Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Another item is crossed off my bucket list, or is it?

Today I spent eight hours at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and have a five hour visit planned before I fly out  later tomorrow. But I am not satisfied. Did I really think that I could accomplish what I wanted to in thirteen short hours?
The Family History Library

When I managed to visit The British Library and The Library of Congress  I was satisfied after spending just an hour at these institutions snapping photos and walking around drinking in the atmosphere. My disappointment at not having more time in The Family History Library is because it is such a useful resource for my genealogy research and I will not be able to satisfy my appetite on this visit.
Tidy Collection of Family Histories at the FHL

Like many of the attendees at the Rootstech Conference I added a few days to my trip so that I could avail myself of the facilities of the Family History Library. My friends in Australia will be wanting to know how I found the experience so I here's a PMI report.

Plus (in no particular order)

Wealth of resources for the family historian
Access is free
Majority of records in open access - no need to fill out annoying request slips and wait for delivery
Free WiFi for personal devices
Orientation film running all day
Can take bags and gear into library
Open hanging racks for coats around walls
Lockers available for those who want them
Lots of photocopiers and printers
Lots of computer terminals
Plenty of patient volunteers to help with queries
Large work areas where one can spread out
Spare power outlets for patron gadgets
Tolerance to chatting from genealogists working collaboratively
Comfortable adjustable ergomomic chairs
Notepaper and pencils supplied beside terminals
Spotlessly clean and tidy (I am suspicious of tidy libraries but in this case it is because the volunteers pounce on each book as soon as it lands on reshelving trolley)
Users can use USB flash drives on library computers
Good even lighting

Volunteers prowling around peering over users shoulders are offputting (price paid for bringing bags in?)
Volunteers with nothing to do congregating for chat sessions in public areas are distracting especially the two  women that stood right behind me
Early closing on Mondays
Use of Internet Explorer Browser
Septegenarians on security at entrance not checking bags  (or maybe I have an honest face)
Lack of natural light
Seems to be geared towards patrons asking for help rather then encouraging them to be independent learners

Opening time of 8:00 am
Volunteer demographic gives impression that library is a retirement activity for elderly LDS people
Peaceful atmosphere  regulary punctuated by Oohs and Aahs as researchers find treasure
Entrance Foyer at the FHL

The positives in this library certainly outweigh the negatives. I wish some of our institutions in Australia would evaluate some of their archaic 19th century practices and follow the lead of the FHL. Would it hurt if patrons talked in he NLA, just create some quiet rooms and allow for collaboration and discussion the the main reading room? Why can't we use a USB flash drive in the SLNSW computerse?  Why can't I take my bag into these libraries?

The FHL was crowded for the WDYTYA Party on Friday
I now have a job on my hands convincing Mr Geniaus that I need a return visit to Salt Lake City to finish looking up the 30 A4 pages of references I compiled before leaving Australia.  Wish me luck!


Carole Riley said...

Sounds like heaven on a stick! Actually you CAN use flash drives in the SLNSW, and they have those wonderful new ScanPro film scanners. But you can't take your bag in their because sadly things go missing and a small pile of papers is easier to check than a bag. Perhaps FHL patrons are more trustworthy than the general library user.

GeniAus said...

Better then Heaven on a stick!
We'll have to tell SLNSW to update the info on their website "USB flash drives can't be used on Library computers. "

Tanya Honey said...

Great post that makes me desperately want to go! Think I'll be waiting a while...Libraries do need to move away from the traditional ideas of being quiet and making resources near impossible to access. Patrons are wanting to use libraries in different ways, mainly through increased technology, and libraries that don't respond will be left behind. Maybe they need to hear more feedback from patrons??

Joan Miller (Luxegen) said...

I agree with your pros and cons. The FHL is a great place to research.

And how many libraries allow viewings of prime time genealogy shows :)

Shelley Crawford said...

I'm not jealous. I'm not I'm not I'm not I'm not I'm not.

I am.

Glad you had a good time!

Sharon said...

How could he possibly say no after all the wonderful things you said about him in a previous post.

Anonymous said...

The evidence for a 2012 trip is accumulating. Sounds fantastic! May not be St Patrick's Day yet but we're all green;-)

Nathan Murphy said...

One difference with bag checks is that rare manuscripts are not stored at the Family History Library. Some of the printed books are out of copyright and hard to find, but I'd say most of the books and microfilms are replaceable if they get stolen. (The microfilms are a copy of the master copy held at the high-security Granite Mountains Record Vault.)

Sue Kirk said...

As one of those grey-haired volunteers (and a displaced Aussie)who has been a volunteer at the FHL for the past 10 years,I might mention that one of the reasons the services at the Library are free is that so much work is done by the volunteers. Some of us are serving full-time for one to two years while others volunteer a minimum of 8 (soon to be 16) hours a week. And yes, we do tend to chat too much. Unfortunately, we enjoy one another's company a bit more than we should. We'll try to be good :)

GeniAus said...

I heard an Australian volunteer's voice while I was in the British area on Tuesday. This lady was talking about visiting a friend in hospital and playing some sort of Mexican game with her. She was also sharing recipes and giving a treatise on the difference between dessicated and shredded coconut.
She seemed like a very friendly soul.

Tom Dial said...

As a FHL volunteer, I have the following comments:

- Retirees are used at the library because they have the time to volunteer. We are called as Full or Part-time Missionaries to serve and commit for specific time periods (I'm in for two years, 3 evenings per week, with 4 months left to go).

- We are asked to rove the library to put chairs back, put away abandoned films or books and help maintain a clean, safe environment. We are there to help you, so don't be afraid to ask.

- I agree we tend to talk too much, but then we sit for extended periods waiting for someone to raise their hand so we can help them. Talking is an easy thing to fall into because we are human after all and get bored like anyone else.

I'm glad your positive comments outweighed the negative ones and am glad you had a good experience here at the Family History Library. You are welcome back any time. - Elder Dial

GeniAus said...

My flights and hotel are booked so I'll be returning to use the fabulous resources at the FHL around Rootstech time in 2012.


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