On any day at our library in Market Square, a passerby in Reference Services will probably notice a handful of patrons sitting at several large black and white machines, staring down intently on an illuminated projection screen, studiously taking notes as they work away. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, I’m writing about microfilm readers, which allow these patrons to access a whole range of sources on the aptly named microfilm reels. The Saint John Free Public Library has one of the largest collections of microfilm reels in the province, a collection that includes Maritime newspapers dating from the 1700s to the present, and an extensive inventory of city directories, church records, birth and death registries, and census data, among others.
Generally, there are three reasons why a patron will find himself in front of a microfilm reader. Firstly, there are the history buffs. Our collection of reels provides access to more than 100 different newspaper titles from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, along with a handful from Toronto, New York City, and Eastport, Maine. Patrons (from university professors to elementary school students) can use these newspapers for serious historical research, including essays, books, and school projects.
Secondly, some patrons come as genealogy enthusiasts. Our collection provides genealogists with the necessary records to help trace their family history. From births to deaths, baptisms to marriages, and all milestones and record-taking in between, our records contain the story of New Brunswick’s and Saint John’s forefathers. Why not come and see what our records can tell you about your ancestors?
Last but not least, we have the casual carousers. Many folks like to find their birth announcements, or print the front page of the local paper from the day they were born. Others like to look at the old advertisements, reminiscent of a bygone era, or read articles concerning the issues of the day, often not much different than those we have today. In one article I recently found from an 1883 edition of the Saint John Globe, a concerned citizen from the former Town of Portland, who had recently seen his area merge with the much larger City of Saint John, complained of how poorly the city was governed in comparison to the former town. Indeed, such an editorial conjures up parallels to the present, when folks from the Valley protest a proposed amalgamation to the city. Regardless of what one finds though, a search through our newspaper collection will certainly bring out something of interest.
Once a patron finds an interesting item, he can take the reel to one of our reader/printers, where he or she can get a copy of the article or record via one of two options. If you’re old school, you may prefer to purchase a paper copy of the newspaper article or record for 50₵. However, for those computer-savvy patrons, we now provide a computerised option whereby the patron can scan a copy to their USB thumb drive. This method is compact, free of charge, and easily transferrable.
Microfilm gives you the chance to connect to our past in an easy to navigate method. Maybe it’s time you pay a visit to our microfilm collection! For those who already have, what’s your favourite discovery?