October 27, 2021

Library History: “The Schomburg Center Clipping Files”

From The New York Public Library/Schomburg Center:

“135th Street Branch. Interior.” Source: The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

The Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division’s collection of books, periodicals, serials, microform, and maps equate to over half a million items. However, when researchers come to visit us in Harlem, one of the most popular resources is a collection that has been built personally by the hands of librarians for almost 100 years, the Schomburg Center Clipping Files.

The origins of the clipping files date back to 1924, when Catherine Latimer, the first Black librarian hired at the New York Public Library, realized that there was a need by the community not being fulfilled by the Library’s collections. As described in a review of The Kaiser Index to Black Resources 1948-1986, “reference material on black people was so thin that the resourceful librarians at the Schomburg Library were forced, out of sheer necessity, to create a file of clippings from newspapers and magazines to answer reference questions.” This began as a simple card file but grew to hundreds of thousands of items.

The clippings became an invaluable resource for the community and garnered recognition with scholars and other librarians across the country.

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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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