The Colony library digitizing project

Library Director Megan Charters scans in pages of old newspapers as part of a project to digitize decades worth of old newspapers in The Colony.

Those who want to revisit some of The Colony's earliest news stories will soon have a more convenient option to view them.

All 55,000 pages of them.

The Colony Public Library recently began a project where it will digitize the city's newspapers that date back to The Colony’s beginnings.

The library secured a scanning machine to digitize original editions of local newspapers thanks to a fundraiser by The Colony’s Friends of the Library.

Once the project is complete the library expects to have an online, searchable option for newspapers covering The Colony that go back to 1969.

Megan Charters, director at The Colony Public Library, said this project is important in preserving The Colony’s history.

“These papers are the only known existing copies in The Colony, Texas and the U.S.” Charters said. “They represent the most whole and continuous source of information on the history of The Colony from when it started as a Fox & Jacobs housing development, to when it became a Municipal Utility District, to its incorporation as a city, and everything after.”

Not to mention the slow yellowing of the older papers.

“It’s important to preserve them,” she said.

She said often times residents will come to the library to look for some historical information on the city, such as the well-known “purple house.”

“People sometimes ask about looking at a newspaper from 1986,” Charters said. “But if they don’t know the date, they have to search through page after page.”

Long history

The collection will include several newspapers that have covered The Colony over the years, beginning with “The Little Elm Tide,” in the early days and its current newspaper “The Colony Courier-Leader,” which is part of Star Local Media.

News in The Colony was first covered by “The Tide,” which was owned and operated by Jack and Mary Blalock.

The Blalock family moved from Arizona to Texas in 1974 after reading about Fox and Jacobs housing development. They bought “The Little Elm Tide,” which covered The Colony until 1976.

“The couple took a gamble and moved to Texas, reasoning that the new community would eventually need a newspaper,” Charters said. “They arrived in Texas two months before the first residents of The Colony and settled nine miles north in Little Elm.”

Jack Blalock then opened “The Colony Courier” in 1976, which covered the city until it stopped publishing in 1988. In 1997 a group of residents created their own version of “The Colony Courier,” which had no connection to the previous title. It found itself going up against “The Colony Leader,” which started publishing in 1986. By the 1990s there were two other resident-published papers as well – “The Colony Challenge” and “The Colony Times.”

“People called it a newspaper war because for such a small town back then it was not usual to have so many papers,” Charters said.

In 1999 “The Leader” and “The Courier” merged into what is now “The Colony Courier-Leader.” The collection will also include “The Little Elm Journal,” also a Star Local Media product.

The Blaclocks donated their papers to the library, and the library subscribed to the papers that followed.

The process

Charters said the library has just begun the process of digitizing the newspapers. She said the library received the scanning machine about a month ago, and library staff is going through the training and organizing the papers now.

“We’re starting in 1968 and moving forward,” Charters said.

She said after all of the pages are scanned in the file will be sent to the University of North Texas to have them put into the Portal to Texas History. There, the files will be made keyword searchable.

Charters said about three and a half years worth of newspapers have already been digitized thanks to a grant.

“This will outline everything in the history of The Colony,” Charters said. “These papers literally include the names of the first people who moved in. They cover politics, news and the formation of The Colony even before it was a city. It has all of the information we have used at the library to create a historical document.”

Charters said when the library posts its Milestone Monday feature online nearly all of the information comes from old newspapers.

“Since they’re not digitized we have a very dedicated volunteer, Don Beckal, who flips through page after page,” Charters said. “To have 55,000 pages digitized would be amazing.”

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