Alice Harper's Donation is a Gift that Keeps on Giving
Alice Harper's Donation is a Gift that Keeps on Giving

December 1, 2007


A recent donation from the estate of Alice Harper is truly a gift that keeps on giving to researchers at the University Library.

The $25,000 that Harper left to the Library allowed it to accomplish its long-time goal of upgrading its microform reader/printers to microform reader/scanners.

Systems and Web Services Manager Leona Jacobs says the new equipment is helping students and faculty to make better use of the Library’s substantial microform collection.

“In addition to the newspaper archives, the ERIC educational material and the women’s studies resources in the Gerritsen Collection, we have a huge collection of Canadian historical documents in microformat in the Woodworth Collection,” says Jacobs. “The microform reader/scanners make these resources more cost-effective and flexible to use.”

Microforms are films with photographic images of documents that are typically around 25 times smaller than the original documents. Since microforms can’t be viewed with the naked eye, special “readers” are used to magnify the images. The University of Lethbridge has thousands of microforms in microfilm (reel) and microfiche (flat sheet) format.

Until the new equipment was added in spring 2007, researchers had to print any microforms of interest on a special copier at a cost of 25 cents per page. Dr. Ian MacLachlan (Geography) says the process for getting a high-quality print was far from picture perfect.

“The fascination of digging deep into rare primary sources was tempered by the need to hunch over a microform reader for hours glancing from the glare of a bright screen to the dim illumination of handwritten notes. When you absolutely had to have a copy, either to confirm a lengthy piece of text or to reproduce a graphic, you popped quarters into the machine to get a curled up coated-paper photocopy with poor contrast,” says MacLachlan.

The microform reader/scanners allow users to save the microform documents in PDF format to a USB key, a CD or the hard drive or desktop of the computers that the scanners are connected to. Users can also e-mail the PDF files to themselves or print their files on the Library’s regular printers for a much more affordable 10 cents a page.

Library staff report that users have had few problems learning to use the new equipment.

“The new scanning equipment allows me to make as many PDF images as I want at no cost, which then can be saved to any convenient medium and consulted at leisure. This really is a terrific asset for my work, and one which I shall appreciate for many years into the future,” say MacLachlan.

Senior Development Officer, University Advancement, Kathy MacFarlane says Harper requested that her donation go to the Library. “Even though Alice is no longer here, her gift will provide lasting benefit to students and faculty at the U of L,” says MacFarlane.

Librarian Rae Hazelwood, who managed the Library’s systems and web services until her retirement this fall, says the Library could not have afforded the upgrade to microform reader/scanners without Harper’s support.

“It is the goal of the University Library to support our patrons by providing access to information in all types of formats. This equipment allows us to provide a significantly higher level of service to everyone who uses our microform collection, including students, faculty and members of the community,” says Hazelwood.

For more information on the University Library, please visit If you’re interested in donating to the University of Lethbridge, please visit the Development site at

U of L Communications and Public Relations Contact:
Communications and PR Officer (403) 382-7173

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