KINGMAN - Mohave County's historic record books, which go back 146 years, are coming into the digital age.
Microfilm Records Technician Stephanie Ciofalo is bringing the county's history - from Hardyville to Chloride to Kingman - into the 21st century with the help of a new BookEye scanner.
"This is going to give the public better access to our historic records," Ciofalo said.
The county received the laser scanner a few months back.
"The state archives people came by and worked with us on our modernization procedures," she said. "And the BookEye people sent a person to train us on the machine. We've been scanning on it now for a couple of months and I have completed four books."
According to Records Manager Robert Ballard, there are more than 600 of the historic books that need to be scanned.
"We have to be able to scan them quickly," Ciofalo said. "The equipment we had used to scan this material in the past" had many problems, not the least being that it could damage "the bindings of the historic books."
The early books are interesting reading, she said. "The earliest actually dates back to 1863," the year before Mohave County began. "I've enjoyed reading what people wrote about life in those days - back when Abraham Lincoln was alive. There are old census books. Most of what I am working on right now is mining records. There is a lot of interest in that."
"People want to know the history of who owned pieces of land they are thinking of purchasing. There are a lot of names of families that have been here for a long time. Right now, I am scanning a book from May of 1880," Ciofalo said.
"I love these old books," Ciofalo said. "The handwriting was amazing in those days. This is Mohave County's history. These records will be available to the public and much more accessible in digital format. That's why we are doing this; to preserve the books and to allow ease of access for the public."
People will be able to request information and the County Recorder's Office will be able to access the material and print it out, Ballard said. "There will be a charge for the copy" just as there are charges for printing any document. "This is the safest way to protect our historic records while giving access to the public."
The BookEye laser-scanner device can accommodate books up to 24 by 17 inches. The table is adjustable to lift on each side to protect bindings.
Ciofalo's father served in Vietnam as an infantryman. When he got out of the Army in Colorado, "that's where we stayed."
She graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geology.
"I then worked for an environmental chemical cleanup company called ECC (Environmental Chemical Corporation) in Colorado," she said. "They took care of some of the Super Fund sites."
Close to five years ago, Ciofalo's interest in fiction writing brought her to Mohave County.
"I met my future husband (John Ciofalo) on a writer's website where we started writing (fiction) together online," she said. "We just had our third wedding anniversary this last week."
In November of 2005, she came to the county as a temporary employee with the Assessor's Office.
"I applied for a full-time position with the Recorder's Office, did well on the test and was hired," she said. "It's a nice department. I wouldn't want to work anywhere else."
Although Ciofalo's job is digitizing historic books, she hopes her own literary efforts will become classic as well. "I started my first novel for National Novel Writing Month, which is every November," she said. "You write 50,000 words in 30 days. It's quite a test. The creativity just goes wild. I'm a perfectionist, and, for someone like me, it was quite a lesson to just let it go and pour (the novel) out of my brain."
That exercise led her to meeting Sandra Bell Kirchman, an editor who has worked with her and other writers. "She has a forum for writers," Ciofalo said. "We post some of our stories on her website and she invited some of us to submit stories for an anthology that she would publish. She accepted eight writers. That was three years ago. We have been working and editing the book since that time. I have two stories in the book."
The anthology, "Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories," has been published and is now available at Hastings in Kingman, where Ciofalo will have a book signing at 11 a.m. today. The 162-page fantasy anthology is listed at $15.99 at the bookstore, which is a special price. It is published and edited by Kirchman of FantasyFic (www.fantasyfic.com) of Esterhazy, Saskatchewan.
Kirchman is also "working through my first novel in order to submit it to bigger publishers," Ciofalo said. "I look at the book signing, marketing, as testing myself. I am not an outgoing person; that's not part of my personality. But if I don't do it, no one else is going to do it for me."