Thursday, March 22, 2007

Look on the brighter side

While we all appreciate the opportunity to access at the FHL and Family History Centers over the past seven years (and for the next 9 days), we need to think about what will happen when that access is lost after April 1.

Why do people use at the FHCs? Because it is there and they can access it for free, and they can get help from the FHC staff while they are using it. I believe that since the emphasis at the FHCs has been towards internet access, and away from using microfilms and microfiches, that the FHCs have suffered a loss in patronage.

The Internet is seductive - and some of us understand that not everything is online, and that serious research must include primary information documents, like deeds and probate records, that are not found online yet.

My opinion is that all is not lost! In fact, this situation may bring more casual users of at the FHCs into local libraries that have Ancestry Library Edition (and to local societies that step up and offer help accessing ALE), and it might drive more regular FHC patrons to purchase a personal subscription. I think the biggest positive may be that it will drive more researchers back into the FHCs in order to do serious research in primary information records.

There is an opportunity here for the FHCs to increase their "business" - which has been and still is renting microfilms - so that researchers can find evidence that prove relationships. But there is a generation of FHC patrons who need to be educated in everything that the FHCs can offer - and it is much more than access to databases.

The savvy genealogy researcher uses the resources that best solve his/her research problems - whether it is an subscription, Internet web sites, local libraries and FHCs, or distant repositories. The main reason I go to the FHL in Salt Lake City is to be able to access the mass of microfilm (rather than have to order many films over many months at my FHC), not to access

Looking long-term, the LDS goal of digitizing all of their microfilms and microfiches in the granite vault in Utah will cover many of the databases lost when withdraws access to the FHCs. However, the digitizing won't be completed for many years. Since is allowing access to 1880, 1900 and 1920 census data, the LDS should prioritize the 1790 to 1870, 1910 and 1930 census indexing and digitizing. They are all on microfilm now, of course.

Perhaps this dispute between and the LDS will be a catalyst that enables genealogy researchers to understand the role of online resources, the role and benefits of the FHL and FHCs, and the need to conduct serious genealogy research using all available resources, not just on the Internet.

1 comment:

Craig Manson said...

Excellent points made here, Randy. I hope folks who want to be serious about their work take this to heart.