It’s been several years since I’ve gone to Salt Lake City to research at the library, formerly known as Family History Library. My previous blog on what to do can be found here, however, much has changed so here are my recommendations if you plan to go.
Due to Rootstech, there were no classes offered the week I went but typically, there are classes available for free. Check out the calendar on their website.
The library has had a makeover. Gone are the genealogies on the first floor – they have all been scanned and are available online. In their space is a large area for newbies to learn about their relationship to the famous and where you can bring up your FamilySearch tree to have printed in poster size. I was told by two employees that I could print from a tree other than FamilySearch but when I handed over my thumb drive they couldn’t get my downloaded Ancestry.com tree to work with their system. I didn’t want my FamilySearch tree printed as my mom’s side is incomplete on there and my dad’s side is constantly changing, not always correctly. I keep removing a source for a man who died in the 1700s, someone keeps adding he served in the Civil War. Makes me crazy!
Also on the first floor is a very large break room with lots of vending machines. The contents range from water, milk, and soda to burritos, breakfast sandwiches, and typical snacks like granola bars and chips. Problem is that the machines don’t always work. I had bought a bottle of water (reasonably priced at .85) one day and the next day it wouldn’t take my charge card or coins. I was super thirsty so I had to go out in the rain to the mall as the restaurant on the corner is closed. The volunteer at the desk told me that the machines often don’t work. Wish they had posted a sign as I wasted time.
The international floors have been flipped. I had several books I couldn’t find and neither could the assistants at the research desk. I don’t know if they were lost, misfiled, or taken to be scanned. I looked for the same books every day for the 5 days I was there so it wasn’t like someone was using them for the day. There is also a reference section (shown above) adjacent to the wall of the new Medieval section so look there, too, if you can’t find the book in the stacks. The books are out of order so look carefully.
It’s also wise to check the Library Catalog and not the General Catalog before you leave home – they are not the same. The General Catalog lists all resources available; don’t waste your time looking at items you can view from home. The Library Catalog provides resources that are available in the library. Some of the books on the shelves have been scanned and are available online now but many have not. Found the note above at one of the scanners. I didn’t need a book from storage but know not everything is readily available. The catalogs will help you determine if you have to put in a special request. Keep in mind, though, that the catalogs aren’t updated. I found the reference below and was surprised that there were still CDs being used. I went to the 2nd floor to inquire about it and was told the item was no longer available, even though it is showing that it is.
The best upgrade is on the 3rd floor – the scanners are a dream! They have several and I used one every day I was there. No more taking pics with my phone and having to then clean out Google Photos. Bring a thumb drive and if you forget, they will give you one for free on the first floor. The thumb drive connects to an adaptor and not directly into the computer. You can see it in the picture below on the left top of the keyboard.
Another upgrade I’m not so wild about is that I previously recommended not bringing your laptop because they have so many desktops available. I counted only 19 on the 3rd floor. I don’t know how many they previously had but I believe it was more as by mid-day, there are none available. Now the desktop situation has changed. You don’t just have a desktop, you also have two monitors for each desktop (see top photo). That’s wonderful and my setup at home but I really don’t need three screens in the library. Two would have been adequate; one for your tree and one for whatever you’re looking up online. Really, why would you need to look at the microfilm, too, that’s available at home? I make a list of just what is not available – books that aren’t scanned and aren’t close to my home and film that I can’t access at home. So still, be prepared and know what you need before you go.
My biggest disappointment was what I thought would be a great idea – the online help request. The specialist that comes is not always a specialist or there isn’t one available and they don’t tell you that. On Monday I was told to ask late Tuesday afternoon for an Ohio specialist. On Tuesday afternoon I placed a request at 4 pm. At 4:10 a specialist came and told me she was signing out but someone would be with me in 15 minutes. By 4:45 when no one arrived I put in another request, thinking that she must have taken me out of the system. Five minutes later a person from the desk asked me why I had made 2 requests and I explained. I only realized that both requests were open once I hit enter for the 2nd request (see below). Once you make a request you can’t cancel it. I had wasted 45 minutes sitting in one location as I feared if I got up to look for books the specialist would think I left and cross me off the list. I told the desk lady I would be finding books and to please tell the specialist if I’m away from the desk to wait a minute. By 6 PM no one had arrived so I went to the desk and was then told that there were no specialists and wouldn’t be so go to another floor. I went to the 2nd floor and signed in for help again. About 15 minutes later a woman came to tell me the specialists were busy and it would be another 15 minutes. I remarked I’d been waiting since 4. She said she’d find someone for me. A few minutes later she returned and said I had only been signed in for 15 minutes. Yes, I had, on that floor, but it had been 2 hours plus on floor 3. About 15 minutes later the specialist arrived who was supposed to know all about Ohio. She asked me why I wanted to prove the relationship and I told her it was for a DAR ap. She replied that she had quit DAR 3 times and I shouldn’t bother. A woman sitting at the next computer overheard and joined the conversation. She asked me for what proof I had and when I gave it to her, she said she would contact her AG friend for me. Never heard from the friend. After my return, as I blogged about last week, I found the info on my own.
My last suggestion is to get there at opening (9 AM) as people seemed to be more helpful in the morning. You’ll also be one of the first to find your needed books and you’ll get a computer. Take a break at about 1 as the lines are down in the food court in the mall and then return to the library. Happy Hunting!