    While Schultz is retired as branch manager, her work in genealogy isn’t ending. This fall, Schultz’s book, “Finding Your Roots: Easy-To-Do Genealogy and Family History” is scheduled for release. Retirement, she says, also will allow her to take her own genealogical research more seriously.
    One “puzzling part” of her ancestors, Schultz says, is learning more about those who came from New York, adding that the state’s records from the 19th century are lacking in detail.
     
    “I love mysteries, too,” Schultz says, “and genealogy is the perfect fit because you are discovering, like a detective, all of these stories from clues that you gather along the way.”
    Page 2 of 2 - While many customers at Midwest Genealogy Center are retired individuals who have more time on their hands, Schultz says she sees the interest in genealogy continuing even with younger generations.
     
    “The records are so much more available. For many people, it takes being a certain age so that you start looking back instead of looking forward,” she says. “It’s at your fingertips. I think it will continue to be an interesting pastime for people.”
     
    Throughout her career, Schultz says, she saw the perception of genealogy evolve from something “little old ladies did” using microfilm to being more readily available because of the Internet and popular websites like ancestry.com.
     
    “I’ve just seen so many changes, and it’s been so fun working with Mid-Continent Public Library and working to make the Midwest Genealogy Center the best in the nation,” she says. “I think it has a part in the libraries of the nation as a significant one.”
     
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