Library looks to digitize 2 centuries of microfilm

James V. Brown Library is moving ahead with trying to secure funding for a project to digitize more than 200 years of newspaper microfilm for public use.

The project, which was presented to the library’s board of trustees at a meeting Thursday, would make over 1,500 reels of newspaper microfilm available to the public and would allow anyone to search through a treasure trove of Lycoming County history by keyword.

“We have a lot of dedicated users, especially with genealogy,” Toby Schwartzman, public service director for the library, said.

If the library goes through with the project, it would take about six months for the collection of microfilm to be sent to Advantage Preservation, a company specializing in digitizing microfilm. When finished, the company would host a website for the library with text searchable PDF versions with newspaper print from as far back as 1807.

Schwartzman added that for the individuals using the library’s resource of film, looking for one particular article or obituary without the exact date it was published is nearly impossible.

“You are reading the newspaper very arduously,” he said. “You have to already know what you are looking for.”

Executive Director for the library, Barbara S. McGary, told the board the library is planning to send a letter of interest to the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania to see if there would be interest from the foundation to fund the over $173,000 project.

In a separate update, McGary said the library has received over $72,000 in federal E-rate grant funding to update the technology infrastructure of the library. The money received from the E-rate program will cover about 80 percent of the costs, according to McGary.

“It will provide better connectivity to Wi-Fi and the internet and help future proof the library technology wise for the next eight to 10 years,” McGary said.

Another $23,000 was donated to the library for a new sign that is meant to better match with the 1901 facade at the front of the vintage wing of the building. McGary told the board the new sign would feature numerous famous women poets and is planned to be finished by the end of the summer.