Searching for old news stories or historical information just got easier. The arduous project of digitizing 13 decades of vintage newspapers at the Rockville Centre Public Library is finished, allowing the public to access a number of historic papers digitally on the library’s website.
The library’s archivist, Alene Scoblete, has been working on the project for the past decade, and received a push last year: a $10,000 grant secured by State Sen. Todd Kaminsky.
“It finally came together,” Scoblete said. “The grant enabled work to get completed that needed to be done in order to get the papers uploaded so the public can see them.”
For years, Scoblete scanned photos, brochures, yearbooks and other materials from the archives. “But the newspapers presented their own set of obstacles,” she said, “and this money made that happen.”
“The library doesn’t have the money at its fingertips to take on this type of project, so when the . . . library approached me — the only one in the district to do so — I thought it was important for them to help them complete it,” Kaminsky. “They have one of the most robust collections, and now, instead of manually searching archives or scrolling through microfiche, these newspapers can be accessed remotely.”
The site makes it easy to search for old stories from papers that span 135 years, from 1865 to 2000. “Now, anyone can do historical or genealogical research,” Scoblete said. “The greatest thing about the newspapers being available is that it covers the surrounding communities as well, so many people in various communities can benefit.”
The library’s website has a link through the “archives” tab to www.nys-historicnewspapers.org. The available papers include former weeklies published in Rockville Centre such as The Picket, the South Side Observer, The Owl, Long Island News & the Owl (now owned by Herald Community Newspapers), as well as the Nassau Daily Review and the Nassau Daily Review-Star, which were published in Freeport.
The process of digitizing is a tedious one, according to Scoblete. All of the newspapers were scanned from rolls of microfilm that then had to be digitized to optical character recognition, or OCR, form in order to make them searchable.
“There are impediments to this, as the early newspapers were long scrolls, which makes it hard, plus they weren’t in great shape when they were transferred to microfilm, so the quality is diminished,” Scoblete explained. Still, she added, people who come across these difficulties should “not give up on a search — try different keywords and put more time and energy into the search.”
She has done a lot of research for people over the years, and intends to keep doing so. But she is thrilled, she said, that people will be able to access the archived material from anywhere. “It’s wonderful that these items are available to people online,” Scoblete said.
Kaminsky agreed that this project benefits the community. “The Rockville Centre Library does a lot of wonderful things for the community, and as a parent of young children, I’ve gained a new a respect for the library,” he said. “I was intrigued by this project of digitizing the archives; we all want to know the histories of our communities, and this makes it so much easier for people to access old articles. The power of digitization is remarkable.”