Since mid-March of this year, the Sutro Library staff continue to work from home and over the past six months, I have been asked a few times “What can a librarian do from home?” While I miss working in the stacks, helping researchers, and collaborating with my colleagues, the short answer is that there are plenty of projects that can be done off-site and from our homes. One of these projects has been to improve the Sutro Library’s webpages.

Almost three years ago, the California State Library gave it’s webpages a more modern and accessible makeover. Some of you may recall, that the previous design was static and outdated, especially when compared to other library websites.

In “What makes a good library website?” by Sabrina Unrein, a then graduate student of the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, fifty state library websites were surveyed to answer that eponymous question. The author often highlighted aspects of the California State Library’s new website, and even praised it for its modern web design. In addition to design, a couple of other factors to take into consideration for a great website are accessibility (e.g. contrasting colors and meaningful link text) and security (e.g. data is encrypted)–all of which the California State Library’s websites achieve.

While Sutro Library did benefit from the redesign, our pages had aspects that did not match the modernity of the rest of the new website. Just like the physical genealogy collection, webpages need ongoing maintenance in order to continue to meet users’ needs. And now more than ever, our website acts as a virtual front door to our Library, and so it’s imperative that the site accurately reflect the richness and diversity of our collections. With all of this in mind, we went to work on the Sutro Library’s Genealogy webpage!

Navigating the Wayback

Before we explore these new changes, let’s first take a look at how the Sutro’s genealogy page has evolved over the years. We are able to do this with the help of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

Screenshot of the Wayback Machine’s homepage located at

This site allows us to travel through time seeing the website as it appeared on specific dates in the past. These archived pages are referred to as “captures” and allow users similar functionality as if that version of the site were still live today. Keep in mind, the capturing technology isn’t able to archive everything displayed on a page. For example, sometimes photos aren’t captured, but the capture still provides a great way to track a website’s changes. This is also a great site you can use if you receive an error message when clicking on a link.

To use the Wayback Machine, all you have to do is visit the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine database is located at the top of the page. Type in the URL of interest. After clicking enter, then choose a year. Hover over a date of interest and choose a capture. Sometimes days had multiple captures throughout the day, but more often than not, there will be only one capture. The database will then take you to the archived view of that website. (See gallery below for visual instructions)

The Evolution of the Genealogy Page

Following these same instructions from above, we can track how the Sutro Library pages, specifically the Genealogy page, have changed over the past few years:

For years prior to today’s current version, the content of the genealogy page focused heavily on the collection itself, missing the opportunity to highlight other aspects of the Library such as our wonderful programming or highlighting genealogy-specific blog posts from The Sutronian. In the last screenshot above, you’ll see we kept much of the original description and added information on the services we provide such as look-ups and InterLibrary Loan.

Screenshot of the middle portion of the Sutro Library Genealogy webpage comprised of six tiles with the following headings: Events at the Library; Bay Area Genealogy Calendar; Getting Social; Books on Display in Reading Room; Physical Collections; and Online Resources.

On the new genealogy webpage, you’ll find six central tiles providing information on events at the Library, the Bay Area Genealogy Calendar, the Library’s social media presence, books on display in the Reading Room (currently on hold due to the Library’s temporary  closure), the physical collections, and online resources. With this revised content and new layout, we feel it will be easier for users to find the information they are looking for or maybe even find information they weren’t expecting to find in the first place. Below these six tiles, we also provide information on visiting us, borrowing, remote access, and look-up and scan requests.

Because the Sutro Library prides itself on having one of the largest genealogy collections West of Salt Lake City, we couldn’t just devote one tile to the Physical Collections – we had to have an entire page! Once you click on the heading of the tile you’ll be taken to this new page of the same name. You’ll be met by a view of the Reading Room along with a brief description on the collection and tips for searching the catalog. Scrolling down you’ll find highlights of the resources in the genealogy collection. No longer are they listed as bullet points, instead they have a dedicated tile with an image and a detailed description.

Upcoming Virtual Makeovers

The Library staff are currently reviewing other pages for revision, including the Rare Collections and Exhibits’ pages. The next page for your Genealogy Librarian to work on will be a programming webpage where users can find information on past events including descriptions, flyers, photos, and links to recordings when available. Look for these changes in the next few months.

Now that I have provided an overview of our newly-redesigned genealogy webpages, it’s time for you to explore the Sutro Genealogy webpage and the Sutro Genealogy Physical Collections webpage! Make sure to check out the “Getting Social” tile to sign up for our new monthly e-newsletter, which is just one more way that we are maintaining contact with our dedicated Sutronians during this time!

We welcome any feedback you may have so please reach out to us at

We’d like to thank Karina Robinson, the former Special Assistant to the State Librarian, without whom we would not have had a web page to improve to begin with!

Today’s blog post was written by the Sutro Library’s Genealogy Librarian, Dvorah Lewis.


Unrein, Sabrina. (2019). “What Makes a Good Library Website?” Syracuse, NY: iSchool Public Libraries Initiative at Syracuse University.

Links to web archived pages:

January 16, 2018

January 30, 2018

February 2, 2018

September 23, 2018

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.