Researchers, rejoice. Your life just got easier.
You no longer have to spend hours and hours scanning through microfilm to find great-grandpa and grandma’s wedding announcement or the obituary for your second-cousin twice removed.
Instead, all you have to do is stop at the Norfolk Public Library, sit down in front of one of its public computers and click an icon that links to a digitized version of the Norfolk Daily News microfilm from 1877 to 1955.
Janelle Gerharter couldn’t be happier.
The former public relations director for Northeast Community College is writing a history book about the organization. Spending hours and hours looking through microfilm was not her idea of fun.
Now, she just types in whatever topic she’s researching and waits the few seconds it takes for the software to scan the documents looking for the keywords.
“This is so much easier than going through microfilm,” Gerharter said during a break while doing research recently. “I’m able to copy the article, paste it to a Word document and put it on a flash drive.”
The technology to digitize microfilm has been around for quite a while, said Jessica Chamberlin, director of the Norfolk Public Library. In fact, some area libraries have had their local newspapers digitized for years — but most of those newspapers are weeklies.
Before making the decision to have the film digitized, Chamberlin researched companies that provide the service and found one in Iowa the would do the 440 rolls of microfilm for around $60,000.
She then enlisted the support of the library’s foundation, which offered to pay part of the cost.
Still, because of the high price tag, foundation and library representatives decided to digitize just one-third of the rolls this year and another third in each of the next two years, Chamberlin said.
Last summer, Judy Hilkemann, who works for the public library, compared the Daily News’ microfilm with the library’s microfilm and determined the Daily News’ was in better condition and would scan better. So they packed up 150 rolls of microfilm and shipped it off Advantage Preservation in Cedar Rapids, who did the digitizing.
As a public service, the Daily News has provided the library with free copies of its microfilm before more recently providing the library with digitized copies of editions.
A few weeks later, the microfilm was returned, and recently the library received the hard drive, which has been installed on one of their servers. The program is now available for use on the library’s public computers.
The program is keyword searchable with some advance search options. When doing a search, the entire newspaper page is revealed, and the word or name in question is highlighted.
“We wanted to make it easier for people (to do research),” Chamberlin said.