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Grant helps make library collection Internet accessible

A large collection of materials relating to Brookhaven historywill be accessible through the Internet next year with the help ofgrant money.

The Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Library received a$25,000 United States Library Services and Technology Act grantadministered through the Mississippi Library Commission to assistin the efforts to digitalize materials that have not be madeaccessible to the public.

“We have a lot of really great archival material that we’vecollected over many years,” said Henry Ledet, library director.”We’ve made several efforts to try to organize it, but neversucceeded very well.”

Information included in the collection relates to WhitworthCollege, pictures and drawings of downtown Brookhaven and otherdocuments about Brookhaven’s history.

A large amount of the collection was gathered by Anna WheelerPhillips many years ago in her efforts to start a museum aboutWhitworth. Other mementos were given to the library by arearesidents who wanted the materials to be preserved and accessibleto others.

“All of these things are real valuable because they tell abouthistory, and as time goes on they’ll become more valuable,” saidLedet. “It’s important to preserve them so we don’t lose part ofour history.”

During recent construction at the library, the materials werehoused in cardboard boxes in an office space, but now have beenmoved to a storage room added during construction.

“We do hope to be able to index the whole collection, and wewill use some of the money to buy metal storage containers thatwill help preserve the material,” said Ledet.

The new storage containers will be located on the second floorof the library near the microfiche machines.

The entire collection will not be filed under the grant, butLedet hopes to receive future grants to complete the project. Thefirst phase will bring most of the information about Whitworth todigital form and onto the Internet.

Marti Parker, librarian at Lipsey Middle School, has volunteeredto make a description of all the material so that it will beorganized and easier to find on the Internet.

“Then we’re going to select the images that we want to archiveand ship them off to Hattiesburg to be scanned onto discs,” saidLedet, adding that putting the material on discs will protect itfrom computer crashes.

The discs will be accessible through an Internet search engine,making them available around the world to people with access tocomputers.

“The grant will also provide local access for people who don’thave computers in their home,” said Ledet.

Five computers are now Internet capable at the Lincoln CountyPublic Library, but Ledet hopes to add three more in Lincoln Countyand one in Lawrence County through the grant.

Efforts to organize the materials are already under way. Thefunds from the grant must be spent by June 2003, and Ledet believesa great deal of the work will be complete at that time.

Ledet believes the project to be important to the entire statesince no other small town libraries have taken such a leap into theworld of technology.

“It’s exciting that we’re the first library of our kind to do aproject of this kind, to make these materials accessible throughthe Internet,” he said. “We’re going to hopefully lead the way forthe other small libraries.”