We get a lot of requests for obituaries, photographs, and other items from old newspapers. We have over a century of Charlotte newspapers preserved on microfilm. It used to be we would look up the article, print it out and put it in an envelope to go out in the mail. Sometimes we would place it on a flatbed scanner to create an image we could attach to an email. This process took many steps and produced images several generations of reproduction from the original.
Lately the library bought a microfilm reader that was also a scanner. It could send out images to a laser printer and could in theory send them to our branch laptop as well. Scanning, saving an image to our hard drive, then attaching it to an email promised to be much easier and greener and to produce results of higher quality. Following the salesperson's instructions I downloaded the appropriate drivers from the manufacturer's website but could go no further. I needed image manipulation software that was "Twain-compliant" and so could use the drivers to communicate with the scanner. I didn't want to ask the library to shell out the bucks for Acrobat or Photoshop, so I turned to Martin House- an erstwhile blogger. He is too busy to blog now, but not too busy to give good advice when asked.
He recommended GIMP - "GNU Image Manipulation Program" - freely available from download.com among other places. (Which is more than the salesperson did for us, btw.) Long story short - it worked! Staff will be saved labor, researchers will get results faster, the library will get more out of its investment in the new reader/scanner.
This Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for freeware.