They were the face books before Facebook -- your high school year book. The smiles, the hair, the clubs, the memories -- all here -- captured year by year. But starting this year, Rutland area graduates do not have to go digging at the local library to take a trip back in time.
"We have got to be thinking about the future because it is moving forward and this library needs to move with it," said Paula Baker with the Rutland Free Library.
As part of their plan to stay relevant in a web-based world, the library teamed up with the tech savvy Rutland Historical Society, which focuses on preserving documents. They decided year books would be their first project. "We just thought yearbooks would touch the entire region. People use them all the time -- not just when they graduate -- for reunions, finding classmates, remembering and connecting," Baker said.
Volunteers are tasked with scanning the pages of the year books donated to the library. They make sure the image is properly aligned and that the names match the faces. Then they are pulled up on the computer for some slight editing. "I try to improve the quality of the yearbook. It may not be necessary with later ones, but the earlier ones the print has faded, the pictures are faded," said Carolynn Ranftle with the Rutland Historical Society.
Once the entire book has been digitally imported into the computer, it's sent back to the library for final review. "My part is the quality control step, and I'm enjoying it a lot," said the library's Randall Smathers.
Smathers goes through and essentially "tags" everyone's name to the pictures -- much like Facebook, but this way works for the whole web. "Every part of the page is essentially a searchable item. It's not just a page, you can really sort of lift your part of the history out of the year book," he said.
Smathers said it's great for a Google search, unless you're trying to lie about your age. The year book's start all the way back to the early 1900's, and volunteers said they have enjoyed flipping through the pages in time. "I looked at my class year -- and I did not go to school here -- but the girls all looked the same here as they did where I went to school in Michigan," Ranftle said.
And if you look hard enough, you might even find a familiar face here at Channel 3 -- woven into the pages of Rutland High School history. I'm still bracing for when those hit the web.
Project managers expect most people will enjoy having access to these pictures, but maybe not those trying to forget their formative years. "It is true, there are probably going to be some people who will not be thrilled to see their picture there," Ranftle said.
And they expect the entertainment will not be limited to the locals. "Even for someone from outside like me, there is this terrific social connection, so it is a lot like a social network in that regard," Smathers said.
The first 10 year books will be available very soon and they hope to have the project wrapped up by the end of the year. So, Google searches beware...
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