Vol. 19, No. 3/Spring 1997
Small Libraries Need Our Support
By Diane Logsdon
The Small Libraries Committee of the News Division received interesting responses to the questionnaire we sent out to more than 300 small libraries in the United States and Canada. We received responses from papers whose circulations ranged from 4,000 to 100,000. Average circulation for all papers was around 40,000. In response to requests, our membership committee sent out information to more than 100 librarians, editors and publishers who wished to know more about our division.
One editor wrote passionately about how he wished they could afford a library but they just could not. Our reply to him was "you can not afford not to have a library." We had some very definite "I'm not interested in hearing, knowing or having a library" answers. There was the reply, "I think we had a morgue at one time but I do not know what happened to it." Clearly we have a lot of educating to do.
Most touching were the notes from librarians struggling along in their one-person library with little support. One wrote, "What I really need are sources to help me set up a money making system. Justification of the library's existence is not enough. The company wants a profit with little or no capital investment." One response to the question "Are we doing enough to help the small libraries?," should make us sit up and take notice: "No, most discussions and information I have seen in your publications and conferences relate only to large newsroom libraries, not to small libraries with few staff members, little extra time and little money." Some mentioned they appreciated the small libraries program when it was provided at conference.
A librarian in Pennsylvania wrote, "Since attending the National Conference is out unless I pay my own way, I really need to keep in touch with other librarians which is hard to do since there never seems to be enough time. I need more timely information on small library problems, new techniques, etc. I need more opportunity to meet and talk to my peers. What happened to regional conferences?"
We received a total of 228 returns from newspapers that had some sort of library. Of these, 42 were members of the News Division and 186 were not. Seventeen of the 42 members have attended our national conference and 28 have attended or would attend a regional conference. All 42 said they would attend a regional conference and many added that they thought we needed more regional, one day type conferences near home. Seventy-four members said they would be interested in regional meetings.
One hundred and twenty-four were from a one-person library and 43 worked 25 or fewer hours in a week. Some were also newsroom clerks, reporters, the editor's secretary or, in one case, a copy editor.
One hundred and thirty-five had some sort of electronic library and 82 clipped and filed. The rest had either microfiche or a combination of microfilm, microfiche and index cards.
Stauffer Gold was the most often mentioned electronic library. Eighty-five had some type of electronic storage system for photos. The rest filed either photos manually or kept only negatives and 24 indicated their photo department scanned in photos. Many noted the systems they had were not working well.
Thirty-five percent of those responding do some database searching on commercial databases, have CD-ROMs or search the Internet.
These are a sampling of findings from the questionnaire. More information will be available later. I would like to thank all those who assisted in this project by mailing surveys or calling librarians around the United States and Canada. I am no longer Chair of Small Libraries Committees since I felt it was time for fresh ideas but I remain vitally interested in small newspaper libraries. We should consider these statements and results and ask ourselves if we, as a division, are doing enough to reach and assist the smaller newspaper libraries.
Diane Logsdon is the librarian The Pantagraph, Bloomington, IL.
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