Monday, April 14, 2014

Taking On Research at The Family History Library in SLC

Just a half a block from my hotel and part of my
daily walk to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Blogs are wonderful, but they take time. Thus, my silence last week while I immersed myself in work at the Salt Lake City Family History Library. Truthfully, I was there every minute that they’d allow me to be there. That added up to between eight and thirteen hours a day. On four out of six days, I was there for thirteen straight hours. You can imagine what my meals looked like. Worse, you can imagine what I looked like. On second thought skip that last thought altogether and focus on making the trip yourself.

Despite my appearance, going there was so worth it, and yet, I really needed an extra week to gather what I needed. Or, so it seems on the morning after my return. There is so much available, but you can lose valuable hours, unless you know what you are looking for and how to find it.
The beginning of my daily walk back to my hotel.

So here are a few tips that I have learned:

1). Allow days, not hours, to research. I was there for six days, but I truly needed more time. There is so much material and, in my case, as it had been a few years since I had been there, I had to find my way, as things have been moved around. I spent every minute working, but as with everything, there are unforeseeable delays, and it is hard to predict how much time those delays will cost you.

2). The Family History Library is not a Walmart. It is not open 24-hours-a-day. Currently, it is open 8-5 on Mondays, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Tuesday through Friday, and from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays, and also closed for certain church functions, so be sure to check ahead. 

3). Have a good, but flexible, research plan. You will need it to know what you want to get, which brings me to my second point, figuring out where to find it. Family Search has an online catalogue that will give you call numbers and film numbers. Find it here: It will also tell you if the items desired are available at the SLC library or if they must be ordered from the Granite Mountain Vault, which is undergoing renovations, and thus, may  require extra time to deliver it to the main library. Knowing these things ahead of time  and preparing will save you many hours.      

An average LDS garden on my daily walk.
4). Go with a group whenever possible. You will save money on group rates at hotels and there is sanity in numbers. They bring up subjects like, “Have you eaten today?” which can be something easily forgotten when enthralled by all that lovely information.

5). Stay close to the Family History Library. This will save you time, allowing you to get there quickly and leave late. I can only vouch for the hotel where we stayed, “The Carlton Hotel,” but it was an easy, stunning walk from the library (see pics of my walk on this page). It was also reasonable, comfortable, and they had great breakfasts included. If you choose not to walk, Larry will drive you in the van, and was funny, kind, and very helpful. The walk from the Carlton Hotel to the library was historic and the gardens were stunning. The newly built City Creek Shopping area also provided entertainment, which was important for someone who, while there, learned the specific gender of an upcoming addition to the family. A quick trip to Nordstrom’s (less than a block from the Family History Library) was needed to celebrate the news.      
More gardens along South Temple
 (the street that I walked down).

6). Be prepared. Bring a laptop and a laptop lock for it, in case you have to leave it for any length of time. Dress comfortably and in layers. The weather can change quickly. 

I was fortunate as my group held lunch meetings to prepare us for the trip. It was so helpful. If you are going with a group, suggest that everyone meet and discuss the plan for the trip. It gave me ideas and saved me lots of confusion.

Some things that I used most:

  • My 64-gigabyte flash drive. I filled 63.18 gigabytes. I wished that I had a second one and think it would have been a good idea. You can save documents directly from the copier or computer to a flash drive, cutting the need to haul a suitcase full of paper back home at the end of your trip.
  • My flatbed scanner. I spent approximately $80 for a a small, lightweight, flatbed scanner that ran off power from my Macbook, and also sent scans directly to my laptop for storage. It fit in my roll-aboard case and weighed about 2 pounds. It’s very quiet and quickly scanned everything I needed. Best of all, whenever there was a long line for a copier, I could quickly pull out my scanner and be done long before iI would have reached the head of the line to photocopy. Just make sure that you have enough room on you computer’s hard drive to do this, by cleaning out extraneous files before you go to Salt Lake City. 
  • Water Bottles. Salt Lake City is a dry climate and it is easy to become dehydrated. You cannot have food anywhere in the library except for a relatively small lunchroom, but water bottles with a screw-on cap are allowed on the library floor.
  • My laptop. Despite the availability of church-owed computers, when you crawl back to your hotel, you need a laptop. 
  • Personal WIFI. Originally, I got mine from Verizon (called a “MiFi” at Verizon) for entirely different reasons, but I have learned of its value ever since. With it, I can have secure, personal internet access anywhere, which is wonderful if you are away from home for any length of time and spending time in public places such as hotels, conferences, or libraries.
  • Little binder clips. Scrap paper and pencils are available everywhere for quick notes, but it was the small binder clips that kept me from flinging them all over the place.
  • A roll-aboard bag to keep everything together and organized. I used the freebie bags that come with make-up “specials” to hold cords in my bag for easy identification.
  • Flexible hair ties. I use them for everything from wrapping up cords to keeping small items like protein bars from getting loose. Ditto for zippered plastic bags.
  • A lightweight, flexible (not the rigid type) 1/2-inch to 1-inch binder with empty, plastic page protector sleeves to place photocopies in once you have made the copies. This will protect them until you can get back to the hotel and file them for taking home. 
  • Small, reusable grocery bags that can be stuffed into a tiny bag or ball.wonderful for putting film boxes in to transport to the microfilms machines or to drop photocopies into before you place them in the binder.
  • Labels with your cell phone number. Use these to label anything that you brought and might accidentally leave behind, from flash drives to your cell phone. 

After you return home, consider organizing your data right away. It will help remind you of what you have found and will also help you to keep track of it, before the memory fades. As always, make sure that you have good citations for all of it as you may want to use it in the distant future, as well as today.

The main homestead and its
amazing "Beehive Gardens."