Besides the publication of "The Joseph Smith Papers," the construction of the new Church History Library in downtown Salt Lake City is evidence of the LDS Church's desire to make history more available to scholars and the public.

The 230,000-square-foot facility will have five floors and is currently under construction just east of the Conference Center and north of the Church Office Building at the northeast corner of Main and North Temple streets.

It will be completed in the spring of 2009. Construction began in October 2006.

"It'll be a great state-of-the-art library," said Elder Marlin K. Jensen, church historian and member of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Construction is a lengthy process because of all the considerations for temperature, humidity and the storage of rare old documents.

"It will be a very welcoming, convenient building," he said, noting the building is on schedule and in budget.

He believes it "will rival the great libraries of the world with its facilities and collections." He also feels it will be yet another significant attraction for anyone who makes a pilgrimage to Salt Lake City, church headquarters and Temple Square.

Elder Jensen said interest in LDS studies and scholarship seems to be at an all-time high. He credited Mitt Romney's presidential campaign for part of that, but said interest has been increasing for the past five years.

The new library will visually complement the Conference Center in its appearance and is located on what Elder Jensen describes as "a very choice corner."

The library's collection will include 270,000 books, pamphlets and magazines, as well as 240,000 original unpublished records. The library will house nearly 25 miles of shelving.

"These documents are the crown jewels of Mormonism. The truthfulness of Mormonism is inextricably tied to its history, and it is in our best interest to preserve these records and make them available to those who wish to study the origins of this remarkable faith," Elder Jensen said.

The facility's complicated construction will include 10 archival storage rooms and two subzero temperature vaults.

"The -4 degrees Fahrenheit vault is where we will keep motion picture film, rare books, some newspaper items and other material so we can make sure that they'll not only be available in 100 years, they will look good 100 years from now," said Brent Thompson, director of records preservation for the church.

The new building will offer substantially more space for the Church History Department than it has now, spread over over four floors in the east wing of the Church Office Building. When Church History moves across the street, it will free up considerable Church Office Building space for other, yet undetermined uses.

Elder Jensen credited late-LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley for providing a tremendous boost to church history. He said current President Thomas S. Monson, too, is keen on church history and preservation.

Facts on the new LDS Church History Library

Purpose: Provide public access to and archival storage for materials chronicling the history of the LDS Church.

Location: Corner of North Temple Street and Main.

Opening: Early 2009

Size: 230,000 square feet, five floors

Collections: 270,000 books, pamphlets, magazines, newspapers and other published items; 240,000 collections of original, unpublished records (journals, diaries, correspondence, minutes); 23,000 audiovisual items; 13,000 collections of photographs; 3.5 million patriarchal blessings for LDS Church members

Access: The public will be able to access some historical materials in a large open library area, while other materials will be located in archival storage rooms and brought to a reading room upon patron request.

Hours: The Church History Library will offer extended hours of operation for the public. Exact times have not yet been determined.

Operations: The building will provide work space for Church History staff responsible for research, publications, historic sites, conservation, collections development and Web content.

Storage: 10 main storage rooms, kept at 55 degrees Fahrenheit with 35 percent relative humidity; two special rooms, kept at minus 4 degrees for color motion-picture films, photographs and records of special significance

Architect: MHTN

Contractor: Jacobsen/Swinerton

Tours: Public open houses will be held when the building is finished in 2009.

More information:

E-mail: [email protected]