Using the FHL – Microfilm Cabinets

The Family History Library is home to up to 2.4 million reels of microfilm. Rows of film cabinets line large areas on three floors of the building.

Microfilm CabinetsSigns at the end of each row direct you to which films are in that row. The lowest numbered films are in the farthest corner from the elevators. From there, the numbers increase moving up and down the aisles. This is the “Core”.

At the end of the Core begins the “Overflow”. Every film in the Library has been requested by a patron. When the drawers fill up, sometimes additional films do not fit in place and are placed in Overflow. (The US/Canada floor has a Census section in between the two areas. The British floor does not have Overflow.)

Overflow Film Drawers

Overflow Film Drawers

Each drawer shows the lowest numbered film in the drawer. The Core cabinets are labeled in white and the Overflow use pink.

Films in the Core and Overflow are self-serve. Each patron must find the films they want and return them back to their drawer when finished. It is not uncommon to see magnets or Post-its left on drawers to make returning the films easier. (Some patrons will write the drawer numbers right on the boxes [450 A-F in the image], but that is not the best idea. When films are shifted, which happens, that can get confusing.)

Typical films in a drawer

It is recommended that each patron only borrow up to five films at a time. Each reel has the film number written on the side, so be sure to put each reel in the correct box if you use more than one.

And be careful to replace the film in its proper order and in the correct drawer. Remember, if you misfile a film, the next person may not be able to find it — sometimes the next person is you.