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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Newspapers on Microfilm

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 6, 2008


On October 16, 1950, a new collection was started at our library that has continued to grow in the nearly 60 years that has passed.


Newspapers on microfilm were introduced to the library.


The Steubenville Herald Star back to its founding in 1806, was added in 35mm microfilm reels for all to use.


Since that time, the Herald Star has continued to provide the monthly reels to the library at no charge.


By 1950, the original paper copies of the Herald Star were "showing their wear" according to the article that accompanied the announcement.


Probably, the earlier newspapers were in better condition as they were printed on "rag stock" paper.


After the Civil War, the less-expensive paper pulp was introduced, but became brittle and yellowed with age.


By the time those originals were microfilmed, their condition was poor as evidenced by the microfilm copy.


Regardless, they are local and national history that would otherwise be lost to time.


A microfilm is simply a photograph copy of the original, placed on a long film viewed with a reader.


For the past decade, newspapers have been placed online and stored on computer servers.


The problem with that process is the expense of storage and maintenance of online systems.


Most newspapers only allow access to recent editions, older editions are available for a cost, or have been deleted after a specified time.


A reel of microfilm sits in a cabinet quietly, costing nothing beyond the original production.


The Herald Star has been indexed by our Local History/Genealogy Librarian, Sandy Day through much of the 19th Century to aid in its use.


Other contributors have also pulled portions of the newspaper names into other works to make it easier to use.


There are other sources that can be used to narrow a date in a search for information on the microfilm.


Today's younger generation seems surprised to see microfilm reels rather than an online system.


You know, everything is on the Internet.


(At this point, please allow all librarians to chuckle and exclaim, "sure")


All you have to do is look at Wikipedia on the Internet, the online encyclopedia that is a collection of contributions from anyone and everyone.


Wikipedia contains some wonderful information, and some real junk.


So, in this world of Internet and technology, you as an information user must be able to sort out information as part of your research.


A prime example on Wikipedia is the entry for "Steubenville, Ohio."


"Fred Mertz" is listed as a native of the City.  He is actually a fictional character from the "I Love Lucy" television show whose real name was William Frawley.


The real actor was born in Burlington, Iowa, and simple mentioned Steubenville a couple of times on the TV show.


The whole entry is an example of the lack of an editor to document and rewrite the basic information, as would have been done in an encyclopedia article of days past.


This is why everyone has to become a librarian, and check your sources and verify information before using it.


It is what librarians call "job security in the 21st Century."