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Vol. 24, No.4/Summer 2002

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By Jennifer O'Neill

The USA TODAY library wasted no time. The staff began operations under the direction of Ruth Fogle in July 1982 even before the first prototypes of the newspaper were created. At that time the library at Gannett News Service was moved from downtown Washington to the new headquarters for USA TODAY and Gannett.

In November 2001 they moved to a new building in McLean, Virgina. The library is located on the second floor, which is an editorial floor. They are housed between USA TODAY and Gannett, right above the main lobby.

The Archive

The USA TODAY clip file goes back to the beginning of the newspaper, September 15, 1982. The electronic archive goes back to April 1987. They are on their third generation of text archives, called DC4. (See the Winter 2002 issues of NLN for more details on how DC4 was developed.) Their hope is to be able to eventually backload the older data into the text archive through a digitization process of the microfilm. They have had some exploratory talks with Bell & Howell about this.


The library archives an average of 132 stories and 95 photos a day and handles 2,500 research requests a month. They are also responsible for various editorial benchmarking projects like a recent newsroom accuracy project. They do research for any department within USA TODAY, Gannett or any of the properties that Gannett owns. There are more than 40,000 employees who can use their library. They serve advertising, marketing, systems, editorial, legal, corporate, etc., not just the newsrooms. The reference staff needs to be able to answer any type of research request, whether it is marketing related or story related. They use Lexis, Nexis, Factiva, AutoTrack, Pacer, Courtlink, Baseline, Dialog, Hoovers and Periscope.

The library is open six days a week. The hours of operation for the library are Sunday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. But the photo library staff and indexing staff start work earlier.

They have a fee-based service open to the public that is accessible by fax, telephone and e-mail. The library also serves as the permissions office for their company and handles requests for USA WEEKEND, Baseball Weekly, Gannett News Service, and

A few reporters have limited access to Nexis, while all reporters have access to the Internet, AOL, and the text and photo archives at their desks. The library staff has created some web-based obituary pages located on the library intranet. They also create topical related web pages, which are located on their intranet. For example, for the recent Olympics, they created a web resource page with helpful links and information accessible to the newsroom.

The library staff serves as the internet trainer for the newsroom. They have done sessions on how to do research, how to construct a good search, the pitfalls of the web, how to use the new text archive, how to use the photo archive and topical web research sessions.

They get contributing credits on stories. They also have a staff member who writes bylined book reviews for the newspaper, and another librarian who writes a column for their web site called "Ask the web librarian."

Library Staff

The reason the library is able to provide such service is because they have a very experienced staff. They have 17 library staffers. Three are part time and 14 are full time. Three people split their time between indexing the newspaper and working in other areas of the library the rest of the day. Nine people are assigned to work on the reference desk. Seven members of the staff have Masters degrees. Some of the staff has been there since the founding of the newspaper or very close to that. Many of the staff have been there more than ten years. This is the strength of their library.

Barbara Maxwell, the current Library Director, says, "In terms of low turnover, both Jeanette Brown (assistant director) and myself have worked very hard to lessen the turnover. We have spent a lot of time on the hiring process to try and ensure that a good hire is made. We also try to promote a very positive environment in the library. There is a sense of "family" and camaraderie amongst the staff. We have a very good group of people who work very well together."

Gannett News Service hired Ruth Fogle, public research desk supervisor, in 1978 before USA TODAY was founded. Jeanette Brown, assistant director, has been with Gannett since 1980 and at USA TODAY since 1990. Joe Hagarty, reference/photo librarian, has been there since 1983. George Mitchell, photo librarian, has worked there since 1986. Lisa Washington, reference Librarian Bruce Rosenstein and reference/cataloging supervisor Susan O'Brian started in 1987. Barbara Maxwell has been with USA TODAY since 1988 (as a director since 1990). Tristan Coffelt, indexing supervisor, has been there since 1989. Raymond Hicks, reference librarian, started in 1990. Mark Hannan, photo library supervisor, started in 1993. Reference librarian Jean Simpson has worked there since 1995, as has part-time photo librarian/researcher John Healy (who was originally hired in 1990, then left for a few years and returned). Karen Stephanites, indexer/researcher, has worked there since 1998. Part-time reference librarian Pam Fiawoo, reference librarian Tom Ankner and part time indexer Jennifer Kelemen (who now telecommutes) have been there since 1999.

The library staff at USA TODAY has 200 years of library news experience AT THAT COMPANY, give or take a few years. Not bad for a paper that only began publication 20 years ago!

According to Barbara, the library staff gets as many training sessions for themselves as they need. They are very open to bringing in vendors and try to schedule vendor training every six weeks on new resources and products. Staff is encouraged to get training to help enhance their skills. All the reference staff has received training on Excel to help them with computer-assisted reporting.

Relationship with the Newsroom

Barbara says they are especially proud of the type of relationship they have with the newsroom, the quality of the library and the type of research they offer on a regular basis. She is also proud of the caliber of staff that works there.

She describes the relationship between the library and the publisher, Tom Curley, as very good. While they don't see him on a daily basis, he was very involved in the choice of the library's location in the new building. Barbara reports directly to Executive Editor Robert Dubill and says their relationship is great too. She thinks the library has a very good working relationship with the newsroom managers in general.

Last year, when they ran their latest user focus group about library service, reporters gave them a 96% positive approval rating. They must realize how fortunate they are to have a library staff with so many years dedicated to making their work easier.

Jennifer O'Neill is the Library Director at The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Florida. You can contact her at

Last Updated: 08/27/02
Leigh Poitinger