Help Alpena County Library win a grant

Today through Sunday, local residents can play a big part in helping Alpena County Library win a grant.

The library is one of five libraries across the state vying for a $2,500 grant as part of a statewide project to digitize and preserve Michigan’s historic newspapers. If successful, the grant funds would enable the library to digitize copies of The Alpena News from 1899-1910 and the Michigan Labor Journal from 1884-1890. The Labor Journal, which dealt with local timber and farming industries, also was published in Alpena.

All willing participants have to do is either Tweet #DigAlpena or sign their name to a postcard available at either the library, The Alpena News or the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Each tweet is worth one point, while each postcard is worth 100 points.

At the end of the week, the library that’s accumulated the most points gets the grant.

Library Director Eric Magness-Eubank said patrons coming into the library seem enthused about the chance to help with the project.

“People enjoy the opportunity to help us out, and there’s a little bit of ‘Let’s beat the other libraries,'” he said. “I don’t know what those libraries have planned, but we are not going to make it easy for them.”

Among libraries also in the running are ones in Traverse City, Sault Ste. Marie, Ionia and Milford.

“We do have our work cut out for us,” Magness-Eubank said. “When we looked at the grant, we decided we are not going to just hand it to Traverse City because they are bigger. They are going to have to work for it.”

To assist with the effort, Walgreens donated 500 postcards and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary donated another 100. The library hopes to send off no less than 1,000 postcards by the end of this week, but is shooting for closer to 2,000.

Several elementary classes also are getting into the spirit of the competitive grant by having students draw small pictures on some of the postcards.

As for the tweets, the library staff made use of their new specialized digital printer that can produce large displays from historic photographs. They created several fun, life-size posters of people from a bygone era, then cut out holes in place of the heads that people can have their photo taken behind and then tweet. Participants also can just send a simple tweet.

The effort to digitize historic newspapers throughout the state, known as the Michigan Digital Newspaper Project, is a project of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University. The grant is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

Many of Alpena’s early newspapers already are on microfilm at the library, but searching through the microfilm spools for items of interest can become tedious.

“The advantage of a digital format over microfilm is that it makes them much more accessible to the public,” Magness-Eubank said. “People can read them remotely from their homes, and microfilm can be tedious and time consuming.”

Getting the old issues into a digital format also makes them accessible to a much broader audience.

“It opens things up from just Alpena to the wider world,” Magness-Eubank said. “It would help to fill in pieces in other data bases dealing with history, and actually lead researchers to Alpena because we have this record. These are pieces from Alpena’s past.”