2018-03-11 / News

From microfilm to online: River Rapids Library digitizes a century’s worth of newspapers

By Mandilee Hecht
Staff Reporter


River Rapids District Library Director Sally Alexander is shown here with old newspaper microfilm reels and Chesaning yearbooks. The library is currently digitizing newspapers from the 1870s and school yearbooks as far back as the 1940s, into a searchable, user-friendly online format. 
Photo by Mandilee Hecht River Rapids District Library Director Sally Alexander is shown here with old newspaper microfilm reels and Chesaning yearbooks. The library is currently digitizing newspapers from the 1870s and school yearbooks as far back as the 1940s, into a searchable, user-friendly online format. Photo by Mandilee Hecht CHESANING – Historical research is now a lot easier at River Rapids District Library in Chesaning. The library is working to preserve and provide access to around 130 years of history by having newspaper archives on microfilm digitally converted to an accessible, searchable online database.

The database includes newspapers dated back to the 1870s and Chesaning yearbooks that span eight decades.

The project has taken over a year and a half and the library’s director Sally Alexander estimates it’s nearly three quarters done, with newspapers digitally archived from the 1870s to the 1990s. The library plans to digitize the papers leading up to the year 2009, the time in which the Tri-County Citizen’s online database starts, in August, 2009.

The painstaking process has been underway at the Chesaning library for the last year and a half. After the library’s microfilm reader broke over a year ago, Alexander found it hard to replace the old parts.

So far it has had about 90 reels converted with about 30 more to go. The company completing the conversion is Digital Totes from Sandusky.

Microfilms contain mini images printed with each newspaper page. The microfilm readers work by magnifying these images onto a screen; from there users can view or rotate images or scroll from page to page and print what’s needed.

The digital archive currently underway at River Rapids will allow users to search by title, subject or date from a computer or smart phone. Users can also zoom, crop, print and save the online pages.

“We are able to obtain reports as far as how often these items have been viewed and from where (as far as around the country or world). So far in the past year our site has been accessed upwards of 160,000 times,” Alexander said.

Each microfilm reel costs around $125 to convert, Alexander said. The project has been funded largely in part from a memorial of Alexander’s father Jim Mishler Sr., who was active in the Chesaning community. Other funding has come from grants, as well as a small portion from the library’s budget.

So far, newspapers that have been digitally archived include the Chesaning Argus (1877 to 1972); the Chesaning Semi-Weekly Argus (1888 to 1890); Chesaning – Montrose Argus (1973 to 1983); Saginaw Valley Advertiser (1973); Saginaw Valley News (1973 – 1980); The Courier (1980 to 1986); and the Tri-County Citizen (1983 to 1991).

She estimates the project will be completed sometime next year.

The library has also digitized all Chesaning High School yearbooks from the Class of 1946 to 2017 with the exception of six years of 1952, 1962, 1963, 1974, 1975 and the Class of 1999. It is seeking copies of the missing years from any area residents willing to donate their copy.

The digital archive can be viewed at the library’s website at www.riverrapidslibrary.org and by clicking Genealogy and Research, Genealogy and Local History and Local Yearbooks and Newspapers.

The Tri-County Citizen’s online digital archives from August, 2009 to present day can also be viewed by visiting www.tricountycitizen.com and clicking Browse Archives.

For more information, visit River Rapids District Library, located at 227 E. Broad St.in Chesaning, or call (989) 845-3211.

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