Upgraded website gives global access to local history

With just a few keystrokes and clicks of a mouse, Jackson County history content is avail-able online.

The Jackson County Public Library Local History Page originated in 2002, but it’s now updated with even more items at the same address — jacksoncountyhistory.org.

“I think the good thing about this format is they can access it from where they are. They don’t have to make a trip here,” said Janet Hensen, information services assistant at the Seymour library who is involved in the website project.

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“We have genealogists who want to come here and look at our records,” she added. “But the more things that we’re able to get out there online, people can access it from wherever they are. We want them to come here, but we also want them to access this information from anywhere in the world.”

Since the new website went live in October, library staff and volunteers have added a lot of items to the site.

They are able to track who is looking at their site, and Hensen said that recently showed 23 percent of users were in Seymour, while the rest were from a variety of places.

“I hope that what we’re doing is taking that great information that was on the first one, the original one, and adding to it so there’s a lot out there for people to use,” she said.

There are two parts to the “About” section of the site.

One gives credit to those who provided items and photos and project partners, assistants and technical support for the original site that went live in 2002. County historian Charlotte Sellers was the project coordinator.

The other section lists technical assistants and support people for the new site. Becky Brewer, the library’s head of information services, is the project coordinator, while Hensen is the assistant.

Ben Boyer, the library’s information technology specialist, helped library staff use Omeka, a free management system for online digital collections, to add items to the site. Hensen and fellow information services assistant Kathi Linz also are using Dublin Core to catalog things on the site.

One way to search the site is by topic of interest among nearly 30 categories, including books, maps, photographs and books. That’s also known as the Collection Tree.

Some categories have more content than others since the site is a work in progress, Hensen said.

“We’ve got a lot of stuff right now that has been scanned, that has been put into databases by volunteers, that we’re working on getting uploaded,” she said. “This is one of those projects that’s never going to be done ever.”

One category unique to the site is Riverview Cemetery records from 1982 to 2004. The library received cards from the cemetery office, and a volunteer typed all of the information into a database, which is a Google document that has been shared so anyone on the Internet can open it.

“I’ve talked to the guys at the cemetery department, and they were working on a project like this, too, so we’re hoping to get more information from them and expand it beyond those years,” Hensen said.

Another feature allows users to view yearbooks from Shields High School 1898 to Seymour High School 2013. There also are some from Crothersville High School, and they are looking at adding other county schools.

Hensen said a prison in Oklahoma received a grant and let libraries across the country know that it could have prisoners scan yearbooks and put them on discs for free. The schools and the library each received a set.

Seymour yearbooks from 1970 to 2013 have been compressed to PDF files, and library staff members are working on getting that done for other years. But again, that takes time, Hensen said.

Back on the home page, visitors also can look through recently added items.

The newest feature on the site is exhibits of Jackson County Public Library history.

“We hope to add more to that,” Hensen said. “That’s something we are just starting to work on now.”

On every page of the site, there is a search box along with contact information in case visitors have any questions.

Hensen said all of the work put into the new site has been worth it.

“Not being local, for me, I have been able to learn a lot more about my new home, about Jackson County, about the history,” the Iowa native said. “If you don’t find something on the site, keep checking back because we’re continually putting things out there.”

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Check out the new Jackson County Public Library Local History Page at jacksoncountyhistory.org.

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Jackson County Public Library is looking for volunteers to help scan items for its local history website.

Stop by the circulation desk at the Seymour Library, 303 W. Second St., for an application.