STEUBENVILLE - If you've ever tried to find information from newspapers using microfilm in a library, you know it's a tedious, time-consuming process.
There's no specific way to search for information, so you're at the mercy of the hunt, scrolling through page after page in a needle-in-a-haystack pursuit that's not very easy on the eyes.
Now comes a user-friendly alternative that while not guaranteeing that'll you find what you're looking for, it simplifies the process and broadens the scope, too.
NEWS?INFORMATION — On her computer at the Schiappa branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, Sandy Day, local historian and genealogist, accesses Newspaper Archive, a new free service of the library system that allows library patron cardholders to access newspapers from all 50 states and 10 countries as far back as the early 1700s and as current as the early 2000s.
-- Janice Kiaski
Enter Newspaper Archive, a free online service now being provided through the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County that Sandy Day, the local historian and genealogist at the Schiappa branch, anticipates the more patrons discover that it's available, the more they'll use it and love it.
And that's not just individuals interested in family genealogy and researching their roots, either.
For people who like the idea of accessing lots of newspapers to go back in time to read about historical events, for example, or find information on most any topic from sports to community news, the new addition to the library system puts lots of information from lots of places and time frames at patrons' fingertips.
"Newspaper Archive is the world's largest online newspaper archive," Day said of the service, which is a database of digitized newspapers that unlike microfilm is searchable by, for example, topics, time periods, names and locations. They are available from as recent as the early 2000s back to the early 1700s.
Newspapers from all 50 states and 10 countries have been scanned and are viewable on the website, according to Day. The 10 countries include Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, South Africa, United Kingdom and the U.S. Virgin Islands (not a separate country but part of U.S.-owned property.) The newspapers for these countries are in English.
"The Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County tested this service last year and felt it would be a great asset to our online services for our patrons," Day said.
"We always aim to provide as many free services as we can to the general public. This site will be really helpful for genealogists but is not limited to those persons searching their family tree. You may be pleasantly surprised what you can find on your family or friends," Day said.
"The value of this new service is that any of our patrons can find any news story on their families very easily," Day said, citing one example.
"All they have to do is bring their Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County Library card to any of the branches in Jefferson County. This site is not available by remote access, only in house. The only fee to our patrons is if prints are made, and the fee for printing is only 15 cents a page," she explained.
Day said not all newspapers for every state are included, but there are many covered.
"For instance, Ohio's list includes the Steubenville Daily Herald 1874-1896; and Steubenville Herald and Herald-Star 1890-1977, so Steubenville newspapers cover 1874-1977," she said. "It also contains the Weirton Daily Times 1955-1977 only. Some of the newspapers are available much earlier, and some are also available for dates in the 21st century," Day said, pointing out that more newspapers are added on a regular basis.
Day said the Schiappa branch does house microfilm of the Herald-Star and its predecessor and covers 1806-2009 on microfilm.
"From 2009 forward, we have the Herald-Star available on DVD only. This is great because the DVDs are searchable, where this is not possible on microfilm," Day said. "There are eight computers in the reference room and one in the local history room at the Schiappa branch where you can access this site. If this branch is closest to you, feel free to stop in, and staff will be happy to assist you," she said.
Library patrons are beginning to learn about the new service available and appreciate what it can do, according to Day.
One woman, for example, was interested in sports articles that may have been published in the Herald-Star about her father when he played football during the 1950s for Adena High School.
"She did not know exact dates but knew she would need to look at the newspaper archives we have," Day said.
"Another staff person told her about this new service. Within a short time, she had at least a half dozen news stories on her father. If she had looked for these stories only on the microfilm, it would have easily taken a full day if not a couple days to get what she found in a couple hours' time," Day said.
Day has tested the service as well. She decided to search for what news items she could find in Indiana, confining the search to a specific town and surname of a relative.
"A test I made recently in an Indiana newspaper brought the following results in the mid-1900 newspapers," Day said of what she found, which included an obituary and news items of the woman being in attendance at a Daughters of American Revolution meeting.
"This proves she had at least one DAR ancestor in her lineage or she could not have been a member," she said of the significance of her find.
"Another match for the surname I searched in that state showed attendance at a family wedding along with other members of that family mentioned. I also found a news article about this person's three sons attending various colleges and universities. I was very surprised by the broad scope of the news stories I found," Day said.
"The Newspaper Archive service has only been available at our library for a short time. The staff at the Schiappa branch love it, and so do I. I advise the general public to come in and give it a test drive. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you can find," Day said.
"Remember, you do not need to be a genealogy researcher to use this service. The staff at the Schiappa branch or any of the other branches will show you how easy it is to use," she said.
(Kiaski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)