OTTUMWA — The Wapello County Board of Supervisors approved another contribution to the Ottumwa Public Library's newspaper-digitization project during Tuesday's meeting at the courthouse.

The latest installment will cover the years 1963 to 2012, at a cost of just under $48,000. That cost is on top of the $43,000 the county has already contributed to the project that began with Ottumwa Courier newspapers from the 19th century to the mid-20th century. The Courier's searchable database became active in 2013, so the digitization process fills in the gap.

The newspapers, once they are digitized, will be easily accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, and easily searchable, similar to a Google search. Advantage Archives has been handling the digitization project, which includes scanning and cropping of microfilm, as well as indexing images by city, state, title, date and page.

Advantage Archives also is working with the secondary roads department to scan all large format drawings, as well as the recorder's office to scan mortgages and deeds.

"We're just really grateful for the support from the board of supervisors on this project," library director Sonja Ferrell told the supervisors. "The thing about microfilm is that it gets flaky and dry, and once its destroyed, the records are destroyed.

"With the digitization, not only are we preserving it, but we're actually making it easier to search. It's an amazing technological advancement."

The supervisors, whenever they've contributed to the project, have cited a public good that the library is doing for residents, and echoed those sentiments again.

"I think it's just imperative that we complete the project and not just leave it hanging there," supervisor Jerry Parker said. "We've had a good working relationship with the library, because they don't have the funding to do this. I don't look at this as a library project, but as a community project we're all going to benefit from."

"This is one thing where there is no downside," Parker said. "Sometimes we piecemeal these things and never see them completed. Here's a chance to complete it."

In other business:

• The supervisors approved the closure and vacation of part of 185th Avenue near Kirkville. The county conservation board owns both sides of the road, and the action is in conjunction with the mine reclamation project.

"I'd just like to point out that me, (conservation director) Rick (Tebbs), (county engineer) Jeff (Skalberg) and property owners met at the library in Eddyville. We went down the property, and it's really almost nothing more than a cow path right now," supervisor Brian Morgan said. "Vacating it I think is going to be better for everybody. It's a good thing and one less less to take care of."

— Chad Drury can be reached at, and on Twitter @ChadDrury


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