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Spotlight: Hinsdale Public Library (Illinois)

Hinsdale Public Library

The Hinsdale Public Library gives patrons easier access to local history with their Community History Archive, featuring newspapers from 1896.

The Hinsdale Public Library is located in Hinsdale, Illinois, serving a community of nearly 17,000. Hinsdale is a western suburb of Chicago, in Cook and DuPage Counties. Advantage Archives takes great pride in our rewarding partnership with the Hinsdale Public Library. We are excited to be a part of their efforts to provide their community with a way to connect with its history with its Community History Archive.

The mission of the Hinsdale Public Library is to “celebrate lifelong learning and foster community connections through innovative educational and cultural experiences.”

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I was responsible for making the digitization happen. I spoke with other libraries about their digitization projects and contacted quite a few companies. Advantage not only had great pricing, but we really liked the search features. Knowing we would retain a copy of the archives was a bonus. Have I mentioned the fabulous customer service?

Lisa Knasiak

Assistant Director/Patron Services Manager, Hinsdale Public Library

Lisa Knasiak, the Assistant Director/Patron Services Manager at the Hinsdale Public Library, has been with the library for 4 years. She has worked at several public libraries before coming to the Hinsdale Public Library.

Lisa recently took the time to tell us a little bit about the Hinsdale Public Library’s Digital Archives collection.

Lisa is dedicated to ensuring the Hinsdale Public Library is meeting or exceeding the mission of the Public Library, by promoting life-long learning and fostering community connections.

“I really enjoy having the Community History Archive as a new resource. I am able to help patrons find information in old newspapers much more quickly now that they are digitized and searchable. We used to have to browse the microfilm for the content. It was a slow process, especially if you only had an idea of a year range to look at. With the searching capabilities of the CHA we can search that date range and find the results instantly.”

Hinsdale, Illinois, incorporated in 1873, was established as a commuter village because of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. The original plan was to have tracks run north of Hinsdale’s present-day location. However, the landscape made running the tracks through Hinsdale more desirable.

The Hinsdale Library Association was established in 1887. In August of 1893, the Public Library opened and continued the experience of the Hinsdale Library Association. To begin with, the library bounced around temporary locations while serving the community. It wasn’t until 1929, when the Memorial Building was built, that the library has it’s first permanent location. Over the history of the library, it has moved several times, survived a couple of fires, and built on a couple of additions.

Today, the village of Hinsdale, Illinois is one of the wealthiest areas in the United States. With being a western suburb of Chicago, many of the residents commute to Chicago for employment.

Hinsdale’s downtown area is a National Register Historic District. Along with the unique downtown area, there are many other buildings within the community that are on the National Register of Historic Places. The architecture of these buildings and the downtown area draw people to the community.

Hinsdale also offers many small to medium-sized businesses, parks, a community swimming pool, a great school system, and big, beautiful houses to help lure potential residents. There are plenty of recreational opportunities within the parks ranging from playground equipment and picnic areas to athletic fields.

“The residents of Hinsdale have always loved their library. We have amazing support and, in turn, we do our best to surprise and delight our patrons on a regular basis.”

“Funding was the only thing holding up the project. When we were notified that a resident generously bequeathed monies, digitization was the first project we tackled,” Lisa tells us.

She goes on to share “Our Community History Archive absolutely aligns perfectly with our library’s mission. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have pursued digitization. It helps foster community connections – with citizens and with other institutions. Using the Community History Archive to help patrons connect to the history of Hinsdale, genealogy work, or anything else they can think of is priceless.”

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Our Community History Archive is a valuable resource for Hinsdale because it makes finding our past easier.

~Lisa Knasiak

We were surprised to discover the number of people that have used the archives. The historical museum sends patrons in all the time and have even used it themselves, according to Lisa.

“Our director, Karen Keefe, was anxious to do the project for some time. We had old newspapers on microfilm, but they were not viewed on a regular basis. She knew that digitization would make it easier for our patrons to discover their past. The Doings has been around almost as long as the Library. It was a natural choice for digitization.”

She also recognizes the digital archive as an outreach or engagement tool.

“I think it has served as outreach – drawing in people who wouldn’t normally have come. Also, we have developed a closer working relationship with our history museum.”

The Advantage Archives Community History Archive platform was designed to serve as a “portal to the past” for communities by making all types of history accessible. Many institutions start with their local newspapers and grow the archive with new and interesting content like photos, maps, atlases, history books, and much more. Lisa also plans to expand what is currently available:

“We are not the local depository of such items as maps and photos – our history museum is. I do not foresee us doing any other projects, other than keeping our digital archives current.”

The Community History Archives are user-friendly and easy to learn. The Advantage team has 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. Users of the site are able to just type a search and hit “enter” or create a more complex search by using the query builder. There is also the ability to simply browse to a specific year, month, day or page in any (or all) publications contained in the archive.

“Do It! Advantage has helped us bring Hinsdale’s history to our patrons. They can help bring your local community history to your patrons as well.”

Advantage partners with communities just like Hinsdale 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 like the one Hinsdale has created for its community. Ask them to e-mail us using the form below, or have them contact us at (855) 303-2727.

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