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Voters' Quandary: Could History Be Forgotten At Either Library Site?

At the existing downtown library, community newspapers sit in a back closet loose, not archived. Does either project contain a provision for archives?

When voters decide August 7 on the downtown library location, preserving history should be a priority. 

In a back room of the current downtown library sits a stack of history. It's history that affects me personally; I helped make it. In those stacks are the early editions of the Renton Reporter from 1995 to 2000.

A librarian showed me the location of the newspapers and told me they had no money to digitize or microfilm the papers (the current practice for most publications since the 1970s). The cost to microfilm papers is between $5 and $6 dollars a page. The Renton Reporter averaged 24 pages an edition.

My questions: If the Piazza location is selected, could those newspapers be thrown away with the reduction of the building size compared to the current location? Conversely, if the library stays over the Cedar River could those newspapers be thrown away during construction? The current location of those newspapers is planned as the new entrance to the proposed Cedar River site.

The first edition of the Renton Reporter was printed by then-publisher Denis Law (now Mayor of Renton). I was the paper's staff photographer from 1997 to 2004. I captured moments of every day life in Renton. Those are among the many historical documents we'd lose if there isn't money or storage for archives.

Other papers including the King County Journal Newspaper were microfilmed. Why not the Renton Reporter?

To this day, I still take time to view the old editions of the Renton Record-Chronicle (bound and microfilm editions). Today's news is tomorrow's history. Not having the early editions of the local newspaper doesn't make sense for people who want to know where we've been.

Because that will help us make decisions about where we're headed. 

Ila H August 07, 2012 at 02:15 PM
These papers are too important to be discarded. Yes, the Renton Museum has old newspapers. Could these be duplicates? I hope that KCLS will check that out. I also agree with Barbara. There are people with money in Renton who should be more than willing to help with this concern. I would also help out.
Stuart Avery August 07, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Preserving Renton History needs to be a priority. I will propose that a volunteer committee be established to oversee this and that a non-profit is established for tax deductible donations from the community to aid in whatever effort is necessary to accomplish the effort. I don't trust KCLS to care enough about it, so it will be up to Renton to act, rescue and archive our history. I would suggest that any left over campaign funds from BOTH library location campaigns would be an appropriate seeding for such an effort. I will certainly suggest it to our 'Citizens for the Cedar River Library' campaign. I am also concerned about the dedication plaques from the original 1966 construction and the later 1986 remodel be preserved, and that other memorials and art related to the library be retained or incorporated into the new renovation work. This is also something that the Renton History Museum may be able to partner with the community to accomplish.
Elizabeth P. Stewart August 07, 2012 at 05:25 PM
The Renton History Museum already has an almost complete run of Renton newspapers from the 1920s to 1981, and a nearly complete run of the Renton Reporter, although they are very fragile and do not stand up well to hard use. Preservation of archival materials and other collections is a central part of our mission, and the Museum has made incredible progress in improving collections care in the past six years, undertaking annual projects such as renovating new collections storage space, inventorying collections, digitizing photographs, as well as other general improvements. As Dave Nelson points out, however, collections care is expensive and cannot be accomplished without the support of the community. The Museum funds collections care through grants, donations, and the sale of digital images, but every museum struggles to find funds for preservation, a little understood part of museums' missions. I hope the community's interest in heritage continues, because this important work cannot be accomplished without the support of our community.
Kathy Lefferts August 08, 2012 at 03:30 PM
As a professional in the Records Retention business, I find the estimate of $5 a page for electronic preservation of a newpaper to be very high. Scanning is cheap, even for larger pages. This is what the Internet is for: preserving these materials at small cost and wide distribution.
Dave Beedon August 09, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Count me in as a potential money donor.

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