Read All About It: The Albert Wisner Public Library

By: Jeffrey Kiley - Advantage Archives
The Albert Wisner Public Library offers the Warwick community a way to connect to its past with an archive containing nearly 135 years of the community’s two local weekly newspapers.

The Albert Wisner Public Library  is located in Warwick, New York, serving a community of 30,000 in the Warwick Valley Central School District area. Warwick is located in southeastern New York in Orange County. Advantage Archives is proud to partner with the Albert Wisner Public Library in their efforts to provide their community with a way to connect with its history with their  Community History Archive. This “portal to the past”, contains Warwick’s two local weekly newspapers, the Warwick Valley Dispatch and the Warwick Advertiser, spanning 1866-2000 and continuing.

Our Community History Archive is a valuable tool for preserving and celebrating  the past and guiding the future. Having access to  information about the heritage of our town is important for determining our place in that continuing narrative, helping create meaning and a dynamic sense of community identity.  ~Sue Gardner, Local History Librarian at the Albert Wisner Public Library

Sue Gardner, the Local History Librarian at the Albert Wisner Public Library has been with the library for 24 years. She holds and MLS from Columbia University and is also the Town’s appointed Deputy Historian. Recently Ms. Gardner took some time to help us understand more about Warwick and its history, the Wisner Library, and their digital newspaper archive.

The library serves the Warwick Valley School District area of the Town of Warwick, a dynamic and diverse community spanning the rich agricultural region of Orange County’s Black Dirt to the western Hudson Highlands. Fifty miles from Manhattan, its population is a mix of commuters to New York, artists and artisans, innovative farms, and others engaged in making it a vibrant and beautiful place to live. A hallmark of the community is its dedication to being a leader in land preservation and sustainable living, with over 4,000 acres of preserved open space including working farms.

With a bequest in honor of Albert Wisner, a privately funded memorial institution, the Albert Wisner Public Library was founded in 1927.  As the community grew the library did as well, becoming  a chartered public library in 1974. The old library building served until 2009, when a new library building was dedicated, and as services expanded and transformed, the library received the Best Small Library in America award in 2016.

While continuing to support traditional roles such as access to books and information and early literacy, the library has a very active program of community engagement through programming and outreach. This aspect of service is augmented by the Albert Wisner Public Library Foundation, which provides private donation funding for many cultural enrichment activities.   In a typical month between 30 and 50 free public events.  In 2018 there were over 166,000 visitors to the library and program attendance was nearly 25,000.

Visit The Community History Archive Of  The Albert Wisner Public Library

Ms. Gardner fully understands, and embraces the library’s role as a community heritage repository is one of continued and increasing importance. The library funds two digital collection platforms, which provide a wealth of materials to researchers interested in Warwick from the town and across the country. As public digital platforms such as Google gain increasing usage, so too so does the importance of a public repository which focuses on the community’s heritage, character, and identity.

“We have been digitizing materials for more than 10 years, and have a collaborative relationship with local historical societies”, Ms. Gardner tells us. “We began with a text based tool, RefWorks, to capture hand transcribed articles and information, and promoted its usage. Statistics for usage were robust and allowed the library to dedicate more funding to this project. The digitization of our rolls of microfilm of local newspapers through the Advantage Preservation platform was begun in the fall of 2011.”

“The old text database created in early years was migrated to a different platform which offered the ability to ingest many types of media. It was felt that keeping these two data sets separate was essential to provide an efficient retrieval process for users.”

The Community History Archive has an average of a few hundred sessions per month, and is used for all types of research about our community– history of families, of structures, of organizations, etc., as well as use by historians and students to gather information on special topics, such as the history of women’s rights, environmental topics, etc. We are continuously rediscovering details about the community we’d forgotten, such as stories carried forward about the Revolutionary War. Content such a local editorials on the topic of the abolition of slavery provide primary document research that brings historical events and controversies “home.”

She goes on to share that the library began with a text based tool, RefWorks, to capture hand transcribed articles and information, and promoted its usage. Statistics for usage were robust and allowed the library to dedicate more funding to this project.”

“The old text database created in early years was migrated to a different platform which offered the ability to ingest many types of media. It was felt that keeping these two data sets separate was essential to provide an efficient retrieval process for users.”

Advantage Preservation was chosen because its product compared favorably in terms of quality and cost effectiveness with other providers, and the free hosting of data using an easily understood interface has resulted in a very robust usage

~Sue Gardner

The Community History Archive has an average of a few hundred sessions per month, and is used for all types of research about our community– history of families, of structures, of organizations, etc., as well as use by historians and students to gather information on special topics, such as the history of women’s rights, environmental topics, etc. We are continuously rediscovering details about the community we’d forgotten, such as stories carried forward about the Revolutionary War. Content such a local editorials on the topic of the abolition of slavery provide primary document research that brings historical events and controversies “home.”

“The Digital Newspaper Archive provides access to the rich history of Warwick, New York and the surrounding areas thanks to the Albert Wisner Public Library. The online archive includes two local weekly newspapers, the Warwick Valley Dispatch and the Warwick Advertiser, spanning 1866-2000 and continuing.” Says Ms Gardner, “We are so happy with it!”

When asked what advice she may have for other institutions that may be considering making their local history more accessible to the community? “Do a spreadsheet of platforms and the services they offer and cost— Advantage Preservation stacks up nicely. Forget about being able to migrate/dovetail with large sites like Public Library of America—- keep your data local “branded” because it’s mostly the locals who are interested and are paying your salary! Gigantic haystacks of repositories are a good way to not be useful or noticed.”

At Advantage, we have embraced the idea that preserving history is a shared responsibility. We partner with local community publishers, libraries, and other like-minded individuals to make local content more accessible, now and in the future.

We believe strongly in building long lasting partnerships, which is why we enter into them with the intent of shouldering our fair share and taking the burden off of the community for the ongoing costs associated with storage, hosting, development, and maintenance of the Community’s History Archive. We are an active participant in the community’s efforts to make their collective history more accessible.

The Community History Archives are user friendly, and easy to learn. We focused on making it as simple as possible, so that everyone…from students to grandparents (and everyone in between) can browse, search, view, clip and share articles, headlines, pages, and stories recorded in the pages of the community newspaper.. Just type a search and hit “enter” or browse to a specific year, month, day or page in any (or all) publications contained in the archive.

Advantage partners with communities just like Warwick across the United States, to archive & provide practical digital access to local historical content in print, that would otherwise be lost to the erosion of time. If you would like to see more local history online, please contact your local library, newspaper publisher, genealogical society, historical society, or educational institution, and encourage them to learn more about creating a Community History Archive, or have them contact us at (855) 303-2727.

Connect Your Community To Its History! Explore A Partnership With Advantage & Discover “History As it Happened “. Use the form below to connect with us, and let’s discuss way’s we can ensure your local history is easily accessible!