Friday, January 16, 2009

Checking out the Family History Library - Post 2

I posted yesterday about the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, showing pictures of some of the floors. In this post, I want to show some of the equipment that I used during my visit:

First, the individual computer station on every floor of the library. All computers I saw are of fairly recent vintage, have Windows XP installed, and permit use of a USB flash drive using the USB cord on the desktop that is attached to the CPU (you can see the USB flash drive in the photo below between the mouse and the keyboard):

Using the USB flash drive, you can save individual images and web pages but cannot do screen captures or use a word processor or presentation software.

When you find a microfilm that you want to read, you take it to a microfilm reader station (there are hundreds!), turn it on, feed the microfilm, scroll to the page you want, and read:

I experimented a bit with taking a picture without flash of the image on the screen, but could never get a good enough vantage point for the entire page without significant parallax. To get an image to take home, the user needs to make a copy from the microfilm printer or save the image to a USB flash drive using the microfilm scanner machine.

For books or periodicals, the options for capturing an image are taking a digital picture of each page, or using the photocopy machines. Photocopy pages cost 4 cents each. The photocopy area looks like this on all floors:

The microfilm printer is how a user obtains an image from the microfilm on paper. You bring your microfilm (on both sprockets) from the reader to the printer area, load it on (upside down relative to what it was on the microfilm reader), and center your image (you can focus, magnify, and rotate the image), insert your print copy card, and press the print button. Each page costs 23 cents (deducted from your print copy card). There were about 10 microfilm printers on each floor with microfilms, some of them dedicated to 16 mm and 35 mm films. A typical microfilm printer station is shown below:

Some of the printer stations have 11 x 17 paper, and all have 8.5 x 11 paper loaded.

The microfilm scanner/printer stations are the most modern machines in the FHL. However, there are only two of them on each floor with microfilms. There are waiting lines occasionally (maybe even always on busy days). You load your microfilm on the microfilm scanner using both sprockets, scroll to the image you want, focus, rotate, magnify and center the image, attach your USB flash drive to the port at the end of the cable on the desktop, define the parameters for the image copy, and press the Scan button on the computer screen. The FHL directions are very easy to follow and eventually you Save all of your images to a user-defined directory (they wipe them all off on Mondays, apparently). Then you can transfer all of them to your USB flash drive. The microfilm scanner/printer is shown below (scanner on the left, showing the film image to be scanned; the computer screen is on the right with the scanned images showing on the screen. the colored buttons at the top of the computer screen control scanning, saving, etc.):

You can see my USB flash drive installed on the cable between the mousepad and the scanner machine. This machine has much better scrolling capability than the microfilm printer. I found that this machine was the cheapest (it's free!) and easiest to use of all of the copiers.

I struggled a bit finding the right image area to save, thinking that the movable orange margins would enable me to define the image area. The machine has a bit of an independent mind, and I had to work a bit to obtain a complete image of the information I wanted. I ended up putting images from each source film into a separate directory, since the saved images are labeled Page001.tif, Page002.tif, etc. I saved each TIF file at 300 or 400 dpi (the user can control this) and the file size were reasonable.

In hindsight, I should have used the microfilm scanner more, and saved the printing costs while getting a clear digital image instead of printed pages from the microfilm printer (which I may end up scanning anyway). In the two days, I looked at about 30 microfilms and made about 40 printed pages and about 20 digital images.


Patti Hobbs said...

I've had pretty good success with photographs on the readers. You can see some I took at the SLC Family History Library on this page: (The Crabtree deeds)

I shot the photos from two places: on the right had side and behind the lens using my viewfinder at a slant, and then also in front (towards me) and to the right. Some came out a little blurry, but overall I'm pleased.

Unknown said...

Just curious as to why one "cannot do screen captures"?

Do screen captures introduce copyright problems different from the photocopy pages?

Randy Seaver said...

Thanks Patti for the info about screen shots. Maybe I'm just not as good a photographer :)

DD - to save a screen shot, you need to have a program open to receive it, then save that program file. For example, I save most of my screen shots in OpenOffice 2.2, then capture each image as a JPG file later.

The FHL computers have a Start button in the lower lefthand corner of the screen. I can't recall now if I explored that or not to see if they had OO or MSWord or some other program that would enable screen shot captures. Maybe I mis-spoke in my post. I'm home now so I can't check it out.

Digital Film Solutions said...

Great Post. To take things a step further, if you need to have a larger quantity of microfilm records that you need to have scanned - Digital Film Solutions can scan your microfilm rolls for as little as $.01 per image or about $20 per roll.