The role of digital

Despite the turmoil and disruption caused by the lockdown, there are silver linings. As Scotland and the UK’s only Digital Improvement District, we are delighted to see so many embracing digital communication as never before. For many businesses, it is essential to survive. For organisations, it is a whole new way of engaging with members and the wider community. This Blog is an update from Alison Murray, Chairman of the Fife Family History Society – based at the Cupar Library on Crossgate – explaining how they have turned to digital as never before …

Friday the 13th …

The signs were ominous. Alison explains: “On Friday 13th March, we made the decision to temporarily close our archive room in Cupar Library to safeguard to health and wellbeing of our volunteers.” In the following week, the decision was taken to close the library to the public and that the Society would no longer have access to their room.

Alison explains: “I grabbed what I could, namely the laptop, petty cash and the cash/sales ledger. With our AGM looming in June, I was concerned that our Treasurer would not be able to prepare our end of year accounts!

Alison says that they realised they’d be severely restricted when the lockdown came. Their member journal (digital) was just being put together by the editorial team, a committee meeting was planned and – with a continuously rolling membership and social media platforms to maintain – there was a real threat to the society and how it might be able to operate. Alison adds: “Our online shop also had to be reduced to digital downloads only as we could not access stock held in the library to post out orders.”


And then they discovered Zoom! Alison says: “Alex, our media coordinator, came up with a plan. He set up an account and sent us all invitations to join him to do a trial run. This was when the fun started as one by one we worked out how to put our cameras on and turn on our microphones. Each time someone came into the ‘room’ there was a cheer. We had a bit of chat and decided on a time for our committee meeting.

Alison explains that it was not only “good to get the business done” but – more importantly – “to be in touch with each other“. Next, the Society invited all volunteers to join in on a social basis. For the last 3 Saturdays, they have been getting online “for a blether“.

Alison adds: “We have had chats about everything: from how we will all look after the lockdown – as in our hair – and will we need a new wardrobe of clothes because our waistlines have expanded? We have shared what useful resources we have between us to continue to help people with their Fife family history while we can’t access our archive.

Finding My Past … and Present!

During the Society’s second get together, they were joined by Myko Clelland from Find My Past and had the opportunity to ask him about the records they hold, the plans for future record sets being added and how everyone was coping working from home.

We asked what Alison felt was the most important thing to come out of their virtual meetings. She replied: “Our volunteers are getting to know each other. Being on a rota at certain times of the week has often meant that our volunteers would not see each other – apart from the training days we offer them or attendance at events and talks that we normally provide. We are now scheduled to meet every Saturday at 2pm. We are all in agreement that after the lockdown has ended that we should plan to catch up online on a regular basis as it is good to talk.

The future …

The Society’s members’ journal was finished on time and emailed out to all members. It included hints and tips, useful websites and online events to help people with their family research whilst all are restricted. Alison adds: “Although our AGM has been postponed, our Treasurer is still preparing the Annual Accounts. There has been a healthy increase in membership of the society and our social media platforms show a healthy following. So despite not being able to operate as normal in Cupar Library, we are all still there working in the background to keep the society going and to offer help to those who have Fife family ancestors.

And it is not only through the Society that Alison has embraced more digital engagement: she concludes: “On a personal note, I hope to be invited back to the virtual pub I was in last Friday with some lovely people who are all genealogists. I’ve also been FaceTiming with my two little grandchildren.

Need more?

You can find the Society on Facebook.

You can also read more on the Society’s work via a Blog we created last year. Just follow this link for more.


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