The rejection of author Rick Hautala’s papers by the Westbrook Public Library raises an important issue (“Widow of horror writer Hautala upset after library declines archives,” April 18).

Hautala is a famous, now-deceased Maine author. His collection of draft works and correspondence is important to Westbrook and the state of Maine. No one disputes that.

But the problem is much bigger than just the Hautala collection. There are many important collections sitting in boxes around the state.

In order for the Hautala and other collections to be preserved, they need to be kept in mold-proof containers in a fire-proof, climate-controlled environment.

In order to be useful, collections need to be organized and made publicly accessible. The best way to do this is to digitize and index by subject every item in a collection, so it is fully searchable.

Physical preservation and electronic cataloging cost money.

The Westbrook Public Library was right to say “no” to the Hautala collection if it isn’t in a position to raise funds to preserve and digitize the collection.

The key phrase here is “to raise funds.”

There are many important collections in Maine – including papers for Sens. Bill Cohen and Olympia Snowe – that sit in boxes waiting to be digitized and made accessible to researchers and the public.

Donors and funders tend to fund library and museum buildings, but not the collections within them.

As the Hautala story illustrates, it is time for funders to embrace a new paradigm.

They need to fund not just physical buildings, but electronic libraries, museums and archives that will preserve and present important collections for years to come.

Sue Inches

North Yarmouth

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