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April 5, 2012


Photo (l to r): Leslie Kelly, UMFK’s director of Information Services; Andrew Birden, Fiddlehead Focus’ owner and publisher; and Wilson G. Hess, UMFK President.

In one of the most significant acquisitions in its 47-year history, the University of Maine at Fort Kent's Waneta T. Blake Library has been deeded the digital collection of Fiddlehead Focus newspaper, marking the first time that the library has received a significant – and ongoing – collection of local and regional news.

Blake Library has created a repository for the gift, thereby allowing anyone with an internet connection, anywhere in the world, to access the newspaper's data of St. John Valley history and culture.

The gift is the complete online collection of Fiddlehead Focus, excluding the last six months. It holds all electronically-published articles since the digital newspaper began publishing on June 23, 2010. It also contains images, puzzles, comics, the local police blotter, and more.

“This is the first opportunity for the library to be active in the preservation of contemporary history. The Fiddlehead Focus donation is a dynamic collection that continues to grow, and one that will be preserved and made easily accessible,” said Leslie Kelly, UMFK's director of Information Services.

Users may search the Fiddlehead Focus archive collection by means of a simple search, or through a more advanced search. The advanced search option allows a user to search by word, author, title, or article. It also allows users to search articles by date, or by issue. A link to the search interface will be located on the Blake Library website front page and on a side panel.

The Fiddlehead Focus archive came about because Blake Library recognized an opportunity to work with a local collection that was valuable to the region, and provided patrons who visited the library with additional resources.

To that end, a small group of individuals consisting of Kelly; Sofia Birden, Blake Library associate director; Kathryn Donahue, Blake Library's head of technical services and special collections; Joshua Belanger, UMFK Information Technology specialist; and Fiddlehead Focus' owner and publisher, Andrew Birden, met to hash out the details of the donation.

“We recognized an opportunity to work with a collection that was valuable to the region. When a patron comes to us with a question about the region, we have few local resources to consult when trying to help them,” added Kelly.

In deeding the collection to the library, Fiddlehead Focus' Birden said: “The community needs an accessible searchable record of our history here. It is an essential part of our identity and our desire to be able to trace that identity as it changes over the course of history.”

Following the signing of the agreement, Belanger built and worked on testing databases, as well as building a migration tool capable of moving the data from Fiddlehead Focus' website to Blake Library's website. Steve Michaud, UMFK's web technician, later built a database on the University's server, along with a search interface for the archive.

Blake Library Special Collections collects and provides access to historically-significant materials pertaining to the University and its history; Aroostook County; the Dickey-Lincoln School project; and Maine history as it pertains to Aroostook County and its communities.

As a repository for both published materials and manuscript collections relating directly to the department's mission statement, Special Collections serves the University of Maine at Fort Kent community of faculty, administration, students and alumni, the University of Maine System, and the greater community, including scholars and researchers.

Individuals or organizations interested in donating collections or obtaining additional information are encouraged to contact Blake Library's Special Collections at 834-7528.