Saturday, August 22, 2009

Church History Library (the new one)

So I finally went to the Church History Library. You know, the brand new building north of temple square with all the publicity and the fancy carpets? Nice place? Friendly staff? Yeah, that place.

My wife dropped me of one morning during our visit to Salt Lake City and I immediately started for the card catalogue. Rumor has it that it isn't universally loved. I figured why not get the hard stuff over right away. I started off with some easy searches. Honestly, it isn't hard to use, it just returns too much. For example, I wanted the journals of Edward Stevenson Jr. because he served in Lewis County Tennessee in 1878. I found lots of stuff and couldn't figure out which one was the reference I needed. I wrote down three that I thought might be what I wanted and headed for the reference desk.

After a brief wait I spoke with someone about my search. He took one look at the form I filled out for the first reference and got a real puzzled look on his face. "Where did you find this?" he asked. "In your card catalogue. Is it not here?" I responded. "Well, it is here. But it is in the employee only section. It isn't something you can look at." So I tell him what I want and we start looking from scratch. We eventually find it. But not with the help of the card catalogue.

I had other documents to look at and we found those too. I went back to the reading room and found my first microfilm was already waiting for me. I took it back to the computer microfilm reader and figured out how to load it. I had never used on before. And I probably won't use again until I have to. Every time I advanced a screen it took a couple of seconds to render the image. I was accustomed to skimming through a microfilm to find the exact spot I wanted. I would normally stop on a page only long enough to determine if I had gone far enough. waiting for the page to render easily doubled the amount of time it took for me to skim through a film. After 10 minutes I gave up and moved to another, older machine and started over.

Ten minutes later I had found what I wanted and started reading. I ended up going through several microfilms and one paper document. With the exception of the Edward Stevenson Jr. journal, I was not allowed to copy any of it. The journals of George Henry Carver and Martin Garn are only available to members of the family (any family members out there willing to help me out with these?). I totally understand that. The "Donations to the Tennessee Martyrs Fund" was completely restricted. But I might submit a request in the future anyway. And the manuscript by Georgiana Roberts Livingston Mowry we won't talk about.

Overall the visit was productive and fun and wonderful. The staff was great to work with and the people a pleasure to meet.

5 comments:

Susan W H said...

I'm following your adventures in research with great interest. I went to the old library for the first time a couple of years ago. I was just beginning my research and didn't know what I was doing. The staff was great--one of them even knew who my grandfather was and remembered articles he'd written for the newspaper years ago.

I'm looking forward to visiting the new library within the next few weeks. Do you know--it it a good idea to contact the library ahead of time with requests for documents?

Thanks for posting about your experiences.

BruceCrow said...

It is really fun to have the librarian know the person you are looking at. Especialy if you have a personal connection as yuou obviously would have with your grandfather.

As far as contacting them ahead of time, I'm not sure. I have worked with them remotely, and in person but not both on the same project.

I'm guessing there really isn't much advantage to contacting them ahead of time. They were really quick getting me the microfilms I wanted. I requested four films and the first was ready before I had finished requesting the fourth.

JonW said...

Bruce a question for you then.

I notice their is no way to search anything in the catalogue online from outside of the building. So my question is how did you do your request? There is a couple of pieces of information I am trying to find and I cannot be sure of dates on one of them.

What procedure did you use? I cannot attend the library in person so I am at the mercy of others.

BruceCrow said...

JonW,
For this trip I waited until I got there. But my first encounter with the library was by phone. I called and asked a librarian for help. We dicussed what I was looking for and she told me which manuscripts probably contained what I wanted. Then, per her instructions, I sent an email requesting those manuscripts. They were copied and mailed to me along with a modest bill (less than $10). I was lucky that they did indeed contain what I wanted.

See here http://amateurmormonhistorian.blogspot.com/2009/01/church-archives-another-update.html

JonW said...

Thanks Bruce I will have to do that then.