SHOSHONE • Bookworms in Lincoln County have nothing to do with reading.
They devour public documents without ever filing a records request to the county clerk’s office. They sneak into the county’s records vault without ever having to crack a lock.
They’re small. They’re nefarious. They’re insects.
According to Lincoln County officials, some of the county’s older records have been destroyed by insects.
The county discovered the damage while working on an effort to digitize its older, paper records, said Suzanne McConnell, Lincoln County clerk.
Lincoln County keeps its older records in a vault below the county courthouse. While digging through the documents, volunteers discovered two books of court judgments, at least one from the 1930s, where it looked liked bugs tunneled through the pages.
“This isn’t a good place for the records to be kept,” McConnell said. “We need to get them out of there.”
At least two books are permanently destroyed but volunteers are still in the middle of digitizing the rest of the records, which include judgments, birth certificates, marriage licenses, land deeds and permits from the early days of Lincoln County. The process could take four to six weeks, McConnell said.
“All the other records we’ve opened up are in good shape,” McConnell said. “We’re going to fog the area so that no future damage will happen.”
Lincoln County is relying on FamilySearch, the world’s largest repository of free genealogical records. The company also manages the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
The company has already digitized records for several Idaho counties. However, while most counties have records dating back to the late 1800s, not all have been infested with insects.
“We’ve got a lot of records we’ve been digitizing and most of them are just about completed,” said Kristina Glasscock, Twin Falls County clerk. “If we’ve had a fire or a flood over the years, we might of have lost some of them but not that many.”
It may be hard to preserve them but counties have an obligation to preserve all public documents, said Roy Hubert, Lincoln County commissioner. Once the older records are gone, there isn’t a backup file.
“It’s a responsibility of the county to have permanent records and keep them in good shape,” Hubert said. “I would encourage Idaho counties to go over their own records to make sure they’re in good shape.”