$50K grant helps library preserve local history

Several entities are coming together to ensure that local history will be readily available in the years to come. In a partnership with the Sweetwater Reporter and the Pioneer Museum, the County-City Library is working to digitize every edition of the local newspaper in order to be placed online. Becky Brock, the director of the library, was contacted by Ana Krahmer, the coordinator of the Digital Newspaper Program at the University of North Texas (UNT) Libraries, for this opportunity.Several of the old editions of the Sweetwater Reporter are already on microfilm--a reel of film that contains pictures of the newspaper--and are currently available at the library. However, the local museum also has a collection of old newspapers which have not been archived on the reels.With the goal to preserve the local history, Brock shared that a variety of options were explored to pursue the project. But when Krahmer sent an email to offer assistance to rural libraries, Brock filled out an application and the library was awarded with a $50,000 grant by the Tocker Foundation, based out of Austin, Texas.Since that time, about sixty bound copies of the newspaper have been sent to UNT, which were then shipped to Oklahoma to be placed on microfilm. The library will receive one set of microfilm and hard drive through the grant, and the other microfilm set will be sent to the University of Texas Depository.Upon its arrival to the Denton college, the microfilm was scanned and then uploaded to the Portal of Texas History website. Already, over 30,000 pages of local news can be found on the website of editions from the early 1930s through the late 1950s. The grant will cover the costs of digitizing all editions through the 1960s.In addition, loose copies of the newspaper--like the ones found at the Museum--are being compiled and arranged by volunteers of the library. In September, some copies were sent to be microfilmed and are currently being processed.Other historic newspapers are still at the Pioneer Museum, and one part of the grant is to preserve the newspaper in archival boxes. The editions are individually wrapped up and the boxes are placed in the attic of the museum.The Sweetwater Reporter has uploaded the files from 2009 through the first part of 2012, which are now available on the Portal of Texas History website as well.One of the concerns that has risen, however, is that some of the microfilm reels already in possession by the library are in poor condition. Fortunately, UNT is working alongside the library to find clean copies so that they can be scanned and filed to be placed on the website.Though time-consuming, Brock said the long process requires sensitivity as the older papers are fragile and deteriorating. And on the other hand, the project requires money, which is something the library is looking at for funding of other editions.Right now, Krahmer and the entire UNT program are looking at other financial options as well as working with the Tocker Foundation for additional funds. Since Brock joined the County-City Library, this is the second grant obtained; the first grant assisted with new furniture at the local library.The Tocker Foundation offers financial support for a vast number of projects to libraries serving a population of 12,000 or less. But while the local library meets the needs of the entire county, the number of residents of Sweetwater is the total amount under consideration by the foundation.Though it was always a goal of Brock's to be able to digitize the local history, she truly understood the need for the idea to become a reality after being contacted via email by a person in Alaska who wanted to access an article from the 1940s. During her research, Brock found other articles similar to the topic being searched. If all of the articles had been accessible online, anyone desiring to find a particular story could conduct their own research.She stated that the library will still help people find past articles, but the process will become easier as a person knows exactly what they are looking for in their search. Brock hopes that the collaborative project, as it continues to become a reality, will be a good resource for the community and abroad.