Library digitizing


The annals of daily Highland County history will soon become more accessible to the public as the digitization of many of Highland County District Library’s microfilm of local newspaper records comes to fruition as early as later this month, according to director Suzanne Roberts.

Roberts said that the process of converting microfilm to digital information is being undertaken by, and is expected to be completed by next month at the latest.

“Last December, the library sent the microfilm records we had for the Greenfield Daily Times, the Hillsboro Press Gazette and the Times Gazette off to be digitized,” said Roberts. “Once the process is complete, the microfilm reels for those newspapers will be returned and will once again be available to the public, free of charge, at the Hillsboro library.

“In addition, library computers will have free access to the electronic version of these records. The electronic version will be searchable by date, keyword and location, which will hopefully make researching easier than using the microfilm machine. The reels should be returned by late January or early February. At that time, the records should also be available via library computer.”

With the process of digitization is being done by, Roberts said subscribers to will also be able to access the records from their home computer or phone. But patrons will be able to do that for free using library computers.

The newspapers and time periods that will be affected by the digitization project are: Greenfield Daily Times (January 1935 to December 1993), Hillsboro Press Gazette (May 1940 to October 1996) and The Times-Gazette (November 1996 to June 2021).

Although The Times-Gazette celebrated its 200-year anniversary in 2018, its masthead hasn’t always been emblazoned with the same moniker, a fact worth noting to archival researchers. The name, an amalgam of the names of several other newspapers, first debuted for publication on Nov. 4, 1996.

What would eventually become The Times-Gazette began as an entrepreneurial venture by Moses Carothers, who according to previous Times-Gazette reports started the Hillsborough Gazette (and Highland Advertiser) with an initial subscriber base of 500 individuals and “determined to start a weekly newspaper” in what was then spelled Hillsborough. Carothers employed the use of a Ramage printing press, according to the reports, “similar to one used by Benjamin Franklin.”

According to Letterpress Commons, this, “wooden hand press with an iron platen that was built by Scottish-born Adam Ramage, who later, immigrated in 1795 to Philadelphia.”

According to the American Printing History Association, “Ramage is the first true manufacturer of printing presses in the USA.”

The Print Museum explained the efficacy of the Ramage wooden printing press and why it would have been ideal for a burgeoning newspaper in a place such as Highland County: “Although iron presses took on quickly in Europe, they were not very practical for most Americans. America was still a developing country. It was too expensive and cumbersome to bring an iron press out to a print shop in a rural area. Wooden presses, by contrast, were cheaper and lightweight, making Ramage’s press a viable option for small town printers.”

Ramage was said, according to the museum, to have manufactured more than 1,250 of such printing presses in America, of which few remain to this day.

Carothers’ publication, inked in type and printed on a wooden printing press, premiered on June 18, 1818, becoming Highland County’s first newspaper.

By 1827, Carothers had sold the newspaper to William H. Allen, though the title remained.

In time, the spelling of Hillsboro evolved from the antiquated form, and the newspaper became known as the Hillsboro Gazette.

In 1928, the acquisition by the Hillsboro Gazette of another local publication, the People’s Press, created the first of many subsequent name metamorphoses. The Hillsboro Gazette became the Press Gazette.

Under the decades long auspices of H.E. Barnes, under whose tenure the Press Gazette moved to the 200 block of South High Street in Hillsboro from its original location on Governor Foraker Place in Hillsboro, the Press Gazette documented local news.

Name changes were afoot again in 1996 as four newspapers — the Press Gazette, Lynchburg News, Leesburg Citizen and the Greenfield Daily Times, the later three purchased from the Schulep family in Greenfield — created The Times-Gazette.

With the imminent completion of the digitization process, Roberts said that there will be many advantages to the new system as compared to the microfilm standard.

“The advantages to having digital access to these newspaper records,” said Roberts, is that the library has more computers available than they do microfilm machines. The digitized, archived newspapers will also be searchable by keywords which allows for greater specificity unlike the traditional microfilm archival system on which people relied before computers.

“It makes searching much easier and faster,” said Roberts. “On the microfilm machines, you have to scroll through the reels looking for the data you want. On the computer, you can type in a date, location, or keyword and search all the records at once.”

While local patrons’ access will be free, the digitization project also increases public access to the files by others.

“Once completed, library patrons will either have to be inside the library to access the records (via microfilm machine or library computer) for free, or they can pay for a subscription to and access those records from their own home computer or phone.”

Sarah Davidson, circulation manager, said that the Hillsboro library is one of five branches in Highland County.”

To accommodate patrons’ changing needs, Davidson said, the library not only provides opportunities for “research and reading,” but activities like crafting, book clubs, and offbeat, unusual events including bringing in animals. Penguins visiting the library, Davidson said, was one such event that was particularly memorable of the myriad unique and interactive activities presented to patrons over the years.

“We love being here for our patrons,” Davidson said. “We collaborate to provide all ages programming.”

Listening to the interests of the patrons is important, Davidson said, in the effort to understand and accommodate changing times that continually redefine the role and needed resources of libraries as a place of public access to information.

Davidson said that the library has continually adapted to keep being a place that serves the patrons’ needs as technology and society has transformed.

Juliane Cartaino is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.

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