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Spotlight: Moline Public Library (Illinois)

The Moline Public Library


The Moline Public Library digitizes Historic Moline newspapers from 1850 to 1969 to give the local community easier access to Moline history.

The Moline Public Library is located in Moline, Illinois, serving a community of nearly 42,000. Moline is located in Northwest Illinois, in Rock Island County. Advantage Archives takes great pride in our rewarding partnership with the Moline 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 Moline Public Library is to “inspire lifelong learning, create community, and transforms lives with quality resources and services.”

Kate Lewis

Our digital collection of historic Moline newspapers connects our community to events that impact and transform their lives. It makes history come to life. People can fill in missing pieces from their memories.

~Lisa Powell Williams

Adult/Young Adult Services Coordinator, Moline Public Library

Lisa Powell Williams, the Adult/Young Adult Services Coordinator at the Moline Public Library, has been with the library for 26+ years. Her MLS is from the University of Illinois. As of 2020, she will have worked in a library for 30 years. The ever-evolving work keeps me engaged and connected with our community, and also, the people. The excellent staff she works with and the great people of Moline and the Quad Cities, whom we serve, keeps her going.

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

Lisa has dedicated herself to ensuring the Moline Public Library is meeting or exceeding the mission of the Public Library, by promoting life-long learning and serving as a community connector. She also thinks that the library will keep moving in the direction of being a “convener and collaborator with community partners.”

“In 2011, our library director (at that time) and I discussed the need to be able to keyword search our local newspapers; we had a further conversation with the publisher of our local paper, who supported our idea of digitizing our newspaper microfilm collection. That’s when we eventually decided to discuss creating our Community History Archive with Michelle Maltas, Account Manager at Advantage Archives. Advantage Archives is well known and respected in the library community and is regionally located, about 1.5 hours from us in Iowa.”

Currently, the Moline Public Library Archive comprises of a collection of various local newspapers from 1850 to 1969. The library is planning on adding more content to it’s archive in the future. They would like to get papers through 1993 digitized and onto their Community History Archive. If there is content you’d like to see, or if you’d like to donate funding to help add more content, please contact the Moline Public Library.

Moline, incorporated in April of 1872, is a city next to the Mississippi River in Illinois with a diverse population of almost 44,000. It is one of the cities, along with East Moline, Rock Island, Davenport, and Bettendorf, that make up the Quad Cities. The Moline Public Library has always been an essential fixture in the community of Moline. The first library officially opened in 1904. Local history and genealogical research have been popular at the library, dating back to the mid-1950s. Patrons not only use the library for research, but can use the library for many other programs and services, including getting passports.

Moline has always been influenced by the cultures of the immigrants that formed the city. Those cultural influences are celebrated with annual events reflecting the diverse heritages within the community. Historical building architectures are another way for you to see the impact of the citizens of Moline.

Moline offers many various recreational facilities, parks, and a beautiful scenic trail along the Mississippi River to help lure potential residents. A wide range of entertainment, an excellent education system, and many potential employers help make Moline a great draw as well.

The show of community support has been outstanding. Everyone involved with this project, from the publishers of the newspapers, supported this project from the beginning. The patrons who utilize this service are excited for the access to showcase the community’s history on the Community History Archive.

“Our Friends of the Moline Public Library are truly the friends in our community who made this project reality and have been our primary funding for the entire digitization project. Based on cost and funding, we’ve been able to digitize a decade each year. We will be able to wrap up our project due to additional funding from the Moline Foundation in 2020,” Lisa tells us.

She goes on to share “Our digital collection of historic Moline newspapers connects our community to events that impact and transform their lives. It makes history come to life. People can fill in missing pieces from their memories.”

Kate Lewis

Our Community History Archive is a valuable research tool for our Moline community because it saves the time of the researcher and makes “lost things found. One example, in working on a collaborative project with a local museum for the upcoming 100th Anniversary of Suffrage in the United States, I found sample ballots for a local election—the men’s ballot and the women’s ballot from 1919. Illinois allowed women to vote in 1891 for school officials and by 1913, Governor Edward Dunne signed the Illinois suffrage bill.

~Lisa Powell Williams

Finding obituaries, articles, sports records, school information, weddings about close family and friends, to add to their family trees, celebrate anniversaries, and providing details for reunions is simple with the Community History Archive. According to Lisa, these are currently the most popular uses of the archive.

“We didn’t proceed with the digitization of our collection in chronological sequence, which is unusual for libraries. When we started in 2011, it was the 70th anniversary of the United States entering WWII, so we opted to digitize the 1940’s first. We wanted our patrons who were seeking information on friends and family who had served, been injured or died in the line of duty to be able to find what they could from our local newspaper microfilm. Our microfilm was not indexed for that period and made locating such information very difficult.”

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

“As other community organizations are aware of or become aware of this tool, it extends the opportunity for them to engage with the community’s historical record because the library has worked to make this record accessible. Over the course of my years at the Moline Public Library there have been many finds that are interesting to the individual seeking the information. It’s been rewarding to observe patrons’ faces, as they express their delight in finding a missing piece of whatever puzzle they were researching. We hear many “guess what I found?” stories. People often find family tree information, connections for reunions, or reminiscing about their high school sports records.”

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:

“Our future digitization plans call for making historic city directories accessible and searchable online is on my wish list, as well as doing the same for some unique local history items.”

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.

“Find the funding and do it. Being able to keyword search many years of newspapers has been an information boon. It’s imperative for libraries to preserve the past in an accessible format to honor those in our communities who came before us, to connect with our community in the present, and extend information to those who will be our community’s future.”

Advantage partners with communities, just like Moline 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 Moline 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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