Preparing for RootsTech 2019 and the Family History Library – Part 1

RootsTech 2019 is still 4 months away, but NOW is the time to begin planning for your visit to both the conference AND the Family History Library, which is one block to the north of the convention center, across from Temple Square.

I’d like to share some tips that should make your library research and conference experiences fun and productive. First, let’s talk about the Family History Library.

Pre-planning will allow you to make the most efficient use of your time. I always recommend having one’s ducks in a row long before walking through the library doors. How do I do it? Here is my 2018 updated list (first published in 2015) with my best practices.

1. Keep a running list of the items and call numbers you want to view in the library.

I began preparations for my next library visit as soon as I got home from my last trip to Salt Lake City. How? By starting a running list of everything I wanted to view on my next library visit. I keep a pad of paper on a shelf behind my desk. Every time I am in the midst of researching a family and come across an item – book, film or library-only computer access – I add it on the “to do” list.

2. Just before I leave, I review my list. Have any books or films been digitized since I entered the title on my “to dos”? If so, and I can view it at home, I cross it off the list. Be aware that digitized books are no longer on the library shelves!

Are any of my films in the Granite Vault? If so, I need to make sure to request them as soon as I first enter the library so there is time for delivery and viewing before I leave. Is any item on the only-in-the-library computer access arena? If so, I try complete these items early in my visit so they don’t get overlooked.

I can’t stress that enough – make a list of items to look up BEFORE you leave home. That list should include the film number or book number for each item. If it is something that has been digitized, unless it is hard to read or in a foreign language, don’t waste precious library time reading it in the library.

If you will be visiting the library for the first time in February, arrive with your list ready to go. It is fine if you start working down your list and get sidetracked because you have success and want to follow up new leads. However, if you are not successful in one search, you have the next item on your list with film/book numbers cited so you don’t have to take time to do that in the library.

3. If you have never been to the Family History Library before, check the FamilySearch website for library tips, floor plans, hours of operation, etc. so you are somewhat familiar with it. I also recommend letting the volunteers at the library reception desks, located on each floor, know that you are making your first visit so they can help you get started. It is very easy to be very, very overwhelmed by this library so taking time to get oriented is time well spent in the long run.

4. Being retired, my travel time is somewhat flexible. My travel funds are less so and I try to stretch my dollars. Obviously, reasonable airfare is the first thing I check. However, and I don’t think most people think of doing this, I am not adverse to hotel hopping. I actually do it on every visit. I am reasonably fit and figure I can easily walk a radius of about six blocks from the library. When I look for hotel rooms, I check prices day by day for the time period I plan to be in Salt Lake City. Rates vary considerably and I choose the hotel with the lowest rate per night. It isn’t a problem to get up early, check out and drop my luggage off at the next night’s hotel on my way to the library in the morning. NOTE: Rates for 2019 hotels continue to creep up from past years so be sure to find out if they have a conference rate available.

I also often time my visits for a Sunday evening arrival. That way, I am fresh on Monday morning and can build my library time stamina up with “only” an eight hour day the first day since the library closes at 5:00 on Mondays. It sets the tone for the rest of my week.

5. What to pack – When packing, I always include some granola bars, mozzarella sticks and licorice and bottled water to have something on hand in case of airport delays and need for a bite while in the library in between meals. There is a lunch room in the FHL, located on the first floor in the back. Vending machines have drinks and quick snacks.

Pack a layered wardrobe! Always wear comfortable layers of clothing and shoes as you may be walking many steps in the library as you research. Some floors in the library are warmer/cooler than others. The RootsTech convention center is huge and you will definitely be walking a lot in there. As in the FHL, some classrooms and sections of the convention center are warmer/cooler than others. Dress accordingly.

I also bring two pairs of tennis shoes, as they provide good traction with a rubber sole in case the sidewalks are wet or slippery. If one pair gets wet, I can wear the second while the first is drying out. SUGGESTION: Since the holiday season is approaching, I would recommend buying a pair of waterproof boots on sale if you live in a warm climate and don’t own any. I have been at RootsTech in past years where it has snowed and sidewalks were slippery.

6. Bring a couple of flash drives with a lot of memory (at least 16GB) with you. Information found on the computer can either be directly saved or screen clipped and saved. Many images can also be emailed directly home, but I prefer to have mine with me. Or, better yet, email them home AND save to your flash drive so you have a back up.  Also, BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME, create a file folder on each flash drive titled “If Found, Return to Owner” and put a document in there with your contact information in case you lose/leave your flash drive behind in the library. Flash drives are OFTEN left behind by library patrons. Staff loves finding one with an owner folder in it. It is also a good idea to attach the flash drives to a lanyard so you are less likely to walk off and leave it in the computer.

My 1 November 2018 post will have six more tips + a bonus tip for having a great experience in Salt Lake City.

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