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Reference Question of the Week – 8/10/14

   August 16th, 2014

Rolling Stone on microfilmA patron came into our branch library and told the staff that she participated in a "Reading Olympics" program at the library as a kid, in 1980 "or sometime when she was in school," and wanted to know if there a photo in the newspaper. She thought she remembered seeing one, of a group shot of all the participants. Our branch doesn't have much for local history resources, so the question was transferred to me at the main library.

We do have newspaper microfilm from those years, but I'm reluctant to start searches like that with such a vague date reference. However, the library has done a great job for decades of keeping scrapbooks of all library-related news clippings, flyers, newsletters, and things like that, so that was where I started. I flipped through the scrapbooks from 1979-1981, but sadly didn't see anything related to a Reading Olympics. Lots of other stuff though, which made me think that the Reading Olympics didn't happen at the public library.

It's possible it was a school or school library program, or with the Scouts or some other group, just not the public library. I called the branch back and gave them the news, and also that if the patron wanted to come in to use the newspaper microfilm I can help get them started.

I felt bad about not finding what they were looking for, but, as often happens with research, I found other interesting things. One was the Winter 1980 library newsletter, with an article about buying a microfilm machine and microfilm collection.

This caught my eye because we're buying a new microfilm machine this year (the second since this one in 1980, but the first I've purchased). Back then, the machine and collection cost $5000; this year the ScanPro 2000 we're getting is about $7000. Also back then, printing cost $0.10; our current price is $0.15. Inflation!

Other interesting articles just on the cover of the newsletter are:

  • the library is advertising for customers for its own print shop
  • the library serves as a carpool center

Two great ways to be a community center. Nice job, 1980 Chelmsford Library!

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3 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 8/10/14”

  1. The Librarian With No Name Says:

    According to the first inflation calculator I could find, your print jobs are roughly half as expensive today as they were in 1980. Technology!

  2. The Librarian With No Name Says:

    Also, it looks like the elementary schools in Chelmsford participated in the March of Dimes Reading Olympics, at least in 1984. According to the annual report linked in my name, the program took place in February, which might help nail down a smaller span of dates for your patron to search.

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @The Librarian: I figured we were doing pretty well on the print costs, although another area library does charge just $0.10 and some patrons complain about our $0.15. And good find with the March of Dimes – that patron hasn’t come in yet, but I’ll take this and see what else I can find before she does. Thanks.