Family history library: why patrons are grateful to see the doors reopen

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More than 50 people lined up outside the Family History Library in Salt Lake City on Tuesday shortly before 9 a.m.

The first 50 at the door each received a FamilySearch water bottle full of treats and other small items. FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood and others also greeted each visitor as if they were an old friend.

A small cheer was heard when the doors finally opened. Alison Lowe, of McKinney, Texas, triumphantly raised her arms in the air as she walked through the door.

There was an obvious buzz of excitement and a sense of appreciation as the Family History Library came to life after its 16-month shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was just so exciting,” said Rockwood. “There were mostly expressions of gratitude – they were grateful that we could open up again.”

Seeing the enthusiasm on the faces of the customers has been the best part, said David Rencher, library director and chief genealogical manager of FamilySearch.

“We made a lot of people happy today,” Rencher said.

For Marilyn Shoemaker, of Holladay, and her cousin, Karen Cox, of Bountiful, the long shutdown was “painful”. The two 83-year-old women have been researching family lines at the library for 30 years. They were among the first 50 Tuesday mornings and were eager to “get to know the library again”.

“There are some things you can only do at the library,” Shoemaker said with a smile. “We’ve seen miracles happen in our research here.”

“Family history work keeps us going,” Cox added.

The reopening of the Family History Library was the first day for senior missionaries Terry and Donna Colyar of Peoria, Ariz., Who are part of much of the library.

“We are very excited. This is the first day we can help people in person, ”Sister Colyar said. “He’s a game changer.”

Daniel Fotheringham wore a Los Angeles Dodgers cap as he sat at one of the new workstations, examining an archive of Latin family history. The 32-year-old from Salt Lake City was another of the first 50 to enter the library on Tuesday. He liked what he saw with the new technology.

“It feels good to be back, to see it up and running, to bring Temple Square back to life,” Fotheringham said.

People line up for the reopening of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Family History Library in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 6, 2021. The library reopened after 16 months of closure.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

There were also young people lined up. Robert Clements, a 13-year-old from Laramie, Wyoming, used a large screen to read the origin of his name. He and his family enjoyed seeing the changes in the library.

“I think that has changed for the better,” he said.

Brice Newton, 10, of Nashville, Tennessee, came to the library with his parents as part of a family vacation. It was the Newtons’ first trip to Utah and the young man wanted to know more about his grandmother.

“I want to know everything about our family history because I really don’t know anything,” he said.

The return to the library was meaningful for Trish Thompson, from the Bryce Canyon area, and her sister, Rosemary Pearson, of Spanish Fork. The two women had several books spaced out on a table on the third floor. The library added 40,000 more books to its collection, Rencher said.

A book was open on a page showing a map of Rutherford County, North Carolina, where the sisters “hunted for the Hunts.”

“It’s a place I want to go – Rutherford,” Pearson said. “It’s on our bucket list. “

Pearson’s eyes grew wet as she spoke of her passion for family history.

“Just the opportunity to find my family for Heavenly Father is my goal, to find his children so they can do their jobs,” she said.

Vanessa Newton, left, Lee Newton, and Brice Newton get help creating a FamilySearch account for Brice with Diane Gomm at the Family History Library at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Tuesday July 6, 2021. The library reopened after being closed for 16 months.

Vanessa Newton, left, Lee Newton, and Brice Newton get help creating a FamilySearch account for Brice with Diane Gomm at the Family History Library at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Tuesday July 6, 2021. The library reopened after being closed for 16 months.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

How Has the Family History Library Changed?

Those who entered the family history library on Tuesday found a renovated building with the latest technology. Teams used the extended shutdown to create new floor arrangements, add more lighting, bring in new workstations with adjustable desks and two or three monitors per computer, and other technology upgrades. The library has more resources available, as well as a new break room and washrooms on the main level, among other changes.

Thompson was clearly impressed.

“It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful,” she said. “They have everything you could possibly need. It is fabulous and so clean.

What thrills Rockwood most are the online resources available through the library. Users can remotely access library documents through the library search service, available in several languages, as well as virtual genealogical consultations.

“The family history library is truly a global library now,” said Rockwood. “Online consultations … are accessible to everyone. I hope this opening means as much to our customers in Seattle and Stockholm as it does to those in Salt Lake City.

Rockwood also acknowledged the service and efforts of all FamilySearch team members who made the reopening possible.

“Great job,” he says. “I like innovation. … Hope customers will see and like it.

When will the other buildings around Temple Square open?

The Family History Library was one of five buildings around Temple Square that reopened on Tuesday. The list includes the meeting room, the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the Church History Library, and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

The Beehive House and the Church History Museum are scheduled to reopen on August 2.

The reopening of the Lion House and Relief Society building will be announced at a later date.

To learn more, visit templesquare.org or ChurchofJesusChrist.org.


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