As it turns out, the Archival Center is better off than similar venues at 15 surrounding public libraries, according to a survey by head librarian Cynthia Dadd.
“We wanted to get a sense of what other communities were doing,” Dadd said. “I’ve always thought it was so great that we’re able to have staffing, so we wanted to see how typical that was and found out it wasn’t typical at all.”
Unlike the Archival Center, which has a full-time staff for a total of five-and-a-half days a week, Dadd said other libraries often rely on reference librarians to gather material for patrons and require people to make an appointment.
The Archival Center may also see next year the first step toward digitizing the collection of microfilm, which, for example, holds the Newburyport Herald (1797-1844) and the Newburyport Daily News (1889-present). Dadd said she will explore sources to fund the initial stage of the project, estimated at $15,000-$20,000.
“Most of what we do is not upgrading material, but making people aware of what we do have,” Dadd said.
To Gill, the thrill of the job is not only the documents themselves, but the spirit of collaboration among the patrons and the volunteers.
On a recent Friday morning, Herbert Crooks, a local artist, stopped by to give one of his paintings — eggs lined up on bar stools — to genealogist Cecile Pimental, who had helped him the day before, researching ships built in Newburyport and surrounding areas.The gesture nearly made Gill speechless.
Said Gill, “We rarely get credit so for her to get a painting painted with her favorite color is ... it’s a big deal.”