— By BRIAN SMITH
Preserving and expanding access to culture and history is the focus of a grant the Weatherford Public Library is hoping to extend.
The PEACH program is an effort by the Parker County Library Association, in conjunction with local history groups, museums and other parties, to digitize and make available online historical documents, maps and photos related to Parker County history at the website www.mypcla.com.
All the digital information is then usable by patrons of all Parker County libraries, including East Parker County, Springtown, Azle and Millsap.
WPL Director of Library Services Dale Fleeger said the grant from the Texas Library Association is in its third and final year. He said most of the grant monies are used for two part-time staff members, who work a combined 38 hours a week on digitizing and acquiring new material and digitizing what the library already has.
Fleeger said he is working on attempting to get some private funds to keep the program going past the September 2014 grant expiration date or finding money in his budget to keep at least 19 hours a week for the pair. “We’re looking into other options right now,” Fleeger said. “We want to continue it, but we’re going to need some sort of independent funding to do so.”
Most of the funds for this year are going toward staffing. Fleeger said continuing the program will allow the PCLA the chance to continue preserving history.
“We’re preserving items that in many cases can’t be touched for fear of falling apart,” Fleeger said.
Cataloging librarian Christy Bellah and PEACH digitization clerk Amberley Parker say the program is a great way to learn about history. Parker said actually holding a document from centuries ago means so much more than hearing someone give a lecture on it.
Some of the books and photos being digitized are truly fascinating, including boxes of negatives from the Weatherford Democrat, can be scanned and the negatives turned into positive images which can then be saved for a lifetime, Bellah said.
Not only are written histories being scanned and digitized but oral histories with long time residents, elected officials and veterans who have firsthand knowledge of people, events and eras are being gathered and digitized as well by Bellah and Parker. Recordings of the oral histories canthen be able to be accessed by PCLA users the same as documents.
Another is a Parker County Treasurers Book from 1856-1871 and also a book naming the first school districts in the area, which are all indexed except for the then-segregated black schools.
Materials can be loaned to the library for scanning and given back upon completion. Any donation of materials will require a Deed of Gift form assigning ownership to the materials to the city of Weatherford.
For information on the PEACH program or anyone wishing to help with documents or oral history, contact Bellah or Parker at 817-598-4160 or via email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.