History librarian Erin McCauley has always lived in the printed word, now she’s entering the digital universe. While there, she’s bringing to light the people and events in Oceanside many would leave to obscurity. She’s doing this though a $4,000 grant given to the Oceanside Library to digitize editions of the Oceanside Beacon from 1957 to 1984 by the Long Island Library Resources Council’s Committee for the Preservation of Local History. The Beacon was absorbed in 2001 by Richner Communications when it acquired the ailing Nassau Community Newspaper Group.
The now vintage Oceanside Beacon editions are a time capsule of Oceanside’s past, holding the biggest news, local announcements and advertisements. And the library has 18 bound paper volumes of them, consisting of 1,500 issues totally around 20,000 pages. McCauley, who in charge of the digitization project, has seen and accounted for every page. She particularly loves old announcements, either for weddings, military service, obituaries, graduation and college. “Local things that you couldn’t find elsewhere,” she said.
When asked how she felt about being instrumental in the Oceanside Library receiving this grant, McCauley said “I am thrilled that we have been awarded this grant! The Oceanside Beacon is an amazing treasure trove of nearly 30 years of Oceanside’s history. Now, not only will our bound paper volumes be preserved in a sustainable format, they will also be made keyword searchable and accessible to everyone.”
The Beacon is a welcome addition to the library’s other local online resources, which currently includes all old Oceanside High School yearbooks and photos of Oceanside dating back 100 years. All the time, McCauley said, patrons come into the library asking about house and business history, maps as well as genealogy help.
“This is where we would like to go to be able to find that information,” she said, and since it is digitized and keyword searchable the tool will be able to answer patrons’ questions much faster. “Oceanside is important,” McCauley said passionately, “and it has been important, and we need to share that and make it available to everybody who wants to research it, because I’ve had calls from across the country” asking about it.
“Erin McCauley was instrumental in this entire project,” said Chris Marra, the library’s director. “Her work in cataloging and preserving our local history continues to be outstanding.” She also thanked the Oceanside/Island Herald publishers for providing permission to the library to convert their hard copies of the Beacon to digital form and making them accessible online. Subscription for the year was $2.
Assistant director Tony Iovino, said the bound books are a typical thing for libraries to have to allow patrons to research. Flipping through the pages, one page caught his eye. “This is from Thursday, November 10, 1960. It’s after the presidential election,” showing the oxidized beige page to McCauley and Marra. “Wow. It talks about how Nixon actually won Oceanside, as far as the vote goes and Becker and then some of the State Senate races, the local races, but it’s interesting how what was a national story I’m sure and they made it local.”
McCauley said she had a lot of support and thanked multiple local libraries that helped pool their efforts and guide her along the digitization process, having done it before.
Iovino said the National Library System is a model for agency cooperation. “We share,” he said, “we have multiple meetings every month on every different level, to discuss cooperation and to share ideas, share facilities.”
“The Long Island Library Resources Council provides a number of grant opportunities for libraries, historical societies and museums on Long Island,” said Tim Spindler, executive director at the Long Island Library Resources Council. “The digitization grants are available to improve access to historical materials. Many public libraries have local newspapers in their collections. These local newspapers are very important in documenting the history of their local community.”
Spindler added that the organization as funded 25 projects in the past five years and that the digitized newspapers are made available to the public for free on the New York Historic Newspapers site and other materials are available through the New York Heritage site.
The digitized copies will be upload to the New York State Historic Newspaper page, where people will be able to search it.
The library anticipates the project will be finished in early 2023, since the grant covers about a quarter of what needs to be done and the library will need to use resources to complete the process.
If you have any Oceanside memorabilia McCauley would love to hear from you. Call her at (516) 766-2360, Ext. 337.