Disbinding bound volumes for scanning

NELA Newspapers stored in a garage before move to storage unit, 2010

NELA Newspapers stored in a garage before move to storage unit, 2010

We knew from the beginning of this project that disbinding was going to be a necessary step in scanning our bound volumes of newspaper. Most of the volumes in our collection are bound very close to the text, leaving very shallow to no margins. We recorded information on binding quality and margin size in our condition survey, and found that even if there was space between the text and binding, the shadow created by the binding would still effect the quality of the image when scanned.

For our representative sample, we chose to have Backstage disbind a 1942 volume of the Highland Park Post-Dispatch, and a 1952-1953 volume of The Occidental (Oxy’s college newspaper) before scanning. See below for sample scans from these volumes after disbinding.

Highland Park Post-Dispatch, January 1, 1942

Highland Park Post-Dispatch, January 1, 1942

Note that some of the paper ripped from the disbinding process, which we understood was a risk. We learned that this damage is due to the binding glue that seeped into the pages of the volume, and the brittle quality of the paper. Fortunately, there was minimal text loss, and the resulting image displays more text than an image taken from this volume if it were bound.

The Occidental, September 26, 1952

The Occidental, September 26, 1952

This volume was bound with staples, as opposed to glue, and it appears that no paper damage occurred in the disbinding process. However, the pages in this volume had been trimmed to fit the binding when it was produced in the 1950s, which will result in a small amount of text loss in our final images, mostly around the tops of the pages.

Stay tuned for sample scans of the microfilm in our collection!


Meet Carmela Gomes: Board member, Highland Park Heritage Trust

carmelaCarmela Gomes is a Highland Park-based Instructional Designer, Educational Consultant, and retired teacher. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Highland Park Heritage Trust, and Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Lummis Day Community Foundation, Inc.

An active community volunteer, she serves as an instructor of the annual educational workshop A River Runs Through It: Charles Lummis and the Culture of the Arroyo Seco. Carmela is a life long learner, musician, and artist with Yarn Bombing Los Angeles.

Carmela has been instrumental in the development of a fundraising approach to continue the long-term digitization and preservation of Northeast LA newspapers. Her deep commitment to the community, and her ability to make fruitful connections between interested parties make her a valuable asset to the continuing NELA Newspapers Project.

Meet Eric Warren: President of the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society

ERIC PICEric Warren is a native of Eagle Rock, California. He was in large part responsible for the initial preservation of the bulk of the NELA Newspaper collection, and is an indispensable member of the NELA Newspapers Pilot Project Leadership Committee.

His varied career came about through several experiences at Eagle Rock High School. He discovered through the theatre that it is possible to be in many places at one time. In Mr. Born’s photography class, he found that pictures are a window into the world for the photographer and his audience.

After brief detours into engineering and economics, it became clear that graduating from Occidental College would be contingent on receiving credit for the time he was spending backstage in the Drama Department. He graduated with that major and went on to Stanford University where he received his MFA in theatre design.

A brief foray into teaching and a longer one into electrical equipment design for the family business convinced him that his love of the theatre should center his career. For several years he freelanced, designing many productions and working as a scenic artist. His theatrical endeavors were crowned by 30 years of design for productions at Caltech.

The desire to earn a living led him to the movie business where, beginning with student productions he designed many low budget films and produced one in the heyday of low budget video. Union membership led to work as a Set Designer and Art Director in film, theme parks and television, most prominently an eleven-year gig on “ER” at Warner Brothers.

Eric continues to live in Eagle Rock and remains involved with community affairs and development and design issues. He is currently the president of the Kiwanis Club of Eagle Rock and a long time board member of the Eagle Rock High School Alumni Association.

Discovery of the remarkable archives of the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society in neglected condition led to the restoration of the collection, his presidency of the Society, and authorship of Arcadia Publishing’s pictorial history “Eagle Rock”. The success of this volume prompted the writing of a sequel, “Eagle Rock: 1911-2011”.

Last year for Oxy’s 125th anniversary he designed “The Road to Eagle Rock” a pictorial exhibit on the college’s four locations in Los Angeles. He is delighted that many years of effort have led to the current grant to research the digitization of our wonderful collection of local newspapers.

Project update: we are scanning!

This is just a quick update that we have shipped our materials off to Pennsylvania to be scanned by Backstage Library Works. We are thrilled that we have gotten to this stage of the project, and can’t wait to see the images!


We will be scanning at least one year from the following titles, as well as several special and anniversary issues:

  • Highland Park Herald
  • Highland Park News-Herald & Journal
  • Highland Park Post-Dispatch
  • Eagle Rock Sentinel
  • Eagle Rock Advertiser
  • El Sereno Star
  • Belvedere Citizen
  • Eastside Journal
  • South Pasadena Journal
  • The Occidental

Say Goodbye to Aneesah Ettress, NNPP Student Worker


While sitting at my microfilm desk enjoying my last cup of coffee, I am reflecting on what I have learned from working on the NELA Newspapers Pilot Project.  I have come up with a top three list that sums up some of what I have learned.

1. Preserving History is Hard Work but Worth It

I wish you all could see not only my task list but Kate’s work plan as well. It is absolutely overwhelming to look at sometimes. There are so many components that go into digitizing a small collection of newspapers. On Kate’s end she has to select which newspapers will get digitized and then has to correspond with the other member’s of the NELA team such as Eric Warren of the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society and Dale Stieber, Occidental College’s Special Collections Archivist. That is one tiny portion of her job and it takes a considerable amount of time.

On my end I have to research copyright status in the catalog of copyright entries for every single title spanning the date ranges it was published, in addition to adding extensive information about each publication in the master inventory.  This is also only a portion of what I do. This work helps make the libraries job of cataloging each publication much easier.

Although, these tasks take some time to complete and there are many changes that can be made, I believe that it will be well worth it at the end of this project because there will be a solid representative sample that can serve as the foundation for digitizing the rest of the NELA Newspapers collection.

2. Newspapers and Microfilm Live and Die

Like everyone I knew that newspapers get old and eventually disintegrate, but when Kate explained it to me she said that they “die”. I never thought of Newspapers having a life-span  and it made me realize how important this project is. Some of the NELA community history would be lost if the time was not taken to digitize the NELA Newspapers.

In addition, I did not know that microfilm dies as well. To begin with I did not know what microfilm was until I started working on the project. It turns out that microfilm, which appears to be just a thicker piece of photo film, is made out of acetate or polyster. The acetate decomposes and therefore “dies” because it is acidic, it also smells like vinegar. Whereas polyster microfilm can stand the test of time pretty well, although it still needs to be cared for and should be digitized as well.

3. Newspapers are like Michael Jackson, they must rest in a temperature controlled room in order to remain intact and in good condition.

I think everyone remembers when we found out that MJ slept in a hyperbaric chamber (turns out it wasn’t true), little did I know that newspapers need the same conditions in order to live a long life. The library of congress provides these specifications “[For preserving newspapers it is best to have ] a cool (room temperature or below), relatively dry (about 35% relative humidity), clean, and stable environment (avoid attics, basements, and other locations with high risk of leaks and environmental extremes)” Retreived from the Library of Congress website.  The temperature is usually controlled by an archivist that knows what they are doing, and this ensures that the newspapers remain as well preserved as Cher.

I hope you enjoyed my top three list and I would like to conclude my final post with saying that the NELA Newspapers Pilot Project was a fun and educational experience for me. I have to say that the portion of the project that I most enjoyed was curating an exhibit with Kate.  I never thought that I would curate an exhibit and I’m so glad to add it to my life experience list. Everything was new to me with this project and it has greatly added to my knowledge of the Occidental College Special Collections Department and Northeast Los Angeles as a whole. I would like to thank Kate Dundon, Anne Mar, and Dale Stieber for placing me on the NELA team and making this not only a summer job but a scholarly endeavor.

Aneesah Ettress

Meet Bob Kieft, Occidental College’s College Librarian

Occidental College Librarian Robert KieftTo continue our series of profiles on members of the NELA Newspapers collaborators, meet Bob Kieft.

Bob has been Occidental’s College Librarian since 2008. While at Occidental he has helped build on the library’s  strengths and created an even more successful and innovative library program. Prior to moving to Occidental College in the fall of 2008, he worked at Haverford College, where he was Director of College Information Resources and Librarian of the College.

During his second year at Occidental, in the fall of 2010, he helped to plan and conduct an IMLS-funded grant to LYRASIS and partners, “Toward a Cloud Collection: Designing a National Framework to Manage Monographs” and was founder with Bernie Reilly, President of the Center for Research Libraries, of a group who meet informally at ALA to discuss cooperative collections issues. He holds a PhD from Stanford University and an MLIS from the University of California, Berkeley.

For the NELA Newspapers Pilot Project, Bob assisted in writting the John Randolf Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation grant.  He will continue to be involved with the project through its completion and is excited to be a part of the NELA Newspapers Pilot Project Team.