My sister-in-law and I are back from one week in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. It was fun and fast paced. We drove so could take what my little car would hold. While there we stayed next door at The Plaza Hotel. This is convenient to the library and also Temple Square and other places in downtown Salt Lake City. The TRAX stops at the Plaza, so you can easily take breaks and go to outlying areas.
This was her first time at the library. While I have been there numerous times, it is always a delight to return. For those who have not been at the library, maybe some of these ideas will be helpful. If you have been there, send me comments with your tips and ideas.
1. Take breaks in your research. I cannot over stress this. The library is open (except on Mondays when it closes at 5 p.m.) from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Those breaks are necessary as your brain can turn to mush and your legs to rubber. We took a break one day to walk to the Deseret Bookstore which is about three blocks from the library. Other times we returned to the hotel room or walked around Temple Square. Keep in mind when walking that the blocks in Salt Lake City are longer than a normal city block.
2. We took a large paper punch which stayed in the room. This really wasn't necessary to bring as each floor near the photocopying area has a paper punch, stapler, paper clips and rubber bands. Of course, if you need the paper punch in the middle of the night, it might come in handy to have one!
3. Not everybody is honest, even in the Family History Library. We went prepared with locks for our computers, but were amazed at the number of people who did not have locks with them. Buy one before you go and learn how to use it.
4. Keep anything of value on your person. My sister-in-law wore a fanny pack and I had a light weight, very small bag (from L.L. Bean) that went across my shoulder and mid-section. It has one larger zipper pocket, small zipper pocket for cash and a velcro pocket. I kept my room key card and the photocopy card inside the bag. On the sides where there are metal loops I attached the key to my computer lock and a flash drive. It was large enough to hold other items, but not inconvenient.
5. If you need to check something on the computer that requires your password, be sure you either remember it or bring it. I use a Mac computer and have Password Plus on it. This requires remembering only one password and once into the software I can locate all of my other passwords.
6. Turn your cell phone off or on vibrate. I turned mine off. When I arrived home there was a note in the kitchen from my daughter ... "Tried to call you, but your cell was always off!" Actually we did talk on the phone several times. As can be expected, there were people who had their cell phones on. Even if answered quickly, they can be annoying. You can use the cell phone in the area around the elevators, in the bathrooms or outside.
7. The library was not overly busy while we were there. The morning that I was using the British film, the area was busy. Normally we were able to make photocopies non-stop. If the library is busy, you are limited to five copies at a time. There are a variety of photocopiers available. One I particularly liked was the binder minder copier which allows you to copy books that are tightly bound. The photocopy machines seemed to be more in use in the evenings.
8. And speaking of photocopies ... keep track of your card. You can purchase a photocopy card for 60 cents, leaving 40 cents to use. The machines will not take the newer bills. You can add to your card with $1, $5, $10, and $20 bills. If you need to exchange the new bills for older ones, go to the access office on the main floor. It is a good idea to sign your card on the line provided on the back. While I never left my card in a machine, I did find other people's cards and turned them in. My sister-in-law reported that while making copies a man next to her left his card in the machine. A woman proceeded to use it, until he returned for it. Copies are 5 cents a page, but that can add up.
9. You can use your flash drive to make copies from microfilm, microfiche or books. Instructions are posted, but to get started I recommend that you ask for help. Remember to disconnect your flash drive when finished. And take it with you!
10. Always ask if you have questions. And ask again! We both had books that we could not locate. After asking, sometimes twice, we learned that they were in high density. You have to sign for the books and they are retrieved for you to use. I was also told that some of the film numbers or call numbers might not agree with the Family History Library Catalog because they are re-cataloging some items. If a book is being scanned for the digital project, it will not be back on the shelf.
The most important thing is to make the most of your time at the Family History Library, go prepared, but also have fun.