SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 20, 2013

Swampscott library digitizes town reports

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — There was once a superintendent of moth work in Swampscott, and thanks to a grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, you can read all about him at the Swampscott Public Library’s website.

In the town’s annual report from 1917, Superintendent Everett P. Mudge described his department’s success in battling brown-tail and gypsy moths, which was due in part to spraying 4,800 pounds of lead arsenate into trees.

“To protect our trees means more fruit, and the community depends upon this department more at this time to insure the largest crop against the ravages of all insects,” he wrote.

Mudge also felt that men who climbed trees, often to apply various forms of “tanglefoot” on their trunks to trap insects, should be paid 25 cents more per day than “ground men.”

“There are some good men that cannot climb, but I believe the men that can and will should receive compensation accordingly,” he wrote.

The grant that allows Swampscott’s annual reports to be posted on the Swampscott library’s website, www.noblenet.org/swampscott, also makes them available nationally through the Digital Public Library of America.

The town’s annual reports, which date back to 1852, also give statistics on crime, provide inventories of public properties and list the number of people administered to by the overseer of the poor.

“Everything we have is in there, it’s about three shelves worth of books,” said Susan Conner, assistant director of the Swampscott Public Library. “It started with the Boston Public Library getting a grant to help digitize local resources.

“We could put in a request, any town in the state, to have archives digitized and they would be available on the Internet freely without a password.”

In addition to Swampscott, Ipswich Public Library has had some of its archives digitized, and Beverly Public Library had its collection of Beverly High School yearbooks — dating from 1937 to 2007 — scanned and posted.

Salem State is digitizing material relating to the Salem Fire of 1914 themselves, but Boston Public Library has scanned their catalogs from 1856 to 1960, along with a group of Essex County Lithographs, and the university’s map collection.

“It’s a great program — I can’t say enough good things about it,” said Susan Edward, university archivist and special collections librarian.