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

Friday, October 23, 2015

New Statistics from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah

This new infographic from gives some insight into the technological changes that have occurred over the past few years. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah is celebrating its 30th anniversary in the "new" building on West Temple. In a blog post dated 23 October 2015 entitled, Mormon Family History Library Still Connecting Generations of Families after 30 Years" updates several statistics that illustrate the dramatic growth of the Library's worldwide impact due to technological change.

Diane Loole, the Director of the Library, is quoted as giving the current number of Family History Centers worldwide as 4883. This is an increase from the estimated numbers that have been used recently in most references to this vast system of family history support facilities. The infographic shown above also shows some of the dramatic changes in the Library itself due to technological changes. Quoting from the post:
In this age of 24/7 access to information and growing thirst for digital services, libraries across the nation are evolving to meet the changing demands of the communities and patrons they serve, and the Family History Library is no exception. 
About 25 percent of the 2.4 million rolls of microfilm stored at the Granite Mountain Vault have been digitally published online. The Family History Library itself has about 1.5 million rolls on site. As physical films are digitized, they are removed from the library. Insofar as possible, the records teams plan on digitally publishing all of the microfilm online for 24/7 access. 
In 1985 family history research was a very individual experience requiring each person interested in a specific record to scroll through microfilm or search microfiche. In 1985 over 600 microfilm and fiche readers were housed in the Library. Though microfilms and fiche still play an important, though less frequently used role, a large portion of today’s research is now computer-based. Today the Family History Library boasts 550 Internet-enabled patron computers while still providing access to over 200 film and fiche readers. The Library also offers free access to film, book, and photo scanning equipment to help patrons digitally preserve and share family records.
The number of microfilms that have been digitized of the total available is lower than some of the recent estimates I have heard.  But the number highlights the extensive work that still needs to be done to digitize all of the records. As the post points out all of the records are being digitized. However, many of the records being added to the website are coming from the ongoing effort to gather records, now being digitally recorded, from all over the world. Here is a quote about this effort:
The library continues to move with digital innovations, benefiting from the latest technology to preserve and provide access to the world’s genealogical records and increase the success of personal discovery. Progress in gathering, copying, and making records available has been dramatic and fast. Over 300 camera teams are digitally preserving historic records worldwide—over 100 million images per year—that are published directly online.
The post also gives some historical perspective. Here are some further quotes:
It appears the masterminds behind its construction had a vision of future demands. Plans that seemed almost grandiose when construction of the edifice was announced in 1983 have not only materialized, but have also led the way through the years to accommodate ever-improving research and information gathering options. It has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1894 as a one- room repository of the Genealogical Society of Utah, just around the corner and up the street in a small building called the Church Historian’s Office at 58 E. South Temple.
This historical note contrasts with the situation today.
Visitors to the Family History Library find an amazing collection of resources collected over 120 years and hosts of friendly people with expertise available to help them. The Library delivers with an impressive cadre of 45 full and part-time staff, and perhaps unprecedented for libraries, 550 full- and part-time volunteers or “missionaries.”  The volunteers hail from all over the world, many of them dedicating up to 18 months—at their own expense—to help patrons make successful discoveries. 
The main floor of the library is specifically designed to assist inexperienced patrons in getting started. The floor has been outfitted with computers supported by volunteers trained to assist beginners. Volunteers and expert reference staff are also available for more in-depth research on the other floors dedicated to records from certain areas of the world. 
On its lower level, for example, is found the largest number of Chinese clan genealogies outside Mainland China.  This level is also used for storing family histories, and overflow films, and books available by request.  Requests for digitalization of these and other personal books can be requested here, and is  done at another facility in Salt Lake or at many of the Family History Centers and affiliate libraries. 
“The library is not a repository for original documents as is the case with specialized archives; it is not an archive in that sense,” noted David Rencher, chief genealogy officer for FamilySearch.  “But it accepts donations of published works of genealogical significance.”  Books and serials are continually added to the library’s shelves—over 600,000 in fact—and the library is heading up an initiative with other public libraries to digitally publish historic books of genealogical relevance online—over 225,000 have been digitally published online to-date. 
I spent two days this week at the Family History Library and I will be posting some of my own impressions of the changes and the status of the Library today in future posts.

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