If you should want to examine say, a May 12, 1932, copy of the Belleville News-Democrat, you have to scroll through long rolls of microfilm, trying to hit just the right spot to see what you want.
But if Belleville Public Library Director Leander Spearman gets his way, you will be able to search for that copy on the Internet and search through key words for a certain article.
Spearman said a company called NewsBank has proposed scanning all the microfilm the library has in its newspaper collection, starting with the News-Democrat and Belleville Daily Advocate, and making digitized copies available for online viewing.
It would open up back issues of the newspaper to a lot of people, Spearman said.
"It's not just people in the area who look at the newspaper, but people from all over, like researchers," he said.
The company has already digitized the BND from 1901 to 1922 as a demonstration of how the project would work. Spearman can show interested donors how it would work.
Yes, donors, because this kind of work isn't cheap, he said.
"It is based on the number of pages to be digitized," he said. "They have guaranteed it will cost at least $100,000 and could go as high as $300,000."
The reality probably will be somewhere in the middle. The library will pay for some of the freight but Spearman hopes to attract money from other places as well.
He will reach out to the St. Clair County Genealogical Society, the Belleville Historical Society and the St. Clair County Historical Society, as well as anyone else he can think of.
He hopes people will make donations to the project through the library foundation.
As the project progresses, whatever has been digitized will be put online as soon as possible. The library still is working out specifics on how and where the material will be available.
The News-Democrat issues start in the 1840s and will be digitized through 2000. The issues after 2000 are already online at the library website in full text at www.bellevillepubliclibrary.org but you need a library card to access them.
Spearman said the new digitized copies would be open to anyone searching.
He hopes to put together a meeting for potential donors and have a company representative make a presentation.
"The sooner the money starts flowing, the sooner the project can get started," he said.
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