Microforms: A Thing From the Past

microforms-4Microform has been in existence since 1839, but it was not used commercially until the 1920’s.  The first everyday use of commercial microfilm was developed by a New York City banker, George McCarthy.  He was given a patent in 1925 for his Checkograph machine, which created permanent film copies of all bank records. In 1928, Eastman Kodak bought McCarthy’s invention and began to market it under Kodak’s Recordak Division.

In 1935, Recordak expanded and began filming and publishing the New York Times in microfilm.  Then, because of the rapid deterioration of the newsprint, original and numerous difficulties in storage, and use of newspapers, Harvard University Library began its Foreign Newspaper Project.  Today this project continues and the microform masters are stored at the Center for Research Studies in Chicago. This same year also saw the founding of University Microfilms, Inc. (UMI) by Eugene Power. He had previously microfilmed foreign and rare books, but in 1938, his work became a commercial  enterprise as he expanded into microfilming doctoral dissertations.

Now, well over one hundred years later since its invention, Bellevue University Library said its last goodbyes to its microform collection of 420 titles in December, 2015.  It was a long process and many staff members helped to do all of the work that was involved.

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This enormous project began in March of 2015.  The Technical Services Librarian at the time began contacting faculty members about the removal of microforms.  She showed them the information that the Serials Specialist gathered and asked if there was a need for current journal titles to be replaced in another format, preferably online.

While the faculty was working on their project, we reached out to EBSCO and ProQuest and asked them what they could offer us to replace the microform titles we were removing.  Once they sent us their offers, we had to analyze what journal titles we already have in our databases to see if buying a complete package would be the best choice to make.  In the end, our investigation proved that purchasing the titles through individual publishers would be the wisest decision to make.

Within a month’s time, six faculty members responded with seven journal titles that they wanted to keep.  We found the best offers and we ordered them immediately.

Then, the Technical Services Librarian contacted other libraries and institutions to see if they were interested in our microform journal collection.  We also had a microform reader and printer that were available for purchase.  We received offers from Creighton University-Reinert Alumni Memorial Library, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Clarkson College, Peru State College, and the Nebraska State Historical Society.  We boxed up their orders and they removed a total of fifty-three titles from our microform collection by the end of summer.  The Sarpy County Museum purchased the microform reader and printer.  The microform cabinets remain in Bellevue University’s furniture storage in hopes to be repurposed.

The rest of the collection, which was 2,575 boxes of microfilm and approximately 270 lbs. of microfiche, we hoped to have recycled.  We contacted Safety-Kleen, a company recommended by Reinert Alumni Memorial Library.  They quoted us a price and were scheduled to come the first week of December.  However, the day before their arrival, our contact person informed us that  they no longer recycle microforms.  Of course we were shocked by this news.  We had researched the Bellevue area and found them to be the only ones who did recycle microforms.  Since no one else would take them, we had no other option but to discard them. So, the circulation staff spent the weekend boxing up our remaining microform collection and the maintenance staff helped in removing them.

A lot of activity was taking place behind the scenes during this whole weeding process.  There were five places that our holdings had to be removed from for each journal title and their holdings.  The first place was our eCatalog, a local place where a journal is checked into.  Secondly, there is “Journal Holdings,” where you can go to look up the different places that we have a subscription to journals.  Third, is OCLC, Online Computer Library Center, Inc.  OCLC and its member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain World Cat, the largest online public access catalog in the world.  Next, they had to be removed from DOCLINE, which is an automated interlibrary loan request routing and referral system among libraries in the National Network of Libraries  of Medicine.  Lastly, they had to be removed from our accession books, which are records that contain all the titles of books and journals received by a library along with all the necessary details.

All of this work was completed in nine months’ time with the help of several staff members.  Since this was our first time weeding a whole collection at one time, we wanted to carefully consider all the steps necessary to complete this enormous task.  Now that we have successfully completed this task, we are ready to move on to weeding another collection, the bound journals.  Stay tuned to see how we will complete this task and what we will do with the space!

Originally posted in the Freeman/Lozier Library’s quarterly newsletter, More Than BooksV. 19 No. 4, Fall 2016.

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