Library to digitize Wheaton paper

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Researcher agrees to find background to support grant

After extended discussion, the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library board voted to move forward with a proposal to digitize the Wheaton Journal newspaper, the first such preservation effort of local newspapers sponsored by the library.

The project, proposed by Purdy resident Mark Ingram, will cover the entire run of the Wheaton Journal, from 1906 to 2005, held by the Wheaton Historical Society. Digital copies of the newspaper would allow a word search by computer, unlike microfilm, making them more useful for research. Ingram has secured copyright release for almost the entire run and expected to have the remainder shortly. Patsy Luebbert, grant manager of the Missouri Digital Newspaper Project with the Missouri State Library, agreed to write the bulk of the grant, leaving little work left for the local library, needed as project sponsor, other than applying.

Proposed in October, the project was tabled for review and lack of a policy covering such an undertaking. Director Gina Milburn had expressed reservations about the project, partly because of additional work on herself and partly because the library had no previous involvement with the Wheaton newspaper.

Full payment for the project is available through the Library Services and Technology Act in a grant administered through the state. Milburn said the grant requires projects fit under several guidelines, including the impact of the military on the community, the westward movement, ethnics, immigrants, and journeys through mediums such as highways and the railroad.

Milburn said she was not in a position to research such an issue. She also asserted that as a bi-county library district, some foundation was needed to show Wheaton had some relevance to Lawrence County.

Milburn said the board had to determine that the project was feasible, and that the board had never issued a letter of intent for such a project in the past. She proposed an online survey of patrons to demonstrate support.

Ingram saw no particular issue, especially since the town of Wheaton came into existence entirely because of the railroad. He pledged to provide the research needed to support the project.

"If we can move forward as a team, we can do this," Milburn said. "If I was by myself, I could not. I want to make sure we have a process in place for doing more projects.

Ann Hall, president of the library board, noted the letter of intent requested for the grant only specified working on the Wheaton Journal. The grant, however, was not limited to that paper alone. Board members were intrigued to hear that staff at the Purdy library branch had reported having a complete run of the last newspaper in Purdy, running through the 1970s, which could offer insight for future researchers.

Milburn emphasized that the grant allowed up to $2,500 for library expenses for the project. She objected to the characterization of that money as "kickbacks," as reported, which she said implies an inappropriate or unethical exchange "under the table."

Board members voted unanimously to approve the letter of intent committing to the project. The application required submission of the request for funding in December. If approved, grant funds would be available through 2017.

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