Oct 02, 2007 Erin Smith Uncategorized
History is a precious resource, as is time.
That’s why Bob Bitz and Meg VanPatten believe digitizing the Baldwinsville Public Library’s local newspaper collection is so important.
While thousands of articles regarding Baldwinsville’s history (dating as far back as 1846) are available to library patrons on microfilm, there is no efficient way to sort through them.
“With the microfilm, there is no index, so when searching for some specific name or topic, it is like searching for a needle in a haystack. It’s sad to have all this information and not have it available,” Bitz said.
To make all this information easily accessible, Bitz and VanPatten have spearheaded the project to digitize The Gazette (1846 to 1883), The Gazette & Farmer’s Journal (1884 to 1965) and The Messenger (1940 to date).
According to VanPatten, the library often has people conducting research on organizations, businesses and people. “We have churches, clubs and businesses writing histories of their organization, as well as authors,” VanPatten said. “In recent years, there has also been an increased interest in genealogy research. By digitizing papers, people would be able to search for ancestors without having a specific date.”
VanPatten added that George Hawley, the former town of Lysander historian, suggested microfilming the Baldwinsville newspapers in a letter dated Feb. 10, 1977. He stated they are the only detailed source of information for the history of the Baldwinsville area for the period of their issuance . . . The material in them is astounding in its revelation of our community’s past. No more worthwhile historical project could be accomplished locally than preserving these newspapers.
“While we will always have the microfilm, being able to digitize the collection will increase the value of the material for researchers,” VanPatten said.
Funding the project
After receiving permission from Eagle Newspapers to undertake the endeavor, Bitz and VanPatten, along with Bonnie Kisselstein and Liz Bowers, historians for the towns of Lysander and Van Buren (respectively), and Library Director Marilyn Laubacher, began working to get the project funded and underway.
“The digitization involves substantial costs, so contributions to a special library fund to accomplish this task are encouraged,” Bitz said. To get the fund started, which he estimated would cost about $30,000, Bitz is donating 100 percent of the proceeds from his book, “The History of Agriculture in the Town of Lysander.”
“It seems smart to include the history book with the project,” he said.
Bitz said the group also plans to publicize their financial need and to contact various public representatives to enlist support in the project.
VanPatten added that they are going to ask for funds from next year’s library and town budgets.
“We will also approach other potential funding sources,” she said.
What is digitization?
Digitization is the process of scanning microfilm copies of newspapers and making them available on the local library web page for anyone to access worldwide. By doing this, an index can be created making it possible to find a name, subject or place and then proceed directly to the indicated location to find the information.
Once the funds are raised, the group will find a vendor to complete the digitization process.
“It’s just one of those things that need to be done,” Bitz said.