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Manchester Central Library by ilgiovaneWalter (Sobchak).

What is Archives+?
Manchester Central Library reopened in March 2014 following extensive refurbishment. In addition to providing traditional library services, it is now the home of the Archives+ partnership. The partnership consists of:

  • Manchester Archives and Local Studies
  • Greater Manchester County Record Office
  • Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society
  • Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre
  • North West Film Archive
  • British Film Institute Mediatheque

Archives+, which is based on the ground floor of the building, is being developed to provide a one-stop-shop for family and local historians and in addition to the partner organisations there will be arrangements with:

  • Manchester Register Office for the supply of historical BMD certificates
  • Genealogical Society of Utah for access to their vast library of genealogical resources
  • The National Archives for access to their expanding online resources

The partnership shares information about proposed projects and events and seeks to apply the skills and resources of the partners to achieve maximum effectiveness.

How does the partnership affect MLFHS?
MLFHS is a partner in Archives+  but this does not mean that the Society loses its identity. It continues to be a charity run and funded by its members and continuing its activities much as before. The major difference is that we do not operate a separate family history library and that we now provide a Help Desk service for non-members five days a week.

Why did MLFHS join the partnership?
The Trustees (Executive Committee) believed that  joining the partnership offered the most secure future for the Society.

The financial position of the Society was becoming increasingly uncertain. Declining income and escalating overheads meant that it was becoming increasingly difficult to support the large overhead of a dedicated central Manchester office.

The opening of Archives+ was seen also as presenting a threat. It is reasonable to assume that Archives+ would have been active in promoting its services to family historians and would have become a competitor. It would have been difficult to convince potential members of the benefit of membership given the opening of a new, one-stop-shop for family history.

Membership of the partnership was also seen as a positive move. We have obtained accommodation at a substantial reduction in cost from previous levels. There are considerably improved opportunities for transcription and indexing projects and the several partners are committed to working on joint projects and activities. Finally, we are now based in a centre which is planning to attract some 2 million visitors annually. This will provide excellent opportunities to get our message to a wider audience, particularly younger people.

What has happened to services to members?
Members will continue to receive their quarterly copy of The Manchester Genealogist and the e-mail forum remains in operation. Members continue to enjoy look-up services and our programme of meetings continues. Members continue to receive personal support through the new Help Desk service.

It should be reiterated, however, that the reasons for recommending that MLFHS joins the Archives+ partnership are not purely financial. The Trustees would still view the proposal as a positive move for MLFHS if financial considerations were not an issue.

How does the future look?
The Society is now financially stable and has access to extensive modern facilities, not least a meeting room which will accommodate at least eighty people and equipped with full audio-visual support. Access for wheelchair users is possible for the first time in the Society's history, a limitation of Clayton House which was always regrettable.

Now that the considerable work of moving the Society is behind us we can look towards improving what we offer to members. We are currently looking at expanding the number of member events and introducing a 'mentoring' service to enable members to obtain one-to-one support by experts in particular fields of research. We will also be expanding the member data available on the Society web site, beginning with work to transfer our collection of memorial inscriptions into machine-readable form opening up access to all of our members. This data is expected to contain over a quarter of a million names once completed (at present about 76,000)

Updated 30 May 2014 - John Marsden