Ask Us

James MacDonald, Consultation team lead
16 July 2019

In this post, James MacDonald guides you through the library’s reference and consultation services and explains how it could help with your research

You have probably seen the Ask Us links on our website or in our catalog. You may have even used that service, but where do those questions go? Who answers those questions? If you haven’t used the service, you might be wondering what others have asked or what types of questions we answer. Come with me behind the scenes of the Ask Us service, where we’ll outline the types of questions we answer and why we provide this service.

The first step is simply to click on the Ask Us link and fill out the question form that follows. After hitting submit, you will get an automated email that lets you know we received the question. What happens with your question or request from there? Each morning, our Consultation Services team meets to discuss the submissions that came in the day before. In that meeting we assign each question or request to our team of experienced librarians, historians, and archivists known as Church History consultants, who know the collections well and are excited to help you. We average about 50 submissions a week, and every question is answered.

What kinds of questions can you ask us, and what kinds of answers should you expect? The types of questions are as varied as our patrons.

We get process questions like these:

  • How do I request that an item be digitized?
  • The catalog says this item is closed to research. What does that mean?
  • We would like to bring our youth for a tour of the library. How do we arrange that?

These answers are generally easy to provide, and we try hard to be as timely and helpful as possible.

We also get factual questions like this one:

  • Who were the seven Presidents of the Seventy in September 1987?

With questions like this one, we are likely to give you the straightforward facts because little to no additional patron research will be required. We are able to identify the men serving in 1987 and discover that eight men, instead of seven, actually served that year. Of course, we’ll also provide you with the sources we used to find this answer.

We get family history questions like this one:

  • I am trying to find where my grandfather was living in Salt Lake City in January of 1895. I have the name of his bishop at the time he received a mission call. Can you help me determine which ward William Thorn was bishop of at that time?

After a little research, we are able to discover that William Thorn presided over the Salt Lake 7th Ward in 1895. Once our consultants help identify a unit, ward, or branch where your ancestor lived, we will point you to local records in our collection for more information you can explore. We have two posts on the blog about what you can find in our local records collection (see Local and Corporate Records of the Church and More on Local Records). For questions like this one, our aim is to help you understand what information may be of interest to you and explain how you can continue this research on your own.

We also get more in-depth questions like this one:

  • Do you have any history of the Church’s early relationship with the Red Cross?

Questions like this one require deeper research and have complex answers. We will do our best to help you identify resources in our collections that you might want to explore. In this case, we would guide you to the Church News, explain how to use its index to find articles on the Red Cross, direct you to the Church magazines where you could search for articles about Church involvement with the organization, and help you identify collections in our catalog that will tell this story. In short, our consultants will recommend useful collections from the archives and facilitate your access to them.

In-depth Ask Us questions of this nature often turn into phone conversations and one-on-one consultations with our professional staff. For scholars and researchers creating articles, books, documentaries, or presentations, the Ask Us service is an excellent way to reach our librarians and archivists for specific, research-based help navigating the library’s collections.

No matter what your question—big or small—we will do our best to answer. Just ask us!

Consultation Services Team.