June 24, 2021

Collecting Print Newspapers: “Princeton University Library Builds Collection of Newspapers Published For African American Audiences”

From the Princeton University Library:

Princeton University Library (PUL) has begun a nearly comprehensive collection of current newspapers published for African American audiences throughout the United States.

The collection features 72 newspapers from cities and towns in 32 states, ranging from New York City to Eutaw, Alabama. Included in the collection, for example, are Hudson Valley Press from Newburgh, New York; Tuskegee News from Tuskegee, Alabama; Tri-City Voice from Fremont, California; African-American News and Issues from Houston, Texas; and Black Chronicle from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

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PUL librarians anticipate that future scholars of African American history and culture will be able to make use of the newspapers in the collection to trace the activities, attitudes and thoughts of people living in United States during the 21st century. As community-oriented newspapers, the titles in the collection provide not only the “hard news” of the day, but coverage of school and church events, opinions of citizens and local politicians, and advertisements that serve to reveal the consumption habits and aspirations of their readers.

A changing publishing environment has made it necessary for libraries to more vigorously collect newspapers.

In the 20th century, news publishers often found a robust secondary stream of income as microfilming companies made compact, long-lived copies of the newspapers and sold them on demand to libraries when research needs dictated a purchase.

However, the rise of “aggregator” digital databases that gathered news from hundreds of titles led many libraries to drop their microfilm purchases and rely on online news resources. This led to a decline in the fortunes of microfilming companies, which then terminated contracts with many smaller newspapers, leaving many titles unavailable except to current subscribers. Despite their ease of use, the aggregator databases lack both permanence and coverage; titles many be excluded with little notice, and the databases often omit advertising and graphical content.

To provide a permanent record of African American communities, in its full context, it is necessary to collect and preserve newspapers in their entirety. Because PUL is using standard archival methods, the newspapers are expected to last in usable condition for many decades.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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