Thursday, February 10, 2011

2011 RootsTech Update 2

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing the Distribution and Print Center for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City at the invitation of FamilySearch. This was really a privilege, as this building usually isn't open to the public.

Housed in this building are the microfilms that are sent to local Family History Centers when requested. They also store and ship the items found on the LDS online store. There are over 2,000 different types of products inside.

I was part of a small media tour. We weren't allowed to take pictures, but the nice folks at FamilySearch provided some stock photos. Here is a view of the outside of the building.

Here are some stats on the building:

It covers 1,097,419 square feet, about as much as 19 football fields.
725,000 rolls of microfilm are stored inside.
This distribution center fills around 1.6 million film orders a year.

If you order a microfilm from a Family History Center, it likely ships from here, or from another Distribution Center on your continent.

The whole microfilm retrieval process is automatic. There are floor-to-ceiling drawers full of barcoded boxes of microfilm. There's a little robotic retriever that moves back and forth in an aisle, pulls the requested drawers and delivers them to employees.

A computer system tells the little machine where to go, up or down and which drawer to pull. Here is a shot of a film aisle:

Once the film drawer comes forward, the requested box(es) of microfilm are manually removed from the drawer by an employee. These items are scanned and sorted each step of the way, until they get put in a box for shipping. 

The employees fulfilled some orders while we were there (after closing time) so we could see the process. The entire warehouse system is top of the line and very efficient. In the portion we toured, it was staffed by only 2 employees. That's all that was needed to fill all those orders! 

I really enjoyed this tour from an information perspective and a fulfillment perspective.

After the tour, we had dinner at The Roof, which is a rooftop restaurant in Salt Lake City. I met Jill Ball of the Genaius blog, all the way from Australia! She's a hoot. She kept calling all the other bloggers "stars" but she's a celebrity in her own right. 

After dinner, I met up with some other bloggers in the hotel bar. Lisa Alzo, Joan Miller, Thomas MacEntee, Lorine Schulze Massey and others.

It was a great day, and the conference hadn't even started yet! More to come....


  1. I had no idea they were operating on this scale. I was not expecting robots! Thanks for sharing this - it's very neat

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Amy. You have made me feel so welcome in the sea of strangers at Rootstech

  3. So you just so happened to get there on a day that it was opened to the public?

  4. M, no it wasn't open to the public. I got a special invitation. Thank you for the comment!

  5. I love eating at THE ROOF!

    Glad you could have such a great experience and spend time with such wonderful people. Enjoy!

  6. Thanks for sharing this Amy! I didn't even know that the rolls of microfilm shipped out to FHC were stored at the Distribution Center! I go there frequently but not in that part of the building apparently... Thanks for teaching me something!

  7. I always loved "the claw" automated machine that could deliver a stuffed animal if you were especially skilled or had a lot of quarters, but the FHL system pays out even better! Thanks for the tour.

  8. Awesome!! What a wonderful opportunity!

  9. The Roof is amazing! My wife and I went there for our honeymoon almost 18 years ago. I remember telling the waiter it was our honeymoon and he put us at a table overlooking the Salt Lake Temple. If you haven't seen it at're missing out! We went there a few years ago and the quality/quantity was the same! Great place!!!