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Bay County Public Library as Community Memory

G.M. West family on the beach at St. Andrews Bay (1900)

Bay County Public Library, located in Panama City, is just one of Florida’s many libraries offering excellent resources related to Community Memory.

With a dedicated Local History and Genealogy Department, the library is well-equipped to help patrons with their research.

BCPL’s historical and genealogical offerings include: 

  • Displays of artifacts owned by or on long-term loan to the library, curated by two staff members.
  • More than 16,000 local historical photographs, accessible online through the public catalog and used by local historians, authors, newspapers and many others. 
  • High-resolution prints of photos in the collection, which locals use to decorate homes and businesses. 
  • Historical photos posted on BCPL’s Facebook page for Throwback Thursdays to increase awareness of the collection.  
    Beach scene in front of the Hang Out
  • Assistance for patrons’ First Families certification research. 
    • Only a family descended from those who lived in Bay County prior to 1913 can qualify as a “First Family.”
    • The Bay County Genealogical Society administers the program.
  • A quarterly program called “Genealogy After Hours,” which allows attendees to use computers without time limits and pairs them with staff experts and volunteers from the Bay County Genealogical Society.
  • Occasional one-time events, such as the Bay County Fishing Heritage program held in 2013 as part of their Bay County Centennial celebration. 
Demolition of the Miracle Strip Tower at Panama City Beach (December 3, 1995)

To expand their local history and genealogy services, BCPL is:

  • Working on a StoryCorps grant to record oral histories, which the library has done in the past in partnership with one of the local Women’s Clubs.
  • Working on an outline for genealogy research classes slated to begin next year.

The library’s director, Robin Shader, says, “Our Local History and Genealogy Department has a very good reputation and great relationships with the local Historical Society and Genealogical Society. Patrons who use the resources in that department comment frequently about how wonderful the staff is and how knowledgeable they are.” 

Photographs courtesy of Bay County Public Library.

imls180.for.panel.jpgMany of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Florida's LSTA program is administered by the Department of State's Division of Library and Information Services.