|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
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,
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
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
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.