Library archive of Spotlight complete

Project comes in ahead of schedule; some gaps remain

— The headlines of the past are more easily at hand now that nearly a half-century of Bethlehem history has been digitally archived.

The Bethlehem Public Library has completed its project to digitize 50 years of The Spotlight. The effort was done in conjunction with the local newspaper to help preserve the town’s narrative.

The library used donated funds and a matching grant to pay for the initiative.

“Local papers tend to get ignored by the larger historical projects,” said Library Director Geoffrey Kirkpatrick. “The local news happens locally, and it’s a piece that’s easily missed if no one is paying attention, and that’s where community libraries need to step in.”

The whole process was expected to take six months, but only took three.

The library’s entire collection of Spotlight newspapers from 1955 to 2005 were sent to a company in western New York that scanned the publications, digitized them and turned them into microfilm copies. They were then uploaded to the Internet to create a digital database.

For years, the library kept copies of the paper and bound them by year. Library volunteers also began clipping certain articles and obituaries to keep an index. Kirkpatrick said eventually they had so many clippings, it became unworkable. Another problem the library faced was residents cutting out articles or pictures from the bound copies that were meant to be preserved for public record.

In order to compete the digitization, a copy of each edition had to be unbound and scanned. Some issues were also out of order, and archivists worked to put them back in place.

Nearly every edition of The Spotlight through 2005 can now be viewed by visiting the library’s website. The newspaper will continue to work with the library so digital copies of up-to-date issues can be added in the near future.

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