Library digitizes Bloomfield newspapers and yearbooks

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
Special Collections librarian Lisa Cohn is digitizing an extensive file containing newspaper accounts of Bloomfield residents who served in World War II and the Korean War. In her hands is a photo of Lt. Joseph Duckworth from Bloomfield, who served during World War II.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Bloomfield Public Library is almost finished digitizing Bloomfield newspapers going back to the 19th century, when the first local newspaper, The Bloomfield Gazette, appeared on Sept. 6, 1872.

The library began its copying project in 2018, after receiving a matching grant of $2,057 from the Essex County Division of Cultural and Historical Affairs, according to reference librarian Lisa Cohn, who is in charge of Special Collections at the library. With this funding, the library digitized The Independent Press editions from 1962 to 2004, which it had on microfilm.

“1962 is when The Independent Press started copyrighting,” Cohn said. “That’s why we picked 1962. Copyrighting is a major issue. If it’s copyrighted, we cannot put it online. If it’s prior to 1962, we could put it online.”

For dates after 1962, Cohn said, The Independent Press must be viewed in the library, and searches, at this time, could possibly be done by keyword and year for 1873 to 2018.

“A lot is still in process,” Cohn said about the ability to search for a word. “I’m doing the OCRing in my office. That’s optical character recognition, in order to search by keyword.”

The library also received matching grants in 2019 and 2020, for $4,124 and $3,310, respectively. Last year, Cohn uncovered, in storage, a publication called The Bloomfield Times.

“I didn’t know about them,” she said. “When I was moving Special Collections downstairs, I discovered them. There were 91 issues, about 2½ years worth, during a couple of years in the ’80s.”

The library digitized early Bloomfield newspapers, including The Bloomfield Citizen, which published regularly beginning in 1883; The Independent, which began publication in 1891 and merged with The Bloomfield Citizen in 1892; and The Independent Press, which began in 1913 and merged with The Bloomfield Citizen, remaining The Independent Press, in 1915. Early Bloomfield newspapers were microfilmed, sometimes out of order and with dates missing. When digitized, the newspapers were put into chronological order.

Other early Bloomfield newspapers are the Bloomfield Union, first published 1908 and lasting for about a year; The Bloomfield Mail, published in 1933 and 1934; and Bloomfield Record, first published in 1933 and published only three times. The Glen Ridge Paper began publication April 19, 1935.

Cohn said that Bloomfield Life microfilms,1998 to 2000, were recently sent out to be digitized.

“They didn’t start copyrighting until 2017,” she said. “But they already had it digitized and anyone can log into to search newspapers across the country and they do have Bloomfield Life, but not The Independent Press.”

Newspapers are not the only printed material being copied. So are Bloomfield High School yearbooks, from 1908 to 2018, which can be viewed in the library or online. The yearbooks were digitized by prisoners of the Oklahoma Correctional Institute yearbook project.

“You can also search yearbooks and some are online,” Cohn said. “Yearbooks before 1923 are in the public domain. From 1923 to 1977, if there’s no copyright notice, it can be searched online. I think the 1933 BHS yearbook had a copyright. To play it safe, I didn’t put it online.”

Cohn has a digitizing project of her own using a flatbed scanner located at the library. For the past several years, she has been copying files of newspaper clippings about Bloomfield residents who served in World War II and the Korean War. The files were started, in the ’40s, by Florence Roberts, secretary to then-Mayor Donald Scott. They were donated to the library in 1953.

“The work she put into this is amazing,” said Cohn, who has completed digitizing files A to G.

Most people who research past newspapers are usually looking for an obituary in an old hard copy, Cohn said. But asking a librarian for assistance is a good idea that has been made better with new technology.

“We frequently come up with more information, such as marriage announcements and sporting events,” she said. “And people are getting more into genealogy and are more specific with their questions.”

To assist genealogists, the library acquired, in January, an Ancestry Library Edition.

“And we’re also a affiliate library now, for more help,” Cohn said.