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.