Thursday, June 30, 2016

Who Uses Microfilm Anyway?

As you read that title, you may be asking yourself these questions: “What is microfilm?” or “The library still has microfilm as I haven’t used that since I was in elementary school?"

Microfilm
A reel of microfilm

Microfilm is the most popular type of microforms. It is created as a camera takes a picture of an item, reduces the size of the image, and it is printed on film. This film is considered a preservation standard, and it will last 500 years. Birmingham Public Library (BPL) has an amazing microforms collection totaling 700,000 items, and you may be thinking that no one uses this obsolete medium anymore. Patrons use on average over 700 items a month, and this is the only way patrons can access older editions of local newspapers. The Microforms and Government Documents staff created an obituary index to help patrons locate the obituary of a deceased ancestor, as most of the Birmingham newspapers are not indexed until the 1970s. Each month they add new entries, and it is an ongoing project. BPL’s obituary index averages over 9,000 hits a month.


Digital Microfilm Scanner
New Viewscan III digital microfilm scanner

Over time with high use, our equipment used to read and print microforms has become worn out, and we applied for a major grant from the Alabama Public Library Service, which administers Alabama’s allocation of federal money received through the Library and Science and Technology Act. With the grant money, we purchased three Viewscan III digital microfilm scanners. The image quality is unparalleled, and you can touch up images to make them even better. Besides printing, you can save your images to a flash drive in the following formats: JPEG, PDF, TIFF, and PNG. The answer to the question about who uses microfilm is our patrons. Come and try out the new digital microfilm scanners today!

Laura Gentry
Southern History Department
Central Library

No comments: