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Digitization of local newspaper archives to be finished by end of summer

The process of digitizing the local newspaper archives at the James V. Brown Library has begun, according to Barbara S. McGary, the library’s executive director.

Speaking to the board Thursday, McGary reported that 414 reels have been shipped and the first 200 reels of content load will be available by March 30.

“It will be such an advantage for our local community to be able to search online, key word natural language search,” she said.

She said plans are to go out in the community to show the public how to use the new database.

Up until now, searches in the newspaper archives required specific dates in order to be completed. The digitization will allow users to do key word searches.

The microfilm collection contains editions of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, the Grit and other publications from 1807 to the present day.

McGary noted that a local non-profit had celebrated its 100th anniversary last year and had wanted to search for events during that time period. Without dates, the process was very difficult.

Once the new system has been implemented, searches can be conducted using specific words. Users will then be able to bring up their organization and everything will be able to come up representing that organization from our newspapers.

Advantage Archives LLC, Iowa, is doing the digitizing and expected to be fully completed by the end of the summer. The cost of the project is $174,000 and was made possible by a grant from the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania for $167,619 and $1,381 from the Dr. Randall F. Hipple Fund.

“This was the year to do it,” McGary stressed, “so we are in production, so that’s really good news.”

McGary also reported on the status of the Bookmobile campaign, which has raised almost $105,000 so far toward the $500,000. The library’s goal is to replace the current large bookmobile with three smaller, more efficient vehicles designed to serve specific needs in the community.

“We want to take our outreach where the people are. We want to establish deep connections into the communities that we serve and bring life changing stories and knowledge to the outside world,” she said.

“We want to champion what we’re seeing out in the community as a barrier to library use, which is mobility and transportation,” We want to foster the love of reading, we want to bring opportunities for lifelong learning to people that are bound to facilities, to our low-income housing to our rural population and our workforce,” McGary shared.

In action items, the board approved the Lycoming County Library System Participation Agreement. The agreement covers the six libraries in the system.

McGary reported to the board that the proposed state 2020 budget does not include increases in funding for libraries in the state. She said that the public library subsidy, which is all state aid for all 600 plus public libraries across Pennsylvania, is about $59.5 million.

“It’s a very small amount of money out of the department of Public Education,” she said.

She noted that the governor proposes a zero increase, which equals level funding. McGary stressed that “no organization can survive on level funding.”

“You’re either growing or your not,” she added. She urged the board to reach out to state and local officials to ask for increased funding.

The next meeting of the board will be at noon, March 19 in the Lowry Room on the third floor of the library.

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