News Library News Online
Vol. 21, No.4/Summer 1999

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SLA Conference

Regular Features

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Minneapolis: SLA Conference 1999

By Carolyn Edds

Many of us arrived in Minneapolis accompanied by heavy thunderstorms, hail and tornado watches. In this damp weather, we headed off to tours of the libraries at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minneapolis Star-Tribune. We had good food, nice parting gifts and saw a couple of great newspaper libraries.

After the CE Course on Sunday, John Cronin of the Boston Herald hosted a reception for newcomers in the News Division suite. Well attended, newcomers and not so newcomers crowded the room to meet or catch up with each other.

Monday morning, Barbara Semonche got us started with NewsLib Live. Panelists discussed integrated archiving systems and the future of archiving. The Internet is fueling the growth of archives, said Jim Hunter, Columbus Dispatch. He said text archiving was just the beginning. In the future, archiving will include images, full pages, audio and video. Marcia MacVane, Portland Press Herald and Linda Henderson, Providence Journal, discussed their experiences with implementing archiving systems.

At the Providence Journal, they installed an integrated archiving system. The photo archive worked great. The text part was built on the fly and the library identified super-users to evaluate it for them. When they added one million records from their seventeen years of back files, the librarians discovered a need to get a much bigger server. Linda's advice is to stick with your commitment once you make it and don't be afraid.

Marcia suggested training by the vendor could be an indicator of what is ahead with vendor relationships. They had some problems with their installation and a big backlog developed. Because they were not able to get their work done, staff morale decreased and eventually, Marcia held a staff meeting. She told the staff there was nothing that could be done until the problems were resolved. They also used humor as a great stress reliever.

Hats were the fashion at the midmorning session about new directions and changing roles for news librarians. Each hat represented a different role: technology, reporting/research, economics, and management. M.J. Crowley, Newark Star-Ledger, predicted some technological changes for the future which include portable electronic communicator tablets, legislation dismantling the "paper of record" and circulation disappearing. Nora Paul, The Poynter Institute, discussed the future research role. She said the role has evolved from a file clerk to an information intermediary. In the future, archivists will be working at home, researchers will be in the newsroom next to reporters and the news research center will be the centralized information source for everything of all formats.

Lany McDonald, Time, Inc., spoke about the economic role of the news research center. She said businesses are in it to make money. Our role is to create multi-media Internet/Intranet packages that generate revenue. Editorial will no longer be our primary employer. We will be corporate leaders in corporate profit centers. Go forth and sell, advised McDonald.

Kathy Foley, San Antonio Express-News, discussed the future managerial role of news research. Since news researchers strongly believe in the team effort, we will be leaders in the newsroom, Foley said. She suggests you promote yourself and volunteer for committees. Getting involved in projects may cause you to juggle responsibilities. Think about what the company needs most, Foley said.

At lunch, we heard Ronald Elving, Washington News Editor at NPR and Senior Contributing Editor to CQ OnPolitics, speak on the race for the White House in 2000. He discussed the politics of the pre-election, especially the amount of fundraising by the candidates to date and how important this was to their success.

The afternoon started with Neil Gershenfeld, director of the futuristic world of the MIT Media Lab's Physical Sciences program. He shared some very interesting ideas about emerging information technology. One was electronic ink, which is ink you can reuse. He also predicted wearable computing devices and books with electronic spines--you will be able to download any book into one book. His book, When Things Start to Think, was released earlier this year.

That evening we had a fantastic time at the News Division Banquet. More details are available from Kathy Foley.

Tuesday morning we learned about interface design from Alison J. Head, former news librarian and author of Design-Wise. She discussed Web page design and evaluated some Web pages. She said good design matters because well designed tools require less ongoing training and enhance information-seeking behavior. Some of her suggestions include: don't have more than seven categories on a page, put a lot of navigational choices up front and avoid "gratuitous graphics."

At lunch, we heard Kemal Kurspahic, formerly of Sarajevo and former editor of Oslobodjenje, the only newspaper to publish during the Bosnian War, describe how his newspaper continued to publish in a war zone.

After lunch, we went to an information packed session with great tips on specific beats for our reference collections. The speakers and subjects were Anne LeVeque, Catholic News Service, religion reference; Kee Malesky, National Public Radio, arts and literature; Pam Brooks, Time, Inc., selecting and creating subject specific resources; Pamela Dragovich, Congressional Research Service, politics and government; C.B. Hayden, ABC News, biographical; and Jim Meier, The Sporting News, sports reference. Their wonderful handouts are available on the News Division Web site.

Next we heard about licensing content and what we should know in negotiating contracts as   information providers. Sharon Clairemont, Orange County Register, advised us to know what our company standards on contracts. She said you do not have to sign what you are not comfortable signing. Also, she recommended accounting for time you will spend dealing with lawyers. Bill Burger, Infonautics, said the business of providing information online is rapidly and irreversibly changing. His advice for content providers included to be flexible and to be very protective of your content. Ashley Suhler, Dialog, advised it is helpful to know if your paper is especially strong in a particular subject. Tim Collins, EBSCO, suggested some questions to consider about your content. How are you going to use the information and where will it be stored? Will the vendor convert it for you? Chorilee Christou, LEXIS-NEXIS, also had some questions to consider. Do you want to leverage a brand or make money? Are their geographic restrictions? Deborah Harmer, NewsBank Inc., talked about the service provided by her company. Their product lets a vendor maximize your revenue in a particular market. With customer agreements, they remind the customers about fair use and the copyright law. There is no third party redistribution. Cliff Pierce, UMI/DataTimes, said the marketing focus is on information learning. The publishers have the ultimate control over their information. The Web has had a tremendous impact on both our businesses bringing challenges and opportunities, Pierce said.

Our final session on Tuesday discussed diversity in the news research center. Carolyn Hardnett, BET Publishing, said news gathering is in the mindset of the white majority. As stories are written, there is no concerted effort to find minority sources. When she worked at the St. Pete Times, she and an editor put together a minority source database. She suggested considering a source other than the mainstream source when working on a story. She said is up to us to help guide the conscience of the editors.

Jacci Cenacveira, Los Angeles Times, discussed the results of a survey she did about diversity in news research centers. She decided to do the survey after she got involved with a minority recruitment program at the Los Angeles Times and it did not include news librarians. While researching this issue, she found no statistics on the diversity of news researchers. Most newsroom studies did not include the library. Her findings showed that minorities are under represented in the news library profession. Less than ten percent of the respondents belong to a minority group.

Laura Soto-Barra, Florida Times-Union, shared her professional experiences with us. She began her career as an engineering librarian in Chile. She worked there for eight years. She moved to Toronto with her family while her husband earned a Ph.D. She could not speak English but could read it. Since her library degree from Chile was not accredited by ALA, she could only get a library assistant job. She had to go back to school to get a second library degree. She also learned to speak English. When she was finished with school, she got a job as a manager in a languages and literature department of a library. She learned she had to make many changes to get a job. She changed some of her body language and gestures. She said people tend to hire people who look like them. At the Florida Times-Union, she feels she must excel and prove herself in the newsroom. She will be involved in diversity training and reminded us, when we are in the hiring process, to keep in mind everyone grew up in different environments and everyone receives and thinks about information in different ways. She also said hiring minorities is a form of networking and suggested that librarians single out minorities in library schools. When you have an internship, tell the library school you have an internship for a minority, Soto-Barra said.

Chris Hardesty organized another wonderful silent auction for Tuesday night. Lots of different items were donated and sold. One item was a baseball signed by Bob Jansen, world's strongest librarian.

Wednesday morning started with a session on digitized archives. Debra Bade, CNN, told us about the technological advances at CNN which included the replacement of dumb terminals with computer workstations. She also described the news archive operation process at CNN and the news research site on the intranet. She said there is some uncertainty as well as huge changes in the way we do business and the way we do our jobs.

Graham Higley, BBC, discussed the archive technology strategy at BBC. Last summer, they did a comprehensive needs analysis of user needs. The fundamental need is for easy desktop access to the catalogue, the archive and an intranet. As a result of the study, the BBC has developed a technology strategy for the BBC archive. The BBC is funded by the taxpayers of the United Kingdom so cost is an issue. The funding may be the most difficult part of the project.

Next, Rob Robinson, NPR, told us about the archives at NPR. They have cataloged every program from 1971 to the present in databases. They are designing a new library software system and are working with the vendor to have some customizations. Their vision is to have all catalog records and transcripts searchable. One goal is to have search results point to Real Audio files. His advice for working with a vendor is to keep your eye on your vision, then compromise. Miracles take time and stay optimistic, Robinson said.

At lunch on Wednesday, we heard the interesting stories of the career paths some have taken to and from the news library. Gail Bulfin, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, had some advice from her experiences. Always make your boss look good, she said. Develop good trust, the ability to get things done and have success, she said. She also suggested that if you go back to school now, get an MBA.

Mary Kate Leming, Cox Interactive Media, described what she had learned from her different experiences that have helped her career. From library school, she learned cataloging is a reason to group like things together. As a teacher, she learned to put on a show and how to make people want to learn. As a rock and roll musician, she learned how to motivate co-workers, create new projects and manage a budget. As news research manager, she learned to organize information, developed her research skills and learned a lot about peer support. When she moved to the CAR team, she learned the concept of process and that it was important to be involved in both the production and the news gathering process. At Cox Interactive Media, she has learned there are some things she won't do for the money.

Although Carol Campbell, The Daily Oklahoman, had to cancel her plans to attend the conference, Griffin Palmer, The Daily Oklahoman, read her description of her career. She started at The Daily Oklahoman in 1968 in the composing room. She failed the typing test but aced the spelling and writing tests. When she moved to the newsroom, she started out logging press releases. She also worked as a writer on the woman's page.

After lunch, David Wittenstein, Dow, Lohnes & Albertson spoke about copyright and intellectual property issues in a wired world. He gave us a brief introduction to copyright law. One part of this is that facts cannot be copyrighted. Then we went over some true/false hypothetical situations and discussed the copyright protection in those situations. This program had an excellent handout.

The final session of the conference discussed sources for digital images. After some technical difficulties, Kathy Drewke, Globe Communications, shared several sources for digital images and factors to consider before the search begins. Think about how the image will be used, how soon the image is needed and your budget, she said. This can help you determine the best source to obtain the image. Always read the license agreement before downloading a photo, Drewke said.

Courtney Ann Shaw, a vertebrate zoology librarian at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries spoke about animal images. She helps curators, library patrons and other librarians find images they need for presentations, papers and publications. She described several print and electronic resources for locating animal images.

Thanks to all the vendors who sponsored sessions, provided food and goodies. Hoover's Inc.; Infonautics Corporation; NewsBank, Inc.; AP: Technology and Marketing, Photo Archive and Wide World Photos; LEXIS-NEXIS; Congressional Quarterly; UMI; UMI/DataTimes; NewsEdge; Freedom Forum; Dow Jones; The Gale Group; T/One Inc.; MediaStream, Inc.

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