Records library open while documents digitized


JASPER — The records library in the basement of the Dubois County Courthouse is staying open while documents are scanned and digitized.

County Clerk Amy Kippenbrock and County Recorder Jackie McPherron told the Dubois County Commissioners this week that they are working on scanning their departments’ documents. The ultimate plan is to make those available to the public online. But that is not yet completed, Kippenbrock explained.

There has been discussions in previous years about closing the library. But that was contingent on making the documents contained in the library available by other means, like online.

“We’re not quite ready to reduce the number of hours,” Kippenbrock told the commissioners. “It would be more of an inconvenience to the public.”

The plan is to leave the library open during normal hours, which are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. They talked to current records librarian Rosie Stewart as well as with local researchers who use the library regularly before making this determination, Kippenbrock said.

McPherron has scanned the recorder’s office documents, including the ones stored in the records library. She had a company come in earlier this month to scan all of the county’s land records and deeds. They scanned documents around the clock for seven days, McPherron said. A total of 397 600-page books were scanned, as well as other documents, like military records.

“It was a pretty big project,” McPherron said Tuesday. She used money from her perpetuation fund to pay for the scanning, so no tax revenue was used, she said.

By having the records digitized, a copy of them can be stored locally and elsewhere, thus being preserved.

“Back in 1839 the county courthouse burned down, so all of our records from 1839 and older were destroyed,” McPherron said. “We don’t want that to happen again.”

The documents are on microfilm, but the film is old.

“If we have some catastrophe happen and our documents got damaged, we’re not sure if we could recover those documents from the microfilm,” McPherron said. “We don’t know if the microfilm is any good, and it would be painstaking to do that.”

The documents will eventually be available to the public online. They are currently being indexed and checked for accuracy.

“The pages will also be grouped into their actual documents,” McPherron said. “And all this takes time. But the first phase has been done, where they are preserved.”

The clerk’s office is also planning to have its files scanned.

After all the documents are scanned, they will discuss the idea of reducing the time the records library is open, Kippenbrock said.

“Once we have the documents that they look at or need regularly available online, it will still be a transition,” she said. “But currently, we don’t have that to offer at full capacity.”

A new librarian will be in the library next year, as current librarian Rosie Stewart is retiring at the end of this year.

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