For over 100 years, The Westbury Times has been the contemporaneous chronicler of daily life in the Westburys. Nearly 40 years ago, the board of directors of the Westbury Memorial Public Library asked a group of residents of Westbury and Old Westbury to organize and form a historical society to preserve, study and to display elements of the past of these communities. Now, the members of the current Board of Trustees of the Historical Society believe that an issue has arisen that our duty demands we bring to the attention of our communities: the entire microfilm collection of The Westbury Times that was in the possession of the Westbury Memorial Public Library has been purged from the library’s permanent collection. We seek a positive directive from the library’s board of directors that all efforts will be made to preserve what print newspapers remain at the library, and we hope that you will add your voices to ours.
As many residents may know, the society has collaborated with the Village of Westbury and its Historical Landmarks Preservation Committee in the creation of a Heritage Trail of sites of historical and cultural significance. In designating the locations along the trail, and designing the markers for those sites, the committee found it essential to establish the factual history of the sites and not to rely upon anecdotal lore. As would be expected, past issues of The Westbury Times were a major source of information. It was while working with the village on another project related to the historic locations that board members of the historical society learned of the elimination of the microfilm from the Westbury Memorial Public Library.
Past issues of the newspaper provide an invaluable encapsulation of the history of the Westburys. Unfortunately, not every issue still exists. A fire at The Westbury Times destroyed many issues, and they are not available at the newspaper’s offices, nor are they available at the Long Island Studies Institute at Hofstra University. However, some of these lost issues were available on microfilm at the Westbury Memorial Public Library, and, in fact, members of the staff of The Westbury Times would direct seekers of those lost issues to the library. The library was the repository for the microfilm, not the Historical Society. The library’s microfilm reader was broken, and a few months ago, the Board of Directors of the Library determined that it was not practical to repair or to replace it.
However, the library’s board decided that individuals who wished to view the microfilm would be permitted to take the microfilm to another library with a functioning reader.
That plan is no longer feasible because at an unknown time this year, and without the knowledge of the members of the boards of either the library or the historical society, the administration of the library decided to dispose of the entire microfilm collection containing the past issues of The Westbury Times. Even those issues only available on the library’s microfilm collection were thrown away. You are no longer able to view those lost issues anywhere, and that portion of the history of the Westburys is lost to everyone.
To the best of our knowledge, the library still has an incomplete collection of some of the print versions of The Westbury Times. Unfortunately, the lost issues are not among them. These remaining newspapers are fragile and are in precarious condition. In fulfilling our mandate, we will work as hard as possible to convince the library board of directors to preserve those years of the print version of The Westbury Times by having them digitalized, or placed in a climate controlled environment before they, too, are deemed disposable. We hope that members of the community will join us in our efforts to preserve our history.
—The Board of Trustees of the Historical Society of the Westburys