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A New Dilemma, or Where Can We Meet?

Here in the Denver area we have so many organizations devoted to genealogy. They provide rich pickings when a person looks for genealogical support or education. For many years now, these clubs have run smoothly and predictably.

Recently, however, every local group I attend has had difficulty keeping its long-time meeting space. Leaders of all these groups find themselves struggling with reserving a monthly spot for the club. No one has a good answer to the issue:

  1. Colorado Genealogical Society (CGS). This group meets the third Saturday morning at the central library building of the Denver Public Library system. We get a nice meeting room, access to the conference center for our annual seminar, and members can stay after the meeting to do some research in the superb genealogy collection. The building lies on a bus route for those with access to public transportation. For everyone else, however, this location presents a real headache. Parking anywhere near the building has become scarcer and almost prohibitively expensive. During downtown events, the city often closes the nearby streets. Some CGS members feel intimidated by the large numbers of homeless people who gather in and around the building. Now the library is planning a renovation, and it may shutter for a time to complete this work. If the library does not have meeting space for CGS during the renovation, the club will need to find short-term space. Or should we leave altogether for a space that offers better access and parking? I stopped attending the club meetings when they moved from a church to the downtown library a few years ago. I still try to register for seminars, and I am a regular at the CGS Lunch Bunch, but I miss the meetings.
  2. Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society (HRGS). Since its beginning, my local club has met at the James LaRue library. The building is now closed for four months while it undergoes a complete renovation. HRGS has scrambled to find space elsewhere. This month and next, our local branch of the Family History Center is welcoming us. After that, and until LaRue reopens, we will meet at other Douglas County library branches. After that, we will return most months to the LaRue library. Unfortunately for us, the room reservation system will change when the building reopens. We can no longer reserve a meeting room for the first Tuesday evening of each month. Instead, we must compete with other community groups for this slot every time. Without a predictable meeting space, our attendance my drop, and casual visitors may not be able to find us. Should we try to find a guaranteed space elsewhere? Where?
  3. Sons of Norway genealogy group. This study group gathers before our regular lodge meeting on the first Saturday. For several years we have met at the local Lutheran church, and we pay for this privilege. We have a contract with them. Norwegians like the Lutheran church because of its historical tie as the official church of Norway. Several of our members belong to this congregation. But the congregation no longer welcomes us. They bump us from the calendar by scheduling other events during our time in the meeting room, sometimes without even telling us. Losing paid-for space at the last minute makes us exasperated and angry especially after we have put a lot of effort into planning programs and publicizing our activities. We believe we are good renters—we are quiet and leave the place clean. The site meets all our needs with a bright meeting room, a spacious kitchen, and a piano. We have invested money in building a shed for our supplies, and all our publicity materials are printed with this time and location. We cannot leave easily. Yet we can no longer seem able to work effectively with the church office. They willingly take our money, but they do not seem to want us around. We do not know how to resolve this situation, but we cannot continue this way.

With no regular meeting place available, what will happen to these societies? They do not ask for monetary support, but they do need community support in the form of consistent meeting space and convenient parking. Otherwise, membership will dwindle, and the clubs will just disappear. What else, then, will step in and offer the same value to our society–social opportunities, intellectual stimulation, cultural preservation? Those in charge of all these venues seem to think someone else should take responsibility for offering appropriate meeting space for community groups, but we all suffer when everyone tries to pass the buck.



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