Coronado Library Is Driving Force Behind Digitization Of Historic Coronado Newspapers - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Island News

Coronado Library Is Driving Force Behind Digitization Of Historic Coronado Newspapers

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Posted: Monday, August 22, 2016 11:42 am

One of the larger and most historically relevant projects undertaken by the Coronado Public Library in recent years is the digitization of 122,500 pages of historic Coronado newspapers, which are now part of the California Digital Newspaper Collection and available on-line. The newspapers date back to 1887 and except for a 12-year gap when there were no newspapers published in Coronado, the collection is complete.

According to Coronado Director of Library Services Christian Esquevin, the collection includes the Coronado Mercury (published between May 16, 1887-July 25, 1896); The Coronado Strand (May 24, 1912 to October 28, 1922); Coronado Saturday Night (April 1, 1922-August 19, 1922); then there was a merger of the Strand and Saturday Night, which became the Coronado Journal; El Patio (August 21, 1920-September 24, 1921); the Coronado Citizen (November 4, 1937-March 27, 1942); Coronado Compass October 31, 1946-June 30, 1949; a merger among the Journal, Citizen and Compass started July 7, 1949 and eventually united under the title of the Coronado Journal; the Coronado Eagle (July 4, 1990-August 12, 1998); and the Coronado Eagle & Journal (August 26, 1998 to the present day).

Coronado Eagle & Journal Publisher Dean Eckenroth, Sr. commented regarding the California Digital Newspaper Collection, “For more than 100 years, the Coronado Eagle & Journal has championed the ideals of a free press and promoted the quality and economic health of Coronado while chronicling our lives. The history within our pages is invaluable; and it is now available on line along with other Coronado historical newspapers thanks to Christian Esquevin and the Coronado Public Library, the California Digital Collection at the University of California Riverside, and the Bond family.”

In an interview conducted in his office at the Coronado Library recently, Esquevin elaborated on the history that led to the city’s newspapers being available online, through and including the issues of 2013. “We’ve had this microfilm collection of the Coronado newspapers for ages. They were here when I came in 1988. We just keep microfilming hard copies, first the Journal, then the Eagle and now the Eagle & Journal. It wasn’t really feasible to keep the hard copies permanently because they take up too much space, they are unwieldly and the paper becomes very brittle over time and is difficult to use. Microfilm is more permanent and we have relied on that. But microfilm has severe limitations. There is only one copy you can read on one machine and you have to come into the library and sit at the microfilm reader. That is limiting and time consuming. Historically you didn’t necessarily know when to look for an item unless you already knew the date of publication. Several years ago the Library staff produced our own index, which was a ‘key word’ index. That was so we could help when people came in and they were looking for somebody’s name, subject or an article. Our index included the date, page number and column, so that helped in finding things. The index was just a shortcut and we still had to go to the source, which was the microfilm.”

Esquevin continued, “I’m not really sure where the idea first came from, but among the things that are discussed in the world of libraries is the power of digitization and the power of optical character recognition. They take either a hard copy of the paper or microfilm and produce not only an indexing of content, but the full contents. There have been many commercial projects for major newspapers and they sell that for a lot of money. They’re not going to do that for local newspapers. The world of local newspapers is left basically for libraries to deal with. It’s been a goal of mine to do this for probably a dozen years. Even though the technology is out there, it’s still an expensive proposition and labor intensive. We went to the University of California at Riverside, which manages the California Digital Newspaper Collection (CDNC). It seemed like a deal that was too good to be true because they also host the collection on their website. That is something we didn’t have to do ourselves was host the traffic and the data base.”

The CDNC is headed by Director Brian Geiger, who is also the head of the Center for the Bibliographical Studies and Research at UC Riverside. Esquevin said that Geiger would be in Coronado within the next few months to make a presentation at the Library regarding the CDNC project.

In addition to the Coronado-based newspapers dating back to 1887, the California Digital Newspaper Collection contains newspapers published back to 1846, including The Californian, which was the first California newspaper and the Daily Alta California, the first daily newspaper published in the state. In total there are 1.5 million pages of significant historical California newspapers in the digital collection. All newspapers published before January 1, 1923, are in the public domain and have no restrictions on their use. Content used from the digital newspapers after that date should contain a citation referencing the paper that originally provided the content. Esquevin said, “If somebody asks us, we tell them to cite the Coronado Eagle & Journal (as an example), rather than citing the Coronado Library. The paper is the source.”

As with most major projects, identifying funding is a major hurdle. In this case, the $50,000 bequest from the estate of Judith Bond referenced above, moved the project forward. Esquevin spoke of Bond and her background. “Judith lived in San Diego, but she worked in Coronado at the Hotel Del. She was in their Heritage Department, which was like being their first historian. Judith was always interested in Coronado history and she was a regular library user. When she died, I found out we were in her will for $50,000, which ended up covering all of the digitization project and we had a few hundred dollars left over. But I wasn’t sure for a long time how much it would cost or if we would have to fundraise the balance. Judith’s family was excited about the project and they thought it was something she would support. Once we had the money, there are different ways to go, such as the quality levels in the scan you get. We knew we were only going to get this scanned once and there is a lot of graphic content, as well as the words. In recent times there are color photographs and we wanted the best quality scan we could get. Our goal is to go back to 2013 and catch up. There are a couple of elements to be addressed including a gap with our ongoing budget, whether we can work out having a direct digital upload to the CDNC; and work with that to run it through the indexing software.”

Aside from the technical aspects of the project, there were a total of 110 rolls of microfilm that had to be shipped off to Riverside. Esquevin said, “There is one person who did a lot of the physical work on the project and that was Quinci Raczkowski. She is a library assistant and still on our staff. She boxed the microfilm up, sent it off and estimated the average number of pages on each reel.”

Our city and its newspapers hold a certain fascination for people according to Esquevin. “Coronado is always a popular subject for various facets. Obituaries are one, along with people researching houses which belonged to their parents or their grandparents. Also people want to find basic articles about different time periods; articles about people who no longer live here, but grew up here; and businesses or restaurants they used to patronize. And there is the connection to local celebrities like L. Frank Baum (author of 14 full-length “Wizard of Oz” books); as well as international or local events. And then there is the high school, sports and activities. Now you can do the research from home. We get requests for information from all over the country and now we can say, ‘look on our website.’ There is a link on the Coronado Library website to the CNDC.” Another way to find the website is to go to the search engine of your choice and enter ‘California Digital Newspaper Collection.’

Esquevin has spent time with the back issues of Coronado newspapers and he reflected on some of the more humorous elements he found. “It’s always fun to see the things that were important back in the day, the city regulations and what was covered by the city council. You see that reflected in the way the regulations were announced and how that was covered in the news. Some things never change, but some things thankfully aren’t operational at those levels anymore. One of the things that was interesting and now makes sense in hindsight is the location of where the library was built in 1909. It used to be right next to the Hotel Del, partially because Babcock and Spreckles gave rent-free space to the library and put it by the trolley stop. In 1909 the discussion was that if you put the library near the Del you were serving the people with money and if you built it over by First, Second or Third Streets, you were serving the poor part of town. So they ended up putting the library here in the middle of town on land that Spreckles owned anyway.”

As we concluded our interview, Esquevin reflected on having Coronado newspapers, published over a span covering nearly 130 years, at your fingertips. “The thing is we are able to offer the newspapers to anybody, wherever they are in the world. We have gone from being horse and buggy into being a jet. So much is available on the web now days, but a lot of research into Coronado’s history was locked into resources that were stubborn to get to.”

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