The first sign that changes were afoot in the Family History
Library occurred in December 2000 when copycard machines appeared and change
machines vanished. No more carrying large amounts of change in order to make
copies of documents. In late spring of 2001, the front doors of the library
suddenly opened by themselves - no juggling genealogy materials in order to open
the door to the building. At about this time, rumors circulated amongst the
regular patrons that major renovations were going to commence. However, no one
seemed to be sure exactly what renovations were to be undertaken or when they
would begin. The next event to occur was that the reference tables lost several
inches in height overnight. In addition, the individual carrels on the north
wall of the main floor were removed and the bookshelves extended.
I decided the best way to find out which of the rumors, if any, were true was
to meet with the director of the Family History Library, David E. Rencher. He
graciously met with me and confirmed that major renovations were about to begin.
He showed me the proposed plans for each floor and discussed with me the major
changes to be made. One of his goals was to make the FHL friendlier to
physically challenged patrons, hence the automatic front doors and lower
reference tables. The renovations officially began on July 6, 2001, and will be
complete by the time you read this article.
On July 9, the main floor looked barren. The tables and chairs had been
removed and the entire area curtained off with plastic sheeting. A podium stood
in for the reference desk and a few armchairs had been placed so that patrons
could study books. The photocopiers had all been moved to floor B1. Work began
on floor B2 at the same time. All tables and chairs were removed, along with the
microfilm readers and workspaces. New carpeting and cabling for the computer
workstations was installed. By early August, computer workstations on the main
floor had been installed and some tables and chairs replaced.
Family history research became even more challenging as the microfilm readers
on the second floor disappeared. The readers on B1 and B2, the only ones left
available, were at a premium. Microfilm cabinets were reconfigured. One day I
went to get a film and three burly young men were just loading the cabinet on a
dolly. I followed them and when the cabinet was unloaded retrieved the film.
When I returned to replace the film, the cabinet had been moved again. One
researcher commented to me that she had used the elevator twenty-one times in
one day to retrieve films from the second floor and take them to her reader on
Changes throughout the FHL include forty new computer workstations on each
floor, as well as outlets for laptop use. The configuration of microfilm
cabinets, readers, and books is now consistent on all floors. Overflow U.S. and
Canada microfilms are no longer housed on B1- they are all on the second floor.
The Automated Resource Center has disappeared but the same materials are
available on the computer workstations. Special Collections has relocated to
The second floor census area has been expanded to make room for the 1930
census (scheduled for release in April 2002). Printed census indexes and census
reference materials are in the center of that area along with a copier. Copy
rooms on all floors are now open; some rooms include a machine that enables the
copying of microfilm to a CD-ROM for use at home. Copy machines on the main
floor are now in an alcove.
Research during the renovation turmoil was truly an experience. However, the
end result has been more than worth it. The library feels more open and the new
configuration encourages research. The Family History Library has moved into the