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Cole Corner: Library’s latest online resource: A searchable Sun
May 10, 2013 · Mary Iber


Have you ever wondered what Mount Vernon and Lisbon were like back in the "good old days?" Have you heard a rumor you'd like to check out? Trying to find ancestors' obituaries? Sports coverage? Downtown fires? All this and more can now be searched from your own computer.

The Sun and all of its predecessors are now available to search. No fees or registration required. Find it featured on the library's homepage, colelibrary.org, under "Online Resources."

As communication options change, see how newspapers have changed, and how they stay the same. Papers used to report who was visiting whom, who was in the hospital, who was on vacation and where they went, who is coming to speak, and so much more. Just exploring the advertising from various time periods gives insight into the times.

Starting with papers as old as 1860, and going through 2012, there is some real history of the towns and the college.

How did all this get started?

The desire to have our local newspapers online has been a gleam in Cathy Boggs's eye for a long time. About a year ago, when she mentioned it to the public library board, Deb George recognized its value, and volunteered to explore possibilities. Mary Iber joined the efforts using her roles as Cole librarian, Cornell College archivist, and member of the Mount Vernon Historic Preservation Commission (MVHPC) to further the cause. She called upon relationships with experts around Iowa.

This project is such a perfect way to fulfill the missions of Cole Library and the Mount Vernon Historic Preservation Commission. There were many steps involved in making this happen, and they have been going on for the past year. Working together, with the goal of providing easy access to anyone with curiosity about the past, the library and the MVHPC reached their fundraising goals with partners from Mount Vernon and Lisbon (see other article or the web page for names). We contracted with a Cedar Rapids firm, Advantage Preservation, which was recommended by the State Library. Once scanning and OCR (optical character recognition) was nearly complete, we discovered that there were many years of separate Lisbon papers that we didn't know about. So, we added those to the project, and raised some more money. When that was done, Advantage started working on creating the web page and making it searchable.

We are excited to be able to share this with the public now. As with all databases, there are some tricks that will help you be more successful with your searches. Many are listed in the HELP screen on the historic papers web page, and there are Search Tips and a FAQ on the colelibrary.org site. We continue to work with the company to improve searching. Naturally, the quality of scans depends on the quality of the original material, and over time, some of that has degraded. While perfection is not possible, we think you will find that searching online is way faster and more convenient than searching microfilm, one reel at a time!

We hope that this will bring hours of enjoyment to history "pioneers" of today, from students in school to students of life.

So, download the latest version of Adobe Reader (free) and start exploring. Use the link on the Cole Library page to update your browser and reader.

Watch for announcement of a searching session the library will offer in the near future.

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