Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Plight of the Mesa FamilySearch Library

While some Family History Centers receive very few monthly visitors, the Mesa FamilySearch Library has thousands of visitors every month, especially during the busy winter visitor season in Mesa, Arizona. Unfortunately the lovely building shown above has been condemned. During a remodeling effort scheduled back in 2014, the building was found to have a mold problem as well as some other issues. This tragic condition put the remodeling on hold where it has remained now going into the third year. The options seemed clear: fix the building and continue with the remodeling or tear it down and rebuild or close down the Library and release all the missionaries or move the library to a new building. Unfortunately, so far, none of these options have been made available to the not-so-patiently waiting library missionary staff.

As an alternative, the staff of the library has moved what could be salvaged from the building back into the old annex building that was the original Family History Library before the newer building shown above was constructed to replace it. For some time now, they have been operating a reduced schedule of classes and support for the thousands of patrons who have found their way to the substitute building. Ironically, the older building had been remodeled just a few years ago to accommodate the overflow needs to serve the patrons using the newer building. Before that, the building was used for storage and staging of the Mesa Easter Pageant among other uses.

Meanwhile, the status of the Mesa FamilySearch Library has remained in suspended animation. No one seems to know when or even if the status of the Library will be clarified. The staff of the Library has, for the most part, valiantly tried to maintain the support provided to the hundreds of thousands of people permanently living in the East Valley as well as the huge number of visitors from other states and countries. Not only is there an uncertainty about the fate of the Library, but there is also no communication about the status of the old/new building or what will ultimately happen to their staff of dedicated and experienced missionaries, some of whom have been serving for many, many years.

In past posts, I have speculated about the future of Family History Centers in general, given the accelerated digitization of the microfilm records and the commonly known fact that microfilm will shortly become unavailable to make copies to send to the Family History Centers around the world. Back in 2014, Dick Eastman, a prominent genealogy blogger, wrote a post entitled, "The Death of Microfilm" that summarized the future of microfilm and by extension previewed the plight of the Family History Centers that are relying on the loan of microfilm from FamilySearch to continue that operation in the future. Another recent article on the subject from entitled, "A Glimpse Into the Future of Microfilm and Microfiche," also acknowledges the inevitable end of microfilm and microfiche usage.

But whether or not microfilm disappears, sooner or later FamilySearch will have digitized all of the microfilm in the Granite Vault that is going to be digitized and the shipment of microfilm to Family History Centers will stop.

Combined with the ongoing digitization of books and other records by FamilySearch and many others, it is inevitable that some of the uses of Family History Center will change. But what will not change is the amount of support needed to researchers in family history. In this regard, the Mesa FamilySearch Library with its trained support staff and its very active class schedule was already anticipating the primary use of Family History Centers in the future. This makes the inactivity and lack of clarification of the Library's future even more of an enigma.

I recently visited the Mesa FamilySearch Library to say hello to old friends and acquaintances and found them immersed in helping patrons and teaching classes. My heart goes out these volunteers who have continued to try to serve under very uncertain and difficult circumstances. Isn't it about time some relief and clarification of their situation is provided to these valiant servants?

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