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Farmington library has history in an envelope

There is a little treasure trove of Farmington history at the Dakota County Library in Farmington, and it’s available to anyone who is interested.

Tucked away in a couple of drawers and a few more boxes are years and years worth of manila envelopes, each filled with newspaper clippings on just about anything and everything to do with Farmington’s history. And now, as the library prepares for its temporary move to city hall, library staff is wondering what to do with all of those files.

The clippings cover a wide range of topics. There are files about the railroad, and about the Akin family. There are files on churches, clubs, fires, annexation, city hall and village elections. There are files on the Vermillion River, the creamery, schools and many old businesses. And obituaries. Lots and lots of obituaries.

But there are also files on surrounding communities — Rosemount, Lakeville, Lebanon-turned-Apple Valley. There is a file on the bridges of Dakota County. And there are so, so many more files, all in storage, but not in use.

Farmington library manager Barbara Svoboda said such files are not uncommon in libraries. It was a service librarians and library volunteers provided for years, long before there were such things as computers.

When a newspaper would come out, she said, librarians would painstakingly cut out stories and photos. They would write in the date, if the date wasn’t printed above the headline, and they would separate the stories out by topic. They would file those stories, then, so anyone who was doing research could come in, and have all of that history available.

“At one time, this was really a valuable service,” Svoboda said. “At one time or another, all libraries had these types of clippings. It used to be, if we didn’t do it, there was no other way to find information on any given subject.”

The practice slowed a bit when microfiche was introduced in the 1960s. The Farmington library also has a file cabinet of microfiche films that carries many older issues of the local newspapers, so the stories are still available, on the microfiche.

These days, even the practice of putting newspapers onto microfiche has gone by the wayside, and whole newspapers are being scanned and stored electronically.

And that leaves Svoboda wondering what to do with all of the files stored at the Farmington library.

Ideally, she would like to donate the files to anyone who would use and appreciate them.

“I would be willing to let interested parties take whichever files they would like,” she said. “If they’re put into another box for storage, they’ll probably never come out of storage. I would rather see folks with some interest have some of those files.”

Anyone interested in perusing the files can contact Svoboda by calling the library, 651-438-0250.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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