SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will celebrate two family history milestones this month: the completion of extensive upgrades to its Family History Library, the world’s largest genealogical research facility, and the 110th anniversary of the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU).
Significant remodeling and reconfiguration of the Family History Library focused on improving use of technology and increasing customer convenience. The public is invited to an open house at the library from Saturday, 22 January, to Friday, 28 January 2005. The weeklong open house celebration will include free software giveaways, personal genealogy assistance, family history classes and guest speakers. For details, see www.familysearch.org. As always, admission to the Family History Library is free.
The library is one of the top 10 tourist attractions in the state of Utah. Nearly a million visitors a year come from all over the world to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to access its treasure trove of genealogical resources.
Founded in 1894, the Genealogical Society of Utah is the records acquisition arm of the Family History Library and is the primary source of the library’s immense collection. Wayne Metcalfe, field acquisitions director, said, “GSU is currently filming genealogical records in over 40 countries and adds four to six thousand rolls of microfilm or digital disks to the library’s collection each month.”
Over the past century, GSU has acquired over 2.3 million rolls of microfilm from more than 110 countries and principalities. “The result is the largest collection of genealogical data in the world,” Metcalfe concluded.
In the past 10 years there has been an explosion of genealogical information on the Internet, accompanied by development of commercial products to help people organize, research, preserve and share their family histories. Preserving family histories to create a legacy for future generations is a fundamental objective of these innovations in genealogical research. Renovations to the library were made with these trends and needs in mind.
More than 200 public-use computers with Internet access are now available to library patrons. “Our guests are always pleased to find that many of the popular pay-per-use genealogy sites on the Web are accessible at no charge through our library computers,” said Ray Wright, director of the Family History Library.
Library guests will also find more workspace and more convenient services. “Family history enthusiasts are fun to watch. They come in with their files, papers, notes and laptops, and like to ‘stake a claim’ to their workspace for a few hours or the entire day,” said Wright. The entire third floor of the library has been opened up to provide expanded working space. Visitors will enjoy new, ergonomic furniture that’s more comfortable for longer visits, and photocopies can now be paid for with convenient debit-card-style scanners.
Visitors will be pleased to find they no longer need to visit the Joseph Smith Memorial Building to find published family histories. Now all 80,000 of the library’s published family histories and biographies are located on the main floor of the library. A computer lab with 30 stations has also been added. A state-of-the-art Sorenson VP-100 video phone makes it possible for deaf researchers in the library to have virtual contact with other deaf researchers anywhere in the world.
Classroom space has been expanded to enhance ongoing training programs. Thirty classes will be offered during the open house week to help those just getting started as well as advanced researchers. Specialty classes for ethnic research, working with children and teenagers and using the Internet will be available. Visitors can check class offerings and schedules online at www.familysearch.org.
“The improvements make the library more user friendly,” added Ray Wright. “We are better equipped now to handle both young and old, beginner and advanced researcher. We want our guests, regardless of experience, knowledge or primary language spoken, to have a successful experience when they visit. We want them to leave excited about their research and eager to return again.”
The library is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 801-240-6535.