Many patrons have greatly missed doing genealogy and family history research at the Family History Library since it closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But those who return when the facility in Salt Lake City reopens next week will be pleasantly surprised to find the prolonged closure was used to remodel parts of the building, replace outdated equipment with new technology and improve the overall user experience, said Lynn Turner, the library’s assistant director.

“I’m really excited to show people the changes that have happened, not only physically but also in the guest interaction changes that we’ve made,” Turner said on June 30. “And then just seeing people again. These tables will be full, and people will be smiling from ear to ear and just having a good time.”

Lynn Turner looks at a map in the Family History Library.
Lynn Turner, assistant director of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Library, shows a historical map of New Jersey in the new map room at the library in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

When will the Family History Library open?

The library’s front doors will reopen on Tuesday, July 6, at 9 a.m. Operating hours will be Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Expanding hours and updates will be shared on the Family History Library webpage.

The first 50 guests each day July 6-9 will receive a FamilySearch gift. Treats also will be passed out to more than 200 guests as they depart in the afternoon.

Turner is anticipating a big crowd.

“Because all those (COVID-19) restrictions have been removed and it’s summertime, I’m expecting quite a few people,” Turner said.

The Family History Library is one of several buildings around Temple Square that will begin a phased reopening on July 6. No reservations are required.

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Why remodel the Family History Library?

Less than a week after the Family History Library closed in March 2020, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake shook the Salt Lake Valley and the Wasatch Front, causing minor damage to the library.

As Turner and David Rencher, the library’s director and FamilySearch’s chief genealogical officer, walked through the building after the earthquake, they agreed it was time to make some improvements.

The Family History Library, which averages about 400,000 visitors a year, was last renovated in 2002, Turner said.

“We wanted consistency on the floors,” he said. “We wanted the lights on, a more welcoming environment and newer technology.”

Most of the remodeling is complete. A few projects are still under construction but will be completed in the near future.

“Guests will return to an environment that will significantly improve discovery and research experiences,” Rencher said in a news release.

A view of the new workstations in the Family History Library.
Work stations are pictured on the second floor of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ remodeled Family History Library in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

What has changed in the Family History Library?

Here is what patrons will find when the Family History Library doors reopen Tuesday:

New floor arrangements: Each floor has been reorganized for efficiency and convenience. An information/reference desk will be the first thing guests see when stepping off the elevator. The library has added new tables on each floor with charging stations.

An interactive discovery experience is still found on the main floor.

Research materials for the United States and Canada are still on floors 2 and 3, with microfilms on the second floor and books on the third.

The lower two floors — B1 and B2 — have been reorganized to match the upper two floors, with international microfilms on B1 and international books on B2. New rooms with glass walls are being added on the two lower floors.

A new global map space, where patrons can research the library’s map collections, will be located on B1. The space will include a digital map table — an interactive 65-inch flat screen that patrons can use to enlarge and study maps.

A new media conversion area will allow guests to convert slides, photos, VHS cassettes, 8-millimeter and other formats to a digital format.

More lighting: Before the pandemic, parts of some floors with microfilm readers were mostly dark. Lights have been turned on throughout the library to offer a more inviting and learning environment. The library still provides a room on each microfilm floor for the older, traditional microfilm readers.

Technology upgrade: Technology throughout the Family History Library has received a major upgrade. There are 375 new workstations, each with two or three monitors and adjustable desks to allow a patron to sit or stand. Each workstation can also accommodate a guest’s laptop and any ADA needs.

New microfilm readers and scanners have been added to some workstations for guests to conveniently examine books and microfilm and make digital image copies by themselves.

The library has also added several new big scanners.

Free copies: Patrons are now entitled to free photocopies. Copies cost 5 cents each before the pandemic.

Research specialist: With the click of a button on any of the library’s computers, a patron can request help from a staff member or volunteer who will come directly to their workstation.

New break room: The main floor will feature a new break room built to accommodate groups of up to 75 people. It will be open to all guests and is available for reservations. The room, which overlooks the historic cabin on the plaza outside, includes a kitchenette, vending and an ice machine, and provides a space for people to eat and socialize. The break room is still under construction and is scheduled to be completed by mid-August.

New restrooms: There are new bathrooms on the library’s main floor, including a family restroom and mother’s lounge. All other bathrooms in the building are scheduled to be remodeled in 2022.

Resources available: The Family History Library has more than 515,000 books with more than 100,000 additional books available online at FamilySearch.org. The library received about 50,000 donated books during 2020. These volumes will be made available as they are processed and cataloged.

Sister Vivian Shaw walks among files of records in the Family History Library.
Sister Vivian Shaw works in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Library in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

When will local FamilySearch Centers reopen?

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FamilySearch family history centers and libraries will open based on the direction of their local ecclesiastical leaders and government guidelines. Visitors are encouraged to call ahead before going.

What remote services does the Family History Library provide?

For those who can’t come to the Family History Library, the library has a new webpage (familysearch.org) with virtual genealogy consultations where patrons can sign up for a free, 20-minute online research strategy session. The library responded to 10,000 online consultations in English, Spanish and Chinese from June 2020 to June 2021.

Guests can also access library materials remotely through the library lookup service, which is available in 15 languages. The library has performed more than 2,500 record lookups since launching the service in May.

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More resources can be found at RootsTech.org or FamilySearch.org.

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