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Spotlight: Marshall Public Library (Illinois)

The Marshall Public Library (Illinois)


The Marshall Public Library digital archive provides access to the rich history of Marshall and the surrounding areas thanks to the Marshall Public Library. The online archive includes Marshall, IL area newspapers and yearbooks dated back as early as 1840.

The Marshall Public Library is located in Marshall, IL, serving a community of 8000. Marshall is located in Central, IL in Clark County. Advantage Archives is proud to partner with the Marshall Public Library in their efforts to provide their community with a way to connect with its history with a Community History Archive .

The mission of the Marshall Public Library is to maintain and improve the quality of life for all citizens of our community by providing resources and programs that enhance and contribute to individual knowledge, enlightenment, and enjoyment in the most efficient manner possible. We especially recognize our responsibility to serve as a place for children to discover the joy of reading and the value of libraries. The Marshall Public Library is dedicated to making the City of Marshall a rewarding, attractive and pleasant place in which to live, visit and work.

Kate Lewis

Our Community History Archive is a valuable resource because it is accessible online and details most area newspapers dated as far back as the Civil War.

~Alyson Thompson

Library Director at the Marshall Public Library

Alyson Thompson, the Library Director at the Marshall Public Library, has been with the library for 5 years. Ms. Thompson is dedicated to ensuring the Marshall Public Library is meeting or exceeding the mission of Marshall Public Library.

Ms. Thompson recently took the time to tell us a little bit about the Marshall Public Library and the Digitization Project.

Alyson is dedicated to ensuring the Marshall Public Library is meeting or exceeding the mission of the Public Library, by ensuring that the library provides free access to all; promoting life-long learning; supporting intellectual and academic freedom, and practicing responsible stewardship of the library’s historical collection.

“In the 1970’s, the information explosion forced libraries, institutions, and their users to microfilms as an alternative to bulky expensive print materials. Improved film, readers, and viewers made this money-saving choice more acceptable. As with most things, microfilm has slowly become a thing of the past due to the time it takes to riffle through reels of information and their lack of mobility. In addition to being cumbersome for users, microfilm does not offer the longevity of digitally preserved data. It is because of the time consuming nature of microfilm, the rising demand for online research, and most importantly the need to preserve newspapers in an electronic format, the Friends of Marshall Public Library have decided to take on the next level of preservation for Marshall’s history.”

The Marshall Public Library Archive is comprised of a collection of the local newspapers, 1849 to present; high school yearbooks, as early as 1910; and sans fire insurance maps.

The Marshall Public Library was an idea brought to light, by the Walter Burdick Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, back in 1915. This idea was voted on, approved, and realized with the opening of the library in 1916. The original building that housed the library only had one access to the location, an outdoor staircase.

The library, along with the community, knew they needed to improve access and overall experience at the library. Therefore, in 1929, the library moved to a new location that had an indoor staircase. Even though the location still involved stairs to get to the library, it was also one that helped the library save money to be able to expand their offerings.

In 1963, by the Women’s Club of Marshall, the idea of moving the library to a ground location. This would allow for easier access to all within the community. An organization called “Friends of the Library” was formed and worked on making a ground location a reality for the library.

In 1993, the library realized that their was a need for a larger building, as well as a building that would meet the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. The old location did not meet those requirements. During 1995-1996, the library purchased an adjoining building, remodeled, and expanded to meet the needs required.

That show of community support is abundantly clear in the efforts by various community member groups and individuals to raise funds to complete this project. Additionally, multiple grants helped to make this project possible.

“So far the Friends have spent $8,000 on the project and need to raise an additional $5,000 to finish the project. Through generous donations, and the library’s new microfilm Memorial and Honorarium option, progress is being made. The Microfilm Memorial and Honorarium option is available to anyone who wishes to purchase a reel of microfilm in memory or in honor of someone special. For example, if someone you know is celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, you may purchase a reel of microfilm for the year they were married as a way to commemorate their anniversary or perhaps, you would rather purchase a reel to memorialize a loved one. With each purchase, a recognition card is permanently placed on the reel, a letter of commemoration is sent to the family, and a plaque is put on display in the library with the person or group being remembered,” states Alyson Thompson.

Kate Lewis

At one time, taking newspapers and putting them into microfilms was vital in preserving Marshall’s history, it is now vital to preserve Marshall’s history by converting microfilm into digital format. Plus, once microfilm has been digitized it is made available for anyone in the world to see!

~Alyson Thompson

“In order to do this, the library’s current microfilm collection, dating all the way back to the 1800’s, had to be converted into a special digital format. Converting these reels is a slow and costly process. The Friends of the Library have been working on this project since 2012. They started with 145 reels and have completed 88. All completed reels are searchable online by typing in a name, a date or a place at Once on the library’s website click on the local history and genealogy tab and under Clark County History you will find Marshall Public Library’s Digital Archives.”

She recognizes the digital archive is an improved historical resource for the community.

“Our Community History Archive has given the local community easier access to the history they want. By digitizing the local newspapers, people can search for specific things rather than just browsing the microfilm. This increases the success rate of finding what content they are looking for. They may even find content they didn’t even know existed. Even if specifics are unknown, browsing is made easier as well with the digital format.”

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. Alyson also plans to expand what is currently available:

“At this time, the library is working with the Illinois State Library to include our oral histories (more than 200) online and searchable with metadata on the Illinois Digital Archives website. This is made possible through a grant available through the Illinois Heartland Library Association, a library consortium for which Marshall Public Library is a member.”

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.

“As a library, our goal is to make information available to all, and having our local history collection digitized, and available to anyone at any time, has been a priority for us. Breaking down our collection into yearly projects has been helpful, and has enabled us to develop a reasonable budget.”

Advantage Archives partners with communities just like Marshall 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 Marshall 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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