A new project by the Bethlehem Public Library is looking to preserve a narrative of the town’s history.
In cooperation with Spotlight News, the library will use donated money and a matching grant to digitize the Bethlehem newspaper’s first 50 years in publication.
“This is the paper of record for the town so we’ve been trying to do this for some time, but the technology wasn’t available,” said Library Director Geoffrey Kirkpatrick.
For the past 14 years, the library has been wanting to get the project under way, but they lacked the funding. The project is moving forward now because donations have finally come together.
The library’s entire collection of Spotlight newspapers from 1955 to 2005 will be sent to a company in western New York that will scan the publications, digitize them and turn them into microfilm copies, which will eventually be uploaded to the Internet to create a digital database.
Spotlight Publisher John McIntyre said the project fits well with the weekly newspaper’s mission.
“We want the public to be able to have access to their local history,” said McIntyre. “We believe digital copies will be of more use at time goes on, as does the library.”
Kirkpatrick said a similar initiative, called the New York State Newspaper Project, was undertaken by the state from 1987 to 2007 to preserve larger, daily papers. However, small, community papers were often ignored.
For years, the library kept copies of the paper and bound them by year. Library volunteers also began clipping certain articles and obituaries to keep an index, while residents would also clip out articles they found interesting. Kirkpatrick said eventually they had so many clippings, it became unworkable.
“People want the local, historical record, but keeping track of it has always been an issue,” he said.
Since some of the issues will be missing information, Spotlight News will be providing copies of their back issues in order to provide a complete reference.
As time goes on, future issues of The Spotlight past 2005 will be digitized as well.
The entire project will cost about $24,000.
The money is being provided by donations from the estates of two local residents and money given to the library by a defunct acting troupe in the town. A matching grant of $12,000 was then provided by the town’s Friends of the Library Association.
Once the digitized copies are received by the library, the content will be uploaded and searchable on the Internet. The library will also keep microfilm copies on hand, while another set will be sent to the NYS Library to be archived with the rest of the NYS Newspaper Project.
“It’s important for us to send copies to the state, because then, if our collection was ever destroyed in a fire, the records would still be on file with the state,” said Kirkpatrick.
The process is expected to take about 6 months to complete, and some additional time may be needed before the documents can be uploaded to the web