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Posted on Sun. Mar. 02, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Digital lab lets users record family history

Genealogy center helps public preserve images, documents

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Willennar Genealogy Center

To make an appointment for the digital lab, call 925-2414, ext. 420, or stop in during regular hours. Hourlong sessions are available every week at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and at 1 and 2 p.m. Thursday.

Center hours:

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday; noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

For more information on the center’s mobile labs or to view the Willennar Genealogy Center photo database, visit and click on “photo archives.”

Scanning and preserving treasured family photos and documents for future generations is an alluring, yet daunting task, but the Willennar Genealogy Center in Auburn has a solution.

The center is offering the use of its digital lab, experienced staff and state-of-the-art equipment to the public at no charge.

The Willennar Genealogy Center, which opened in 2002, is a service of the Eckhart Public Library, also in Auburn.

The library is in the midst of scanning all of its documents and photos and preserving them in digital files and formats.

Employees use a large-format scanner to scan the photos and documents and recently began opening the center’s doors two days a week to make the scanner and software programs available for public use.

Interested residents may book an hourlong slot at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays or at 1 and 2 p.m. Thursdays.

The technology-challenged need not be afraid.

An experienced center employee will be present to guide participants through the process of scanning and saving files.

The center requires participants to make an appointment and bring their own thumb drive or external hard drive to store files.

There is no charge to use the lab, and there are no residence or library card requirements, said Jenny Kobiela-Mondor, genealogy services supervisor.

“We cannot store personal files in our system, so they will need to bring their own flash drive, but anyone can make an appointment and use the digital lab,” Kobiela-Mondor said.

If they wish, lab participants may donate copies of their digital files, including photographs and documents, for the center’s collection.

Although employees are in a constant state of preserving collections, about 9,000 historic photos have already been scanned and are available online, Kobiela-Mondor said.

The photos are scanned and put into a collection management program, then posted on the center’s website.

The center is working with the Indiana State Library to do the same with its historical documents, Kobiela-Mondor said.

Although many documents have been scanned, most are not yet available online, she said.

They are also in the midst of scanning and preserving the gigantic collection of John Martin Smith, a well-known Auburn attorney and local historian who, along with his wife, was killed in an automobile accident in 2011.

Smith had published two books about DeKalb County history. His collection was lent to the center by his family and is contained in 500 banker boxes and six four-drawer filing cabinets.

“It takes up 3,000 cubic feet of space,” Kobiela-Mondor said.

The center’s digital lab will soon take to the streets in the form of three mobile labs. One of the labs is done, and the other two are almost ready to roll, Kobiela-Mondor said.

“We will take these labs out into the public, helping churches, schools and other groups scan and preserve their photos and documents in a digital format, she said.

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