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Hazel Park library competing for grant to preserve old newspapers

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published January 17, 2020

 Randy Ernst-Meyer, the adult and teen librarian at the Hazel Park Memorial District Library, showcases some bound newspapers from the past. Library officials are seeking a grant that will help them digitally preserve the collection.

Randy Ernst-Meyer, the adult and teen librarian at the Hazel Park Memorial District Library, showcases some bound newspapers from the past. Library officials are seeking a grant that will help them digitally preserve the collection.

Photo by Deb Jacques

  The Palladium is among the oldest newspapers in the bound collection.

The Palladium is among the oldest newspapers in the bound collection.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Randy Ernst-Meyer poses with the bound collection. To support the Hazel Park Memorial District Library, tweet #DigHazelPark through Jan. 25.

Randy Ernst-Meyer poses with the bound collection. To support the Hazel Park Memorial District Library, tweet #DigHazelPark through Jan. 25.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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HAZEL PARK — The Hazel Park Memorial District Library is one of four finalists in a statewide contest to win a grant for the digital preservation of vintage newspapers — and the two winners will be decided by popular vote.

The 2020 @DigMichNews Grant, through Clarke Historical Library, is now accepting votes in the form of Twitter posts. To support the Hazel Park library, tweet #DigHazelPark. Votes will continue to be accepted through Jan. 25. Only tweets on Twitter are accepted — not Facebook posts.  

The other finalists in the contest are the Adrian District Library (#DigAdrian), the Grandville Historical Commission (#DigGrandville) and the Salem-South Lyon District Library (#DigSouthLyon).

The Hazel Park library is looking to preserve such papers as the Hazel Park News (1956-80), the Ferndale Gazette Times (1936-80), the Legal Examiner (1936-80) and the Palladium (1939-55). The grant would allow the library to digitize 4,000 pages of papers, compiling them in a database for patrons to peruse.

“These four newspapers chronicle the unique perspective of the Detroit border suburbs in southern Oakland County,” the library states in its application. “The papers highlight the tumultuous conflicts of the 20th century, including the civil rights movement, race riots in Detroit, Vietnam era, etc. Suburban papers of this era give a unique insight to what were then new environments. Suburbs became the homes of the newly affluent working class.

“The (Hazel Park) patrons deserve access to this valuable window to the world in which their families and friends lived,” the application continues. “This history should be preserved for anybody that is interested in learning about the Oakland County area during that era.”

Amy Beem, a librarian in Hazel Park, said the materials won’t last forever.

“The DigMichNews grant by Clarke Historical Library will help preserve these newspapers; they will someday be faded, worn out and unreadable,” Beem said. “Having them digitized will help historians and patrons that are interested in them be able to access them online.”

Randy Ernst-Meyer, another Hazel Park librarian, agreed.

“This grant is very important to the people of Hazel Park — heck, Ferndale too. Most libraries got rid of their newspapers in the ’80s and ’90s. Public libraries had run out of room for the collections of historic newspapers, and the internet seemed to promise free access to just that sort of information. Unfortunately, it didn’t work like that. Newspapers were destroyed or sold as novelty birthday gifts: ‘This is the front page of the newspaper on the day you were born!’  Very few libraries had the foresight to keep their collections. Our community is lucky, very lucky. We have the papers.

“Unfortunately, newsprint is fragile, at best,” he said. “In order to be a really useful resource, the papers need to be digitized. Since the papers were discovered in the basement of the library, we have been trying to find a way to put them on the internet. But that is very expensive. … This (grant) is our lifeline. If we receive it, the papers will be preserved, accessed by all of our communities.”

Corrine Stocker, the library director, urged everyone to vote.

“Winning this contest is extremely important to us and our community. These papers are currently bound into volumes and they are in pretty poor condition — the paper that they were printed on has turned an amber color with age, and the pages are extremely brittle and fragile,” Stocker said. “This is a golden opportunity for us to not only preserve the papers, but our local history as well.”

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