Today’s news:

Queens Library archives prepare to go digital

Some of the Queens Public Library’s historical pieces will be entering the 21st century soon as the nation’s largest library system launches an online collection of its oldest books, photos and periodicals this spring.

The library has rebranded its Long Island Division at its Central Branch as the “The Archives at Queens Library.” The new name ushers in an online database, set to go live in a few months, which will include digital access to more than 4,000 photographs that date back to the late 19th century.

John Hyslop, the digital asset manager for the Queens Public Library, said although the task took many hours and much manpower, it was worth it because the materials will now reach millions of library patrons.

“I am very excited because we will be giving our customers what they want — Internet access to the library’s unique and valuable documentation of Queens and Long Island history which they can see in their homes, schools or offices,” he said in a statement.

One of the first pieces to go online sometime in 2010 will be the Hal B. Fullerton Photographs, the library said. Between 1880 and 1910, Fullerton took nearly 400 shots of Long Island neighborhoods, including old train stations, cars and houses.

The next projects for the archives will be photos of the development of the Queens Library since 1880 and the “Borough Presidents” collection, which includes 1,916 images of various historical events over the last century.

Photos are not the only items that will be getting the digital makeover. The library said it will also be posting documents online, including the papers of Wilson and Jane Rantus.

The black couple collected everything from receipts, bills and letters between 1834 and 1883 and those documents are the only existing records of a minority family living in Long Island at that time.

Those who worked on the digitizing process, such as Mary Grace DeSagun, the project’s imaging technician, said handling the archives helped to educate them about the legacy of the borough.

“I can see how the community has changed. I’ve learned about digitizing glass plates, 35 mm negatives. Some of them go back to the 1920s or 1940s,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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