The Riverside Public Library will digitize about 20 years’ worth of its newspaper archive in the coming months after the Riverside Township Board of Trustees awarded the institution a $5,150 grant for the project.
Those funds will allow the library to convert its microfilm archive of Riverside-Brookfield Landmark newspapers from 1985 through at least 2006 to a database that is fully searchable via keyword.
“The digitization is so important for historical and genealogical reasons,” said Janice Foley, Riverside Public Library’s director, who noted the township has now awarded almost $8,000 for newspaper digitization, along with an additional contribution from the Riverside Friends of the Library.
In voting to award the grant, Riverside Township Trustee Tim Heilenbach called the digitization effort “an outstanding program.”
“Obviously, it’s been a big success for [the library] and it’s less of a headache for [the library] to keep all that microfiche, which tends to get damaged or destroyed,” Heilenbach said.
About a year ago, the library launched the first phase of its newspaper digitization project. The township’s grant of $2,735, an amount matched by the Friend of the Library, funded digitization of the thousands of newspaper pages from 1912 through 1976, including the Riverside News and other titles such as the Citizen and Suburban Life.
Those databases are available to the general public – not just library card holders – as part of the library’s Community History Archive at riversidepublicil.advantage-preservation.com.
Diane Silva, assistant director at the library who spearheads the digitizing initiative, said that from the day the 1912-76 digital archive went live in January through the end of July, nearly 150 individual users had done searches.
“That far exceeded what we thought,” Silva said. “I’ve been at the library for 10 years, and it’s been our dream to have a local history resource, and it’s been really great for us that we have a township that supports that effort.”
As with the first phase of the digitization project, Riverside Public Library is employing Iowa-based Advantage Archive to perform the conversion of 32 rolls of microfilm containing 21 years of Landmark newspapers, from its first days when it covered Riverside only – from 1985 to 1997 – to editions covering Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside from 1997-2006 under its present owner, Growing Community Media.
The Landmark maintains its own digital archive, searchable on its website at RBLandmark.com, from 2005 to the present.
The microfilm rolls will be sent off to Iowa later this month, Silva said, and it will take a few months for Advantage Archive to convert the microfilm into a digital database.
The firm uses what’s called optical character recognition to make the actual newspaper pages searchable by keyword. While it’s not foolproof – yes, sometimes names and words get misspelled – it makes research much more efficient than having to scroll through hundreds of pages of small-type newsprint.
“We’re hoping to get [the digital database] back by no later than mid-January,” Silva said.
The final piece of the digitization puzzle will be converting the library’s collection of Suburban Life newspapers from the years 1976-85, said Silva. Those editions are still available to be viewed on microfilm.