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Library's new micro film reader is historian's dream

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When Friday Memorial Library's micro film reader finally bit the dust a few months ago, Library Director Scott Vrieze wasn't exactly upset - it meant he could finally upgrade the ancient machine.

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"The old one limped along for a long time," he said. "It was big and bulky, weighed 6,000 pounds and was at least 20 years old."

A substantial donation from the Friends of the Library group, along with personal donations, made the purchase of the more than $10,000 machine possible, Vrieze said.

"I'll admit I was surprised by the price of them," he said of the machine's cost. "I expected a couple thousand, but not $10,000."

The digital micro film reader is a dream for historians and genealogists. What used to require manual work is now interfaced with a computer and controlled by a click of the mouse.

The digital version allows the researcher to zoom in and out, select a specific portion of the film and play with the contrast of the text.

"Some of the scans didn't turn out that great and just looked like a black page that no one could read," Vrieze said. "Now, we can brighten the page and we're able to read the text or see a picture. This is stuff that would have been lost otherwise."

Vrieze said he's already spoken with one local historian who said he's going to need to redo all his research.

The machine arrived in New Richmond about three months ago, Vrieze said. For the first month, Vrieze said he spent several hours training himself and learning about all the machine's features. The second month was spent training the rest of the library staff.

Many of the library's regular researchers have been excited about the new machine because work can now be done much more quickly.

It also helps the library staff fulfill remote requests for information.

Vrieze said he often gets inquiries from a woman in Oregon who is researching a family with ties to New Richmond.

"She'll sometimes send a request for 10 obits at a time," he said. "Now, I'm able to say yes more often because it's so quick and I can just email them to her."

With the old machine the only option was to print an entire page of micro film. Customers can still do that, but they can also scan specific portions of the page, or specific pictures, and email them free of charge.

"It's a pretty cool little device," Vrieze said. "As people get used to it, I think it's going to grow in popularity."

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Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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