Wednesday, February 09, 2011

RootsTech: Microfilm distribution center - an inside peek

Today Ol' Myrt here took a RootsTech news media tour of the FamilySearch microfilm distribution center. This is a high security facility located about 15 minutes from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. We were cautioned not to take pictures during the tour, but were provided with high-resolution photos of the exterior and interior of the facility.

The large black computerized retrieval arm (crane?), shown below between the stacks, removes a drawer that holds an ordered  film.

People stand at computer workstations, shown below, scan the drawer bar code, and the computer screen gives the film number and location in the drawer  for the worker to pull. The worker pulls the film, scans it with a bar-code reader, and instructed where to place it in one of the blue bins stacked on the side.

The blue bins go down a conveyor belt of metal rollers (like we see when queuing up to go through airport security) to a boxing station, where each film box is again scanned, and the appropriate mailing shelf area lights up for that FamilySearch Center's order. Once an order is complete, a small light in front of the stack of films lights up, and the worker places all the films in a mailing box. At the same time, an order sheet with mailing label is printed, to match up with each box.

It's amazing that the microfilm distribution center ships out about 500 to 2,000 microfilm each workday.

Some of the non-genealogists in the news media group couldn't understand why folks would order microfilm. I explained that when living in Florida, working as a school teacher, I ordered German church records that uncovered three generations on my family tree. This saved me the cost of travel and time away from work for an extended period of time.

David Rencher, Chief Genealogy Officer at explained there will always be a need for microfilm distribution. Each of the record collections on a microfilm must have the original contract renegotiated to include the option to present the materials in digital format. Apparently some archivists have not permitted the digitization of the microfilm records.

Following the tour, we went to dinner at The Roof restaurant in the top of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, just east of the historic Temple Square. We enjoyed lively dinner conversation with Drew Smith, Schelly

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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