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Madawaska school history goes digital

MADAWASKA, Maine — Current and former students of Madawaska Middle High School will soon be able to flip through every yearbook from 1950 until 2018 with the help of inmates in Oklahoma prison system.

This is not the first time that the Oklahoma based rehabilitation program has worked with yearbooks from the Valley. In 2017, inmates affiliated with Oklahoma Correctional Industries (OCI) worked on digitizing the Long Lake Public Library’s yearbook collection, which librarian Deborah Lavoie then uploaded to the St. Agatha library’s website.  

“Once that project was complete, I contacted OCI again and asked if they would digitize the Madawaska yearbook collection — which they did,”  said Lavoie, who also works as a librarian at the Madawaska Middle High School.

The service provided by OCI is part of a rehabilitation program for offenders. OCI boasts a “state-of-the-art software solution” for document archiving and conversion, and completes the service for free for libraries, high schools, alumni associations and historical preservation groups.

“Here at the middle/high school, our present students love to look back at the yearbooks and find their parents or grandparents,” Lavoie said. “They enjoy the nostalgia, and these digitized books can be used for presentation, such as at a class reunion.”

Once copies of the printed yearbooks are in hand, OCI inmates begin the “labor-intensive, time consuming process” of prepping, scanning, indexing and organizing the documents, according to the OCI website. They then return the print books with a CD containing the scanned images, indexed data and retrieval software. A typical CD can hold 15,000 documents or more.

Under the current library system, paper copies of yearbooks have been lost or returned damaged, according to Lavoie.

She said that digitizing the yearbooks will help protect and preserve them “for a very long time.”

Lavoie plans to upload the files to the Madawaska Middle/High School website, over the summer and is looking forward to current and former students — and anyone else with an interest — having online access to yearbooks from 1950 thru 2018.

“This will allow those students to delve deeper into different yearbooks,” Lavoie said. “Sort of a very rudimentary Facebook if you will.”

Lavoie said she would “highly recommend” OCI’s services to other schools and public libraries.

“It was so easy,” she said. “OCI paid for shipping both ways, and this process didn’t cost the school anything. This is a great way to preserve a collection.”

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