Lepper Library will digitize newspaper archives

LISBON -The village’s newspapers, past and present, will eventually be available online as part of a project being undertaken by the Lepper Library.

Library Director Nancy Simpson announced the board recently contracted with Advantage Preservation to begin digitizing the library’s collection of local newspapers – the Morning Journal and its predecessor, the Buckeye State, as well as the Ohio Patriot, which dates back into the early 1800s.

The library had made microfilm copies of these newspapers and was current with the Morning Journal until 2003, when it discontinued the practice because of funding problems. For $38,225, Advantage will convert all existing microfilm records to a digital format, as well as make microfilm and digital copies of the Morning Journal through 2012.

When completed, the digital copies would be accessible through the library’s website, while the microfilm records will serve as the hard copy and be kept in storage by Advantage.

“This will create an online searchable database that will be totally searchable by key words,” she said. “Microfilm, while a good preservation technique, is a thing of the past in terms of searchability.”

Simpson said this is a significant step forward in the preservation of local history since newspapers play such a critical role in that regard.

“It’s a huge step because it’s so well covered this way because not only do you have (micro) film, you have the hard drive and database. You have all three aspects of the newspapers preserved in all of those different ways,” she said.

Simpson said two things made the project affordable. First, the Lisbon Community Foundation donated $10,000. Secondly, Advantage agreed to allow the library to piecemeal digitization of its newspaper archives at a locked-in rate.

“I can do this as I can afford it … If I can only afford to do 10 reels this year that’s all I’ll do,” she said. Advantage will also maintain the database as part of the contract.

There are 328 reels of microfilm and the cost of converting them to a digital format is $75 per reel, and Simpson is hoping library patrons and supporters will step forward just as they did when the board asked for donations to preserve magazine subscriptions in the face of state funding cuts.

“If they’re interested they could donate $75 and have a reel that is kind of their own,” picking the month and year they were born or married, for example, she said.

Barry James of the Lisbon Community Foundation said they were glad to help and would be willing to consider requests from the library for future assistance in continued funding of this project.

“From a research point of view its got to be much simpler and a time-saver than leafing through newspapers,” he said of the digital database that will be created.

State income tax dollars are by far the chief source of funding for most Ohio libraries, and the Lepper Library’s share dropped from $800,000 to $400,000 over the past 10 years.

Simpson said the funding decline has leveled off, which enabled her to move forward with digitizing the library’s newspaper archives, along with savings from their decision to end the Bookmobile program last year. She said the decision coincided with the retirement of the people who operated the Bookmobile and declining interest in the program.

“It had become costly to operate and the schools were no longer interested … It kind of died a natural death. It was sad but necessary,” she said of the Bookmobile program.