Letter to the editor
To the EDN:
Yesterday I heard news that made me angry. The microfilm reader at the library has been broken. I am registered on the Internet to search for births, marriages and deaths in Emmet County. Most of the requests I receive are for copies of obituaries published in Estherville. I currently have five requests for obits that I cannot now provide.
The Estherville Public Library has microfilm copies of all the Estherville newspapers published as well as the Federal Census records for Emmet County. The film reader and the films were available to anyone that wanted to access them. In recent times, the lens from the microfilm reader has been kept at the library checkout desk as a means to keep the lens out of the hands of mischievous youngsters.
Some of the people that use these services have been guilty of folding the ends of the film to aid the process of feeding the film into the reader; this should never be done. The fact that people were damaging the films by folding the ends was reported to library staff but no steps were taken to make sure this did not continue to happen. Many films are now damaged and recently the reader was broken when someone fed in one of these flawed films.
The microfilms should be copied to CDs to be accessed on a pc. I am sure this is a costly process but it should be done because the older tapes are becoming brittle and because there has been no procedures put in place to protect the films from irresponsible users. In the interim, the microfilm reader must be repaired or replaced so people can access the data on the films. Loading of the films might need to be restricted only to Library staff. Due to limited staffing, microfilm use might need to be restricted to limited hours.
I expect that some action be taken regarding this matter as quickly as possible and I hope I never learn who it was that was damaging the films either through ignorance or a lack of concern for others.
Mary Ellen Sicard