MCLA's Freel Library Completes Project to Digitize, Preserve and Post Sprague Archive Online


NORTH ADAMS, MA - Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' (MCLA) Freel Library - in partnership with the North Adams Public Library and the North Adams Historical Society - has completed a project to digitize, preserve and post online an archive of "The Log," the Sprague Electric Company newsletter.

According to Linda Kaufmann, public services librarian at MCLA, the original documents were beginning to fall apart and the College's concern was to preserve the information. She said that undergraduates from schools throughout the region use "The Log" as a resource in papers on a variety of topics, including the labor movement.

"Employees at Sprague went on strikes which made the national news. They are very well known for that," Kaufmann said. "MCLA had the logs. No other library had as many newsletters. Not only did we want to preserve them for the future, we wanted to make them accessible to everybody. We had them not only digitized, but we had microfilm made because microfilm is still the medium for preservation."

Sprague moved to North Adams in 1930. For a time, the company was the largest single employer in the City. At its peak, Sprague Electric employed over 12,000 people worldwide, including over 4,000 at its North Adams facilities. With a population of just under 20,000, North Adams became a "company town."

When the newsletter first came out in the 1930s, Kaufmann said, there had been some labor unrest at Sprague.

"There's some belief that the newsletter was an effort to deflect that by promoting the idea that Sprague was a happy, family company. And, in the logs, you will see they have things about the guys that go fishing and the bowling league. They have little tidbits about people in each of the divisions. When babies were born, they'd have announcements and pictures of people's children."

The logs also are fun for longtime local residents because they can see photos of and learn more about members of their families, Kaufmann said.

Other information in the logs provides serious information about the company. "During World War II, for example, Sprague made a lot of components for the military. Then, very late in the logs, all of the family stuff disappeared and it was used as a company promotion tool, announcing their latest products," Kaufmann said.

"It's a unique tool," she continued. "For us, it may bring in some additional users. We hope it's the beginning of a continual process to microfilm and make available other materials."

Editions of "The Log" from 1938 to 1985 are available through the library's Web site at sprague/.

The project was completed thanks to the generosity of the Hardman Family Foundation, with the support of the North Adams Historical Society, the North Adams Public Library and MCLA Computer Support Services. Funding was provided from the Hardman Library Grant.