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Priaulx Library digitises papers

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OCCUPATION newspapers can now be searched through on Priaulx Library computers, as part of a major project to scan the library’s vast collection of papers.

Volunteer scanner Keith Friend at the Priaulx Library. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 24396987)

The scanning project started last September, following the £13,000 purchase of a special Metis EDS Gamma scanner. It takes about 15 minutes to scan a week of newspapers from the early 1900s, when newspapers were just a few pages. However, this will take longer as newspapers became larger in the later 20th century.

Chief librarian Sue Laker said progress was slowly being made to get the original newspapers on the system.

‘It’s an exciting time,’ she said. ‘It’s taken us two years to get to this point.’

A team of volunteers has been working hard to scan each newspaper in an attic room of the library.

They have started with the 1940s newspapers. The 1920s and 1930s Star papers have also been scanned, but still need to be processed. Once the newspapers are scanned they need to be checked and made searchable. This can be a challenge, as parts of the newspaper are in French.

Keith Friend is one of the small team of volunteers working on the newspapers.

‘The most interesting part is reading the old papers, so it is easy to get distracted,’ he said.

‘With 1904 it’s four pages, so it’s quite simple. But it’s quite fragile, so you have to be quite careful as they are irreplaceable.’

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The library holds a huge collection of newspapers, including a complete collection of the Guernsey (Evening) Press back to 1897, as well as some earlier editions as well, and the Guernsey Star back to 1833.

While some copies are held by the British Library, many are uniquely held in Guernsey.

This includes the Guernsey Comet newspaper, which ran from 1828 to 1898. The Priaulx Library has a complete set of the newspaper’s run. It also has the Jersey Evening Post going back to 1903. However, many of these are in a poor condition and are still in the flower boxes that were used to transport the newspapers from the Guille-Alles Library many years ago, again highlighting the importance of digitising the papers.

The newspapers will be viewable only at the library, rather than online. There are currently two terminals that can be used for free and a third will be added shortly.

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Ms Laker said it was important for people to still visit the library.

‘We want people to understand the work going on here,’ she said.

‘We do need to modernise, but we are still a library. We are not an electronic information resource.’

While viewing the pages is free, it costs £1 for an A4 printout and £5 for a full-size broadsheet printout.

The library is open 9.30am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, except Friday, when it is open 10am to 5pm.

Juliet Pouteaux

By Juliet Pouteaux
News reporter

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