Newsday library keeps pace with changes and growth
By Laura MannIt is said that timing is everything, and Newsday founder Alicia Patterson had perfect timing. When she published the first issue of Newsday in a garage in 1940, it is doubtful that she could have foreseen the explosive growth of Long Island, or the paper''s subsequent growth over the next 53 years. What started as a local newspaper in a community of 600,000 has become one of the largest dailies in the United States, serving a population of more than 4 million people in Nassau, Suffolk and Queens counties.
Throughout the years, Newsday's library has kept pace with these changing times. Its role has evolved from a simple tear-sheet operation to a state-of-the-art archiving, research and training center. Occasionally, a veteran reporter will refer to the library as "the morgue," and remnants of a technology-light library still exist. Files of yellowing clips from the 1950s, thousands of microfiche cards, one million photographs and several million negatives provide evidence of the days before electronic archiving. Efforts to modernize the library at Newsday began in the late 1960s, but it wasn't until 1985 that text from the newspaper was stored in a database instead of a file folder.
Today the library is a round-the-clock operation and has a staff of 24 people, who archive stories and photos in a 750 gigabyte database, grant reprint permissions, maintain a fee-based public research service and provide research for nearly 600 reporters and editors.
The day begins at 8 a.m., when photo librarians pull the day's photographs into the archive. The photo group is responsible for sorting through 3,000 staff and wire service images each day and deciding what will be archived. Each archived image is reviewed and enhanced to ensure proper credit, captions, keywords and publication information.
Chief photo librarian Kathy Sweeney estimates that at one time, she and her staff worked on 200 photo requests daily from Newsday artists, photo editors and copy editors. Requests have fallen sharply now that the newsroom has desktop access to the electronic archive, but photo researchers Leslie Coven and Peggy Lundquist and photo technician Maryann Zimmerman remain busy archiving about 200 Newsday pictures every day, sifting through the wire images and working to maintain the integrity of the archive of two million pictures (1.2 million prints and 800,000 electronic images).
Staff librarians begin their staggered shifts at 9 a.m. and end at 11 p.m. Seven librarians are stationed in the Melville, Long Island office. They are: Chief Librarian Dorothy Levin, David Cassidy, Eileen Effrat, Laura Mann, Kathryn Pease, Iris Quigley and Judy Weinberg.
The Melville library provides research for the Long Island, Queens, Manhattan, Albany and foreign bureaus. At one time, more than 3,000 requests were fielded each month. Today the number is closer to 2,000, but that does not mean the librarians are any less busy. As reporters and editors grow accustomed to desktop access to the Newsday archive and Nexis, the librarians' role is shifting more towards training others to do their own online research.
With more than 10,000 books, subscriptions to more than 100 periodicals and access to dozens of online databases including Nexis/Lexis, Dialog, Factiva, Autotrack and Accurint, the library is well-equipped to handle a variety of research. The primary duty of the librarians is to provide research for daily stories, but special projects are becoming a significant part of the workweek.
Some examples of projects librarians have spent considerable time on are the year-long series, "Long Island/Our Story" and "Long Island/Our Natural World," which can be found at www.lihistory.com and www.linature.com. Librarians created the index for a Newsday travel book and the staff is currently involved in compiling an exhaustive "Long Island Who's Who" database. Plans are also underway to overhaul the library's intranet and expand the resources available to reporters and editors on their desktops.
The D.C. bureau librarian is Angela Johnson, who relocated from the Melville library several years ago. This satellite library supports a staff of 16 reporters, columnists and editors, whose beat assignments include coverage of the White House administration, Congress, economics, science, social policy, homeland security and the State, Justice and Defense Departments. The D.C. bureau library coordinates its services with the services, projects and activities of the main library to avoid duplication of effort.
Newsday's text archive is produced by seven staff members whose staggered shifts begin at 9 p.m. They (database administrator Daria Arnold, Ida Chambers, Sabrina Festa, Monique Green, Pat Otters, Victoria Ramirez, Margarita Sobogal, Matt Wong) are responsible for enhancing the stories from the paper's three daily editions and eleven weekend regional sections. The group verifies publication information and adds keywords to almost 2,000 stories weekly, and the enhancements made to the stories determines their placement on newsday.com.
Enhancements are usually complete by 6 a.m., when the day's stories are sent to commercial vendors. The text archive group also ensures that PDFs of every Newsday page is inserted into the archive, that corrections are appended and that newspapers are sent off for microfilming. All of the cleanup and quality checks for the database (1.2 million stories, 800,000 PDFs) are complete by 8 a.m., just in time for the dayside staff to arrive and start the cycle again.
Four staff members round out the Newsday Library team: media reprints coordinator and public researcher Brenda Velazquez, permissions and contests coordinator Gloria Sandler, administrative secretary Cathy Mahon, and director Chris Hardesty.
Alicia Patterson would not have recognized today's Newsday, but she would be proud. Long Island has grown and changed over the years, and Newsday and its library has kept pace with the changes.
Editor's note: A tour of the Newsday library in Melville, Long Island, will take place on Saturday afternoon (3:30 - 7:00), June 7, as part of the SLA annual conference. The tour is a $10 ticketed event.
Last Updated: 05/04/03