TWILA HIDY RIDER ’71 found a way to combine her love for genealogy with her life’s work of librarianship to preserve an important piece of Graceland’s history.
Just a few years after Rider graduated from Graceland University with a bachelor’s degree in music education, she began working at the Independence Sanitarium and Hospital, which had recently made its clinical facilities and medical library available to Graceland nursing students. The program was just starting, and Rider was brought on to work in the Dr. Charles F. Grabske Sr. Library as an assistant librarian, where she would support nursing students in their pursuit of higher learning for the next 25 years. She served in the Grabske Library for an additional ten years after it moved to Graceland’s newly-built Independence Campus building in 1999.
In 2009, Rider transitioned into a new role as a genealogy reference associate for Mid-Continent Public Library’s Midwest Genealogy Center (MGC). Each day might look different, but her core duties include helping customers with ancestry or genealogy questions, managing MGC’s social media, and overseeing research inquiries submitted from all over the world. But one of her most meaningful projects to date is preserving Graceland University’s history by expanding MGC’s collection of Acacia yearbooks.
Mid-Continent is considered an affiliate library for FamilySearch, an online database dedicated to helping people discover more about their family histories. FamilySearch volunteers stationed at MGC scan books to digital format, including the library’s extensive collection of yearbooks, with several editions of the Acacia already digitized for online viewing.
One year when Rider was visiting the Lamoni campus for homecoming, there was a display of Acacia yearbooks at the Memorial Student Center (now Newcom Student Union), that were free for anyone to take. Rider gathered the years not already in MGC’s collection, knowing they would be digitized and could forever be used as resources for future generations. In December 2021, she again helped acquire more — 41 Acacias ranging from 1920-2017 were added to MGC’s holdings by donation of Graceland. She was uniquely positioned with her role at MGC to preserve more pieces of Graceland history.
“It has been very important to me to help facilitate the preservation of Graceland’s history in our extensive genealogy library, hopefully for many future generations who want to discover their Graceland family connections there. I pinch myself every day that I get to go to work and be in that environment.”
Rider and her family have a long and rich heritage at Graceland. Her great-grandfather George Emslie, a stonemason from Scotland, was part of the construction crew of the Administration Building. There is a long list of his descendants down through the years who are Graceland alumni, and Rider is proud to be one of them. Rider’s daughter, Tiffany Rider ’06 Smith, is creative director on Graceland’s Marketing & Communications team and is the project lead and designer for Horizons, including this very issue.
Midwest Genealogy Center now has 89 years of Graceland yearbooks available and FamilySearch continues the work of digitizing as additional yearbooks enter MGC’s system. Until those become available in digital format, the hard copies can be viewed in the reference section at MGC in Independence, Missouri.
If you have a copy of an Acacia that is not in their catalog and you are looking to discard it, Mid-Continent will happily accept your donation.
View MGC’s entire holdings list and gain access to the digitized copies here.