Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The BYU Family History Library -- Possibly the second largest genealogy library in the world

I have now been in Provo, Utah for almost a year. During that time, I have had hundreds of opportunities to visit and serve at the Brigham Young University Family History Library (BYU FHL). I have also had ample opportunities to visit and work at the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah, about an hour and half away by train or car. After spending this intense time in both libraries, I am somewhat amazed at the comparison of the two. I fully realize that people come from all over the world to visit the Salt Lake Library. It has the reputation of being the largest such library in the world. But what about the BYU Family History Library?

The collection at the Salt Lake FHL is summarized as follows:
The collection includes over 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records; 727,000 microfiche; 356,000 books, serials, and other formats; over 4,500 periodicals and 3,725 electronic resources. 
Records available are from the United States, Canada, the British Isles, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
What about this? How does this compare to the BYU FHL? First of all, you need to realize that the BYU facility is part of the Harold B. Lee Library, on the campus of the Brigham Young University. It is not a FamilySearch Library. It is a professionally run, major educational institution library. As such, it is just as open to the public for research as the FHL in Salt Lake City, Utah. My impression is that there are very few genealogical researchers who take advantage of their own local university libraries, much less think of the BYU FHL as a destination for research.

Here are a few statistics from the Harold B. Lee library. Remember, the BYU FHL is sitting right dab in the middle of the vast Harold B. Lee Library. It is not a separate building out somewhere, it is right in the middle of the campus. There is one limitation. The BYU facilities are designed for student and faculty use. It is not like there is a cadre of volunteers like there is in Salt Lake, simply sitting there waiting to help. At BYU, you actually have to do some research and work.

My guess is that in reality, the BYU FHL and its strategic position as part of the Harold B. Lee Library, makes it possibly the second largest genealogical library in the world. Here are the numbers for 2014:

Number of patrons: 2.064.127
Volumes: 4,362,039
Serials: 128,013
Microforms: 3,061,042
Government Documents: 376,445
Maps: 288,995
Graphics: 1,690,045
Audio: 267,349
Film and Video: 41,340
Total materials: 10,215,268

Granted, this is the entire library, but how much of this is pertinent to family history? You will never know until you look. What constitutes a valuable resource for genealogical research? If you can answer that question, you are a far better a better researcher than I am. How do you really know if some book or other document is going to have information that will help you with your genealogical research? Doesn't it stand to reason that somewhere in this vast collection of books and records, that there are some things that might help you along?

What is important to note is that the BYU FHL is part of these numbers. Around 300,000 of the total number of microfilms available are in the Family History Library section of the library. Very frequently I find that the film I need is sitting in the BYU FHL and if it isn't, I can order the film and it then stays in the BYU FHL on permanent storage; there is no charge for ordering film inside the Library that is sent to the BYU FHL.

Now I could go on indefinitely extolling the virtues of the BYU FHL and the opportunity that it affords by being inside of a major, world-class, university library, but I realize that there are only a very few people who would understand what I am talking about.

Let me leave just one or two thoughts. Look at the number of maps in the BYU Library. Think about how many maps are in your own local library or even in the Salt Lake FHL. Look at the number of books in both libraries. Think about the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library which is also part of the BYU Harold B. Lee Library. Here is the note about the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library, which is right downstairs from the BYU FHL.
The L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library preserves and houses materials requiring regulation. Because of their uniqueness, value, or fragility, these materials are given great care to protect them from damage or theft and to ensure their proper long-term use. 
Hence, Special Collections acquires, preserves, and makes available for use printed materials (280,000 books, pamphlets, prints, etc.) and a vast array of items comprising manuscript materials (8,000 manuscript collections including diaries, journals, papers, music scores, university records [including records of retired faculty], and 500,000 photographs). 
In keeping with the vision of Brigham Young University, all undergraduates are encouraged to have a graduate-level research experience at BYU. Special Collections wants to help in this mission by allowing all students the opportunity to research the vast collection of primary sources in its holdings. All other patrons outside of BYU including researchers from other universities are also invited to visit and do research.
Think about it. Maybe Provo should be your next research destination!

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