Tuesday, April 26, 2011

FHL Implements New Copy System: Part 2

Today the big change that I described in yesterday’s post was inaugurated at the Family History Library (FHL). Although the first day was not without glitches, all in all things went well. Early in the morning there was a line to exchange the old copy cards for new. It took the staff a little time to get the hang of the new processes but things soon seemed to go more smoothly. I expected the line to exchange cards would grow as the library filled with more patrons but that didn’t seem to happen at any of the random times I passed that area of the library.

Patrons wait at cashier's window to exchange cards.

The multidimensional capacity of the new copiers will delight the tech savvy:

Instructions for copying, scanning and printing.

Paradoxically this can be a weakness in a library like FHL. Although there are some frequent patrons, most of those who visit the library do so only intermittently. This means the transition will require researcher education and card exchange to continue indefinitely. Fortunately, the bountiful supply of missionaries will mitigate this constant flow of uninitiated genealogists.

Queuing modeling of design engineers would suggest that the 18 machines should handle the volume. I hope that is true; but I have some reservations. The very complexity that is so seductive can create bottlenecks when untrained users puzzle over the plethora of opportunities before them. Also, when one copier went down on a floor today it reduced both printing and copying capacity by 25%.

Cards of various denomination wait for the vending machines to be made operational.

The other bumpy part of the inaugural day was that the vending machines for copy cards were not yet functional. This required patrons to have to trek to the main floor for a new card when they exhausted the ones they were using. Hopefully that flaw will be removed soon as the card dispensers become available throughout the library. 

I have been so caught up by what was included by this transition that it just now dawned on me what I have yet to see. Microforms don't seem to be included. It has already become apparent that FamilySearch has adopted digital imaging for new materials being added. Is this a step away from reliance on the microformats that have been the mainstay of the FHL and its satellite system of family history centers? Will the card system be expanded to include them or will patrons be further encouraged to transfer those images directly to flash drives and other portable devices?

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