Extra! Library digitizing Villager’s entire archives

Corinne Neary at the computer terminal at the Jefferson Market Library where the newly digitized archives of early issues of The Villager can be read. Neary is overseeing the digitization effort.    Photo by lincoln anderson

Corinne Neary at the computer terminal at the Jefferson Market Library where the newly digitized archives of early issues of The Villager can be read. Neary is overseeing the digitization effort. Photo by Lincoln Anderson

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | The Villager’s archives have entered the digital age, thanks to the Jefferson Market Library.

Corinne Neary, the senior librarian at the Sixth Ave. book and research haven, successfully applied for a $2,000 Innovation Project grant from the New York Public Library, which is being used to fund the project’s first phase.

So far, The Villager’s first 26 years have been digitized, from April 1933 to April 1959. The Village library had all of these issues on microfilm. This, in turn, was sent to a facility in Florida, where it was scanned to create raw PDF images that can now be viewed on a computer screen instead of manually cranking through spools on a clunky microfilm machine.

For now, though, the early issues of The Villager can only be viewed electronically on a single computer marked “Catalog” in the library branch’s basement.

“It’s dedicated to The Villager,” Neary said of the terminal.

But the ultimate plan, she said, is to “find a home” for The Villager’s archives on the N.Y.P.L. Web site, making it widely publicly available. This will also improve the archives’ searchability. Currently, the search process is rather slow: The results load chronologically.

“It’s very basic right now,” Neary explained. “Right now, it’s best for people who are looking for a specific thing.”

Once the newspaper archives are put onto the main N.Y.P.L. Web site, however, more targeted searches of the Village’s hometown paper will be possible.

Frank Collerius, the manager of the Jefferson Market Library, said he’s been enjoying “playing with” The Villager’s archives and learning some fascinating history.

“I found one article — Prohibition had just been repealed,” he said. “Jefferson Market Library was a courthouse back then. The article’s headline was that it was not very exciting: ‘Night court spectators disappointed.’ They had been expecting a lot of cases for drunkenness, but it wasn’t too exciting. And they had something called ‘near beer’ back then.”

He also found interesting another article about the Eighth St. gallery scene of 1933.

Only $1,100 of the grant money has been used. To complete the digitization of the newspaper’s archives, in addition to using the rest of the grant, the Village branch will also dip into some of its own funds.

Neary, who feels a close attachment to the historic neighborhood, is enthusiastic about the undertaking.

“I’m just interested in the Village, and I’m close to a lot of older Villagers,” she said.

Although The Villager is on microfilm through the 1990s at the library, this won’t be done anymore as a result of the digital archives, Neary said.

Other places with the first 50 or 60 years of The Villager on microfilm include the periodicals room at N.Y.P.L. main branch on 42nd St. and N.Y.U. Bobst Library. As for the last two decades or so, the Jefferson Market Library branch still has the print issues.

Without fear of ruining brittle old newspaper pages or cranking through spools of microfilm, it's easy to search for things in the first  26 years of The Villager now at the Jefferson Market Library. The rest of the paper's archives will be  digitized soon.

Without fear of ruining brittle old newspaper pages or cranking through spools of microfilm, it’s easy to search for things in the first 26 years of The Villager now at the Jefferson Market Library. The rest of the paper’s archives will be digitized soon.

The Villager’s own print archives took a beating during Superstorm Sandy, which flooded the basement of the newspaper’s former office on Canal St., in which the old bound volumes were stored. And even the public library might be missing an issue or two here or there. So, in that sense, the digital archives effort is also an important preservation project.

Neary said she’s considering ways to promote the use of the archives, such as by posting catchy old ads from The Villager on the branch library’s blog.

In some more exciting news, Neary said last week a man who works on putting things up on the N.Y.P.L. Web site stopped by to get a copy of The Villager electronic files.

“Maybe things are moving more quickly than we expected!” she said. “We don’t know yet where exactly it will be on the Web site, or how people would access it, but stay tuned!”

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