Library now has all Taylor, Campbellsville yearbooks

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By Calen McKinney


They are mementos of high school days gone by - and they also preserve the fashion and hairstyles of the time.

Taylor County Public Library recently completed a quest to collect all yearbooks made by Campbellsville and Taylor County high schools.

After getting the last one they needed - the TCHS yearbook from 2007 - the set is now complete.

"People's wanting to see these," Bonnie Webster, programmer at the library, said.

Webster began collecting the yearbooks a few weeks ago. The library has always had yearbooks, but only recently did staff members strive to complete the set.

Library Director Julia Turpin said the Oklahoma Correctional Industry recently offered to digitize the yearbooks for the library for free to show off its scanning equipment and capabilities.

Now that the library's set is complete, Turpin said staff will box up the books and ship them to the company. The process to digitize them on CDs in color will take two to three weeks.

Once the library got the word out that it needed yearbooks, via Facebook, media and via word-of-mouth with its patrons, the yearbooks started coming in.

"And Bonnie's just been hitting the phone book," Turpin said.

Webster said she also searched for some of the hard-to-find yearbooks on eBay, but the library hasn't had to purchase any of the yearbooks.

"They were just donated," Webster said.

Webster said getting the yearbooks has been a fun project. It's been fun to see old friends' photos, along with the fashions and hairstyles of years ago.

Turpin agrees.

"Every day, it's been fun getting the update on where we are," she said. "So everybody's excited when anyone walks in with a yearbook."

The yearbooks will be kept in the library's genealogy room. While patrons can look at them, Turpin said they can't be checked out. Duplicates might be circulated.

Patrons can request specific pages of the yearbooks to be printed from the digital copies the library will receive.

To start collecting the yearbooks, Webster contacted Campbellsville and Taylor County school system officials to see how many yearbooks they had. She said the schools were able to donate some to complete the library's collection. Many of the yearbooks came from local individuals, however, who donated the books or loaned them for the scanning process.

Campbellsville's yearbooks date back to 1940. The TCHS books go back to 1946.

While yearbooks are typically made each school year, Webster said, there were some years that no books were made. That part of the process was tricky, she said, and took a lot of research to find out. There were no CHS yearbooks made from 1941 to 1945 and for the 1946-1947 school year.

Turpin said the library doesn't have a complete set of elementary and middle school yearbooks. And Campbellsville University yearbooks are already digital and on file at the CU library.

She said the effort to preserve high school yearbooks is ongoing at several other counties in Kentucky, along with several other states.

Once complete, she said, the school systems will receive a digital copy of the yearbooks. And residents can purchase them from the library at cost.

As she dove into the project, Webster said she found out many residents don't have their yearbooks anymore and wish they could see them again.

"They've had a flood. They had a fire. They lost them," she said.

And since she has been collecting the yearbooks, Webster said, she has spent lots of time reminiscing with people about their high school experiences and looking up the names and photos of old classmates.

"It's been fun," Webster said.

She said it's also been entertaining to read the messages written in the books, and also to see who drew a heart around someone's photo. Others, she said, contain messages that might be inappropriate.

"Some are not fit to be seen," Webster said.

Webster and Turpin said library patrons are excited about the project.

"I've got people who would love to replace the ones they've lost," Webster said.

Turpin said Webster has put a lot of work into collecting the yearbooks.

"She's really dived into it," Turpin said. "It's a treasure hunt."

Some of the yearbooks the library has collected are in poor repair. One was so damaged that library staff members separated its pages and put it into a binder with page protectors.

"Being digitized, then we'll have them forever," Turpin said. "There's always going to be folks that want to look at the yearbooks."

Turpin said the library has repaired some of the yearbooks and can do that for any resident for free. She said she believes it's important that the books be preserved.

"It's invaluable," she said, "the history in them."

Library staff members can repair any type of book for residents, Turpin said. And the library will accept any yearbook residents want to donate.

Turpin said the library will undertake more digital projects in the fall, as well as revisit its yearbook collection every few years to ensure it stays up-to-date. She said staff members might work on digitizing local obituaries next.

Having a digital collection, Turpin said, allows the material to be easily, quickly and inexpensively copied. And while collecting the yearbooks has been fun, there is another goal to the project, Turpin said.

"Just as a community project, making it readily available to everyone in the community," she said. "Not just for genealogy, but for local preservation. It's local history."