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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.

Digital Shoebox Almost Three Years Old

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 15, 2005

"The Digital Shoebox" is almost 3 years old now, and is one of the most popular features of our e-branch web site. The Digital Shoebox is a cooperative project of 10 public libraries in southeastern Ohio.  Historical documents and photographs from their collections have been digitized and placed at

In addition, our library system has added digitized books of local and state history to the Shoebox. The advantage is that rare and valuable items of local interest can be preserved and their usage enhanced by online availability.Recently we added another group of digitized items to the Shoebox for all to research and enjoy.  This makes 178 items and 40,000 pages of text available for public online use.

The biggest addition is the 836 page "Historical Collections of Harrison County in the State of Ohio" by Charles A. Hanna, originally published in 1900. This was a joint project with the Puskarich Public Library in Cadiz. "The History of Richmond, Ohio" is a 140 page compilation of local history, first assembled in 1962 by local historian Don Thompson. "The Revised Ordinances of the City of Steubenville" 1906 will prove to be a resource guide for city history. Family histories digitized includes the Fellows-Gunning Families, Balthaser Culp and his descendants, the Paramore family, and readings of the Pringle Hill Cemetery in Pennsylvania. "Ohio Farm Laws" was a common reference book for people in agriculture, and a 1911-1912 edition has been digitized for the Shoebox. Marriage records, place name histories, and Life Magazines from 1937 telling the story of Weirton Steel employees round out the new offerings.

The next volume of the Mayor Andrew Miller scrapbooks has been added, this volume covering 1966-67. Each page of these items is carefully scanned and digitized, the placed in a TIFF computer file and sent through software that does keyword indexing to the text. In this way, the user can use the index to search the actual names and places in the text.

That searching can be done at home, or at the library.  In addition, when digitized the process produces a new paper copy that is added to our collections. The same software allows the individual images to be enlarged for ease of reading, and they can be printed for individual use.

The Digital Shoebox is allowing people to search local history at their home computers all across America.  It also allows all of our libraries to search these rare materials whether or not they are located in that specific library. The process is not easy to convert materials for the Digital Shoebox.  While it is easy to scan things for Internet use, it requires further software enhancement to make it useful to the public.

So, the library is closed?  There are 178 books on the Digital Shoebox that never closes.