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Preserving the past
Monroe Public Library Director Suzann Holland catalogs a postcard of Ole Olson from 1933 for the Special Collections items at the library April 4. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)

Special Collections

View Monroe Public Library's Special Collections at

MONROE - Rather than sift through old, dusty boxes looking for an old photo or document, the Monroe Public Library's Special Collections allows people to find items just by scrolling on their computers or smartphones.

Over the last year, library employees have been scanning, preserving and cataloging its vast collection of historical documents and photographs. The library currently has about 219 items available to browse through on its website and at least 1,500 more to add, not including the new items it's consistently acquiring.

"How many people are going to come in and ask to see the Cheese Days scrapbooks from the '20s?" said Suzann Holland, library director. "They're probably not going to think about it. Now they can sit at home, in their pajamas, and drink coffee and review those things."

Library Assistant Jeff Pond said the process goes beyond just scanning items and posting them online - preservation is also a priority. Items are sorted through, repaired if needed, digitized, researched and tagged with searchable keywords.

"In my mind, it takes it from research assignment to just fun," Pond said. "You can easily discard the pieces that don't matter and get to the really fun stuff."

For Pond, who has lived in Monroe a couple of years, the project has given him the opportunity to learn major historical events in the area such as the accident that killed nine Juda students, known as the Juda Angels, in 1967. It's also enabled him to learn about Green County's quirkier past, like the complete history of Monroe's barbershop quartets and how a 1960s Dairy Queen wearing the same dress - that she didn't sew herself - multiple times could be quite the scandal.

Once the items have been reviewed and digitized, Holland said they will be put in acid-free conditions and stored in a special room.

The Special Collections inventory includes a postcard and press photo archive, photographs of the Juda Angels, photos of the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado and Cheese Days photos. Holland said they've also used old newspaper articles as support materials for the items they have.

Holland said she's especially excited about some realtor ads from the 1950s the library has acquired. It also has a number of scrapbooks made by Emory Odell, publisher of the Monroe Evening Times in the 1920s, who made elaborate scrapbooks for each Cheese Days. She said she's looking forward to eventually compiling a Cheese Days collection.

Holland was inspired to start the collection after being impressed by the historical items the library already had.

"We have a large yearbook collection, and if the library burns down, the yearbooks go with it," Holland said. "By digitizing things, it's a way of preserving them so even if we did lose the whole building and everything in it, that content would still be available to people."

The project has been funded through a grant by the South Central Library System and the Dr. Fred W. and Alice J. Kundert Fund. The SCLS also provided the library with the Industry 300 scanner, a large scanner that makes it easier to digitize large historical books, for three months.

Pond has lost track of how many hours he's spent scanning items for the collection but finds it worthwhile.

"It's been a chance for people to see this is an opportunity to take what they have and make it practical and make it forever," he said. "And that's been really wonderful."

The Special Collections can be found at