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Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm

On September 1, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm distribution services. (The last day to order microfilm will be on August 31, 2017.) The change is the result of significant progress in FamilySearch’s microfilm digitization efforts and the obsolescence of microfilm technology. Digital imaging has made it easier to find ancestors through the internet, mobile, and other technologies. Here are some commonly asked questions about the replacement of microfilm with digital access.

How are digital images accessed on FamilySearch.org?
Digital image collections can be accessed today in three places on FamilySearch.org under Search. Records includes collections that have been indexed by name or published with an image browse. Books includes digital copies of books from the Family History Library and other libraries, including many books that were previously copied to microfilm. The Catalog includes a description of all the microfilms in the FamilySearch collection. A camera icon appears in the Catalog when a microfilm is available digitally. For additional help, see Finding Digital Images of Records on FamilySearch.org.
How much of the microfilm collection is available online?
Over 1.5 million microfilms (ca. 1.5 billion images) have been digitized by FamilySearch, including the most requested collections based on microfilm loan records worldwide. In addition, many records that FamilySearch has not yet published can be found online on partner or free archive websites. FamilySearch plans to finish microfilm digitization by 2020. Digital images may have contractual, data privacy, or other restrictions. Insofar as possible, restricted images are accessible by logging in with a FamilySearch account or by viewing FamilySearch.org at a family history center.
What if a microfilm is not available digitally on FamilySearch.org?
Microfilms may not yet be available digitally on FamilySearch.org for the following reasons:
  • The microfilm may not be a priority to scan now, because the same content is already available on FamilySearch.org, a partner or subscription site offered in family history centers, or a free archive site.
  • The microfilm may be scheduled for future scanning because it has been in lower demand.
  • The microfilm may have a contractual, data privacy, or other restriction preventing access. FamilySearch is making every effort to ease restrictions, which is dependent on decisions of record custodians and applicable laws.
Why is the microfilm distribution service being discontinued before microfilm digitization is complete?
The microfilm industry has been in decline for a couple of decades since the advent of digitization. The cost of duplicating microfilm for circulation has risen dramatically, while demand has decreased significantly. At the same time, it has become increasingly difficult and costly to maintain the equipment, systems, and processes required for film duplication, distribution, and access. It is not feasible for FamilySearch to continue the microfilm distribution service for longer than it already has. Meanwhile, digitization is nearing completion, and many of the records FamilySearch has not yet digitized are available on other websites. By redirecting resources to digital efforts, FamilySearch can accelerate and improve electronic access.
Will the original vault master microfilms be preserved?
Yes, the original master copies of the microfilm will continue to be preserved in the Granite Mountain Records Vault as a backup to the digital images. The masters are preservation only and not for circulation.
How are family history centers affected?
Family history centers, including FamilySearch affiliate libraries, will continue to be a resource to help people discover their family history. Transitioning from microfilm to digital is an opportunity to change the center environment and focus on giving more personalized help to individuals and families. Centers will continue to provide access to relevant technology and digital records, including content not available at home.
What will happen to microfilms at family history centers once ordering is discontinued?
When approved by local leadership, centers, including affiliate libraries, may continue to maintain microfilm collections already on loan from FamilySearch after microfilm ordering ends. Centers have the option to return microfilm that is available online or otherwise not needed. As more images are published online, centers may re-evaluate whether to retain microfilm holdings. The microfilms are on loan and are the property of FamilySearch. Centers may not donate, give away, sell, or relocate microfilms or microfiche to another facility, individual, or organization. If approved by local leadership, an exception may be granted to relocate microfilms to another local family history center or FamilySearch affiliate library by contacting FamilySearch Support for permission.
What is the process for returning microfilms?
Centers may return microfilm to the local LDS Distribution Center using the current process for microfilm returns pertaining to your area. North American returns should be limited to no more than 500 microfilms per shipment. If there are questions about the microfilm return process in your area, contact FamilySearch Support.
What about microfiche?
Microfiche circulation is also ending at the same time as microfilm. Microfiche that is online or not needed by patrons may be returned. As an exception, the following microfiche sets may be discarded: International Genealogical Index (IGI), Family History Library Catalog (FHLC), Accelerated Indexing System (AIS), Restricted Microfilm List. All other microfiche sets, if not kept in the center, are returned in the same manner as microfilm.
What is the process for handling microfilm and microfiche readers and cabinets?
Staff in LDS family history centers should coordinate with local leaders and the facilities manager for removal of unneeded microfilm and microfiche readers and cabinets. If there is a local entity that would like them, readers and cabinets may be donated. Cabinets may be recycled. FamilySearch affiliate libraries are responsible for handling their own equipment and furnishings.
What will happen to Online Film Ordering and other film ordering systems?

With the end of microfilm distribution, the Online Film Ordering web page (https://familysearch.org/films/) will be replaced with information about the end of microfilm ordering.

The Online Film Ordering Admin Panel, also known as OFO Admin or Magento, will be renamed to the Film Admin Panel and will be maintained so centers can manage their remaining film inventory, if applicable. As microfilm and microfiche are returned, staff should update the Film Admin Panel to remove those film numbers and keep their inventory list current. For information about how to manage film inventory, see the user guide.

Other film ordering systems, used in some areas, will also be disabled. No admin version of those systems is planned to be maintained after microfilm ordering ends.

Will microfilm continue to be available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City?
The Family History Library staff continually evaluates the needs of patrons and the balance of services it provides. Microfilm that is currently in the FHL collection that is not yet online will stay. Most other microfilm will stay for the time being, although some may be removed here and there to accommodate space needs. There may be opportunities to add films to the collection from other locations. The library will no longer be able to offer ordering of new films from the vault.
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