Genealogy Center Manager and Director of Special Collections
Allen County Public Library
Fort Wayne, Indiana
While he might joke that his job is simply “playing with dead people,” Curt Witcher empowers people to connect with their past and learn more about themselves as the Allen County Public Library’s genealogy center manager and director of special collections.
Witcher’s expertise in genealogy has become a claim to fame for Fort Wayne, directly contributing to thousands of visits to the community annually. His decades of work in African American and Jewish genealogy, Native American research, and more have led to the development of one of the largest genealogy collections in the country, positioning the library as an international destination for researchers. In 2022, the genealogy center held 223 in-person and virtual programs attended by more than 31,000 people.
Both locally and globally, Witcher is enhancing genealogy accessibility and education opportunities. He supported the founding of several local genealogy societies, including the African American Genealogical Society of Fort Wayne and the Northeast Indiana Jewish Genealogical Society, while also forging partnerships with FamilySearch and the Internet Archive to make public domain portions of the center’s collection available online. And in a collaboration with a professor at Indiana Tech, Witcher helps students explore the intersection between the literature of family stories and the science of genealogical research, culminating in a project documenting their discoveries.
“Everyone has a story to tell, according to Curt,” one of his nominators wrote, “and he has a gift of making everyone who comes to the Allen County Public Library to find their story feel seen and celebrated.”
Witcher was selected from nearly 1,400 nominations from library users nationwide for the 2024 award. As part of his award, he will receive a $5,000 cash prize as well as complimentary registration and a travel stipend to attend ALA's LibLearnX event in Baltimore.
The I Love My Librarian Award is sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, with additional support from the New York Public Library, and is administered by the American Library Association. Since 2008, library users have shared more than 24,000 nominations detailing how librarians have gone above and beyond to promote literacy, expand access to technology, and support diversity and inclusion in their communities.