Safford Library touts new microfiche machine

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Valley Central: Safford City-Graham County Library assistant Samantha Macias demonstrates how to use its new microfiche machine.

Machine maid possible by donation from Safford Lions Club

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – History buffs, researchers and teens with term papers rejoice! There is a new option to research historic articles in Graham County, and its use is completely free.

While newer news articles can be easily researched online and in the archive section of Gila Valley Central, historic local articles from up to more than 100 years ago are easily found and obtained at the keeper of those records, the Safford City-Graham County Library.

The library has debuted its new microfiche machine, which is more user-friendly and allows for more options to obtain the information than its archaic old all-in-one machine that had a small screen to view articles and necessitated a printing charge for those who wished to obtain a copy of whatever article they were looking for.

The new machine utilizes an adjacent computer screen to view the articles. Users are free to email any article obtained on the microfiche or used a USB jump drive to save the article as well, all at no charge. If a user would like a hard copy, they can crop whatever excess surrounding the article they don’t want and print a copy for 20 cents per page.

“What’s nice about this one is when people are coming in they have choices what to do,” said Safford Library Director Leanne McElroy.

The $5,000 machine was donated to the library by the Safford Lions Club.

“We couldn’t have got it without them,” McElroy said. “It really helps preserve the history of our community. That was our biggest concern, ‘What happens when that (old) machine dies?’ That’s our past . . . We have the most accessible archive.”

The library is continuously updating the historical documents it has available, including articles from The Graham County Guardian and The Gila Valley Bulletin, which predates anything the library currently has. The microfiche is good for roughly 500 years. 

McElroy said the new machine is an immense upgrade from the old 1980s machine, which was on its last legs. She said the cost to repair the old machine and the fact that parts are far and few to come by made it improbable that it would be fixed after it broke. The new machine can have its software fixed from a distance or have broken parts mailed to the library.

“So the repair costs are much lower,” McElroy said.

Library assistant Samantha Macias said she has noticed the machine is also user-friendly for a variety of patrons with varying computer experience.

“So far, the people I have helped with it have been older patrons, and it seems fairly easy even for the older patrons,” she said.