James V. Brown Library digitizes papers dating back to 1807

The James V. Brown Library’s newly digitized online newspaper archive logged 886 sessions in August, according to Toby Schwartzman, public service director.

The new service was highlighted at the Board of Trustees’ meeting held virtually Thursday.

About 1,500 reels of microfilm in the library’s collection were digitized at a cost of around $174,00, with over $167,000 of that funded by grants. The archive contains editions of local newspapers from 1807 to the present.

During his presentation to the Board, Schwartzman illustrated how to use the service, which is accessed through the online resources link on the library’s home page.

He noted that there is a link for the public database and a link for one that is internal. Because of copyright restrictions, certain materials can only be accessed while on the library’s WiFi or using one of their computers. That system allows access to all materials up to the present day.

The public database can be accessed anywhere in the world, Schwartzman said, but only contains materials through Dec. 31, 1922, in addition to the GRIT.

Another benefit of the digitized archives is that searches can now be done by typing in keywords. Browsing can also be done by title or by year, Schwartzman said.

“We got a lot of calls for people doing genealogical research. They know they have an ancestor who lived here. They might know approximately when,” he said, explaining difficulties before the new system was implemented.

“It’s been pretty exciting using this now that it’s been digitized because we can search names. We’ll find the obituary and then of course we can start searching people names in the obituary. We’ve knocked out a lot of research in short periods of time,” he added.

In other reports to the board, Barbara S. McGary, the library’s executive director, said that contributions for the Bookmobile campaign and outreach have totaled $128,325 so far. The board held an executive session following the meeting to discuss ways to revitalize the campaign during the pandemic.

Total cost of the project to replace the aging bookmobile with three smaller vehicles is $500,000. McGary said that it is expected that some time in the future when grants open up that the library can apply for funding for this project.

McGary told the board that during the pandemic the Storymobile is being utilized to deliver curated early childhood collections to area childcare centers. Last month, this service connected children with 3,802 collection materials.

The library is also offering a drop-off service at senior care facilities featuring collection materials as well as activity kits for the residents.

She noted that all collection materials coming back to the library are quarantined for three days before they are redistributed.

“It’s really a wonderful opportunity for us to reach out to the senior care facilities because right now they’re on lockdown and they’re not getting any visitors,” McGary said.

The in-person usage of the library has been impacted by the pandemic, which McGary attributed to people not feeling comfortable coming into the library. She noted that the numbers are increasing somewhat and that the library has created new ways to serve the community.

“The way that we do business in regards to virtual programming, we will never be the same that way,” she said.

“There are so many different ways that we’ve been able to innovate, that we can extend that on to the future, even when it’s easy for us to all be together,” she added.

This fall the library is offering a mix of in-house and virtual programming for children and adults.

During her report McGary cautioned the board that the library, because its funding is based on taxes, may need to rely on self-generated and local donations for awhile going forward.

“Especially this year and in the next couple of years and state and county aid are something that is always in question…depending on where the taxes come in is usually where our funding falls,” she said.

“If we are not able to fund our libraries in this community, then we won’t be able to have a library. That would be a serious tragedy,” she added.


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