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A Brief History of the HPNL

Newspaper Library

The University of Illinois library began development in 1867. The collections grew over the next three decades and in 1897 Altgeld Hall was built and designated to centralize collections in a main library facility. By the early 1920s the library collection had grown beyond the space capacity available at Altgeld Hall. In 1924 a new library building was opened to house the central library, providing for the main stacks and several specialized content collections. Newspapers constituted a portion of the collection located in the Main Stacks. By the 1930s space constraints and the physical condition of the newspaper collection necessitated relocation of the newspapers to the basement of the new building. This location provided storage space but not in an ideal setting for the long-term benefit of the growing newspaper collection. The collection was not cataloged, and utilization of the collection was constrained and dependent on local knowledge and assistance of library personnel. Eventually the University Archives and Illinois Historical Survey Library (now Illinois History and Lincoln Collection) found homes in the basement, across the hall from the newspaper storage area.

Iko Iben was the first official Newspaper Librarian, his tenure covering the 1940s through the 1960s and he retired in 1970. The Newspaper Library was unique in that it was a format collection of wide scope unlike the more traditional content collections that constituted traditional library units. Upon Iben’s retirement, Lucien White, Director of Public Services, combined responsibility of headship of the Newspaper Library with the creation of the position of Assistant University Archivist. Wendell Babour served in this capacity for 12 to 18 months as unit head until Charles Elston took over unit leadership until the summer 1977. Following Elston, William Maher was appointed to be Assistant Archivist and Newspaper Librarian in December 1977. During this span of years Betty Hildwein provided continuity as a civil service staff member overseeing the newspaper collection. Maher served as head of the newspaper collection until October 1982 when his duties increased in the Archives to the point that he decided to detach his involvement with the newspaper collection. Then Norman Brown, Collection Development Director, oversaw Hildwein, Vicki Jaeger and Jane Wiles, in their custodial management of the newspapers. Hildewein retired in 1985 and Jaeger became the defacto unit head of the newspaper collection. Gregg Homerding came to the Newspaper Library as a student assistant and stayed on to become a civil service employee serving as the unit Library Technical Assistant (LTA) until 2005. Hildwein retired and Wiles filled in as unit head.

Sharon Clark assumed leadership of the Newspaper Library in 1997 and oversaw the unit’s move to new quarters to room 246 in the main library. Clark retired in 2005. Major changes came at this time with the combining of library units. Under the leadership of Mary Stuart, the History and Philosophy Library merged with the Newspaper Library to form the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library (HPNL). This merger coincided with major changes in the newspaper industry, with the delivery of news moving rapidly from print to online formats. Glen Martin transferred from Central Circulation to the Newspaper Library in 1998 and assisted in the transition to the new quarters in room 246 in 2002 and currently serves as a Senior Library Specialist. The newspaper print collection continued to grow at a rapid rate as deliveries of an expanding subscription base arrived on a daily basis. Storage space in the Newspaper Library was soon completely filled. Additional storage space was designated in the basement of the Law Building, the Horticulture Field lab, the University Press building and in the attic of the main library building. Storage environments at these sites varied drastically, from adequate at Press building to deplorable in the main library attic. The University constructed a modern off-site storage facility on Oak Street in 2005. This storage warehouse offers superb climate-controlled conditions as a permanent repository for library materials including newspapers. Rob Vermilion, hired as a student assistant in the Newspaper Library, assumed the full-time task, under the direction of Fung Simpson, of processing and transferring the stored newspaper collection in the library attic and at the Law Building basement to the new Oak Street storage facility, an effort that spanned nearly five years to accomplish.

As position domains changed with the new library configurations, Homerding transferred out to the Chemistry Library, then served in other units until being appointed as a Library Operations Associate (LOA) in the Undergraduate Library. Mary Stuart became head of the new History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library in 2004 and Dennis Sears served as HPNL Collections and Services Specialist until 2006 when he transferred to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). Stuart oversaw and staffed the Illinois Newspaper Project, the Illinois aspect of a national effort to catalog all the newspapers across the United States. She also instituted a major effort to digitize newspaper microfilm that is an on-going pursuit. Fung Simpson became Assistant Newspaper Librarian until her retirement in the summer of 2011. Nathan Yarasavage was technical lead until 2011 and Geoffrey Ross came aboard as Collections and Services Specialist in 2006. Marie Till transferred from the Undergrad and English Library, joining HPNL in 2011 as a Senior Library Specialist. With Stuart’s retirement in 2012, Marek Sroka became interim unit head. Celestina Savonius-Wroth became head of the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library in fall of 2015.

[Dates given in the above essay are approximate.]

Submitted by:
Glen Martin, October 2015

Contributors to this article and recommended information sources: William Maher, University Archives; and Gregg Homerding, LOA Undergraduate Library.

Consolidation of Newspaper Library and History & Philosophy Library

I. Rationale

Primacy of Content

If those of us in research libraries were slow to catch on to the fact that format distinctions mean little to library users, the digital revolution has made this concept much easier to grasp. We now understand that students and scholars engaged in historical research seek source material for their projects without regard to provenance or medium. We must recognize, therefore, that organizing library material by format alone confounds, rather than facilitates, library use. From the perspective of the user, a more felicitous organizing principle would simply be to bring together related resources and provide access to them. There is every reason to expect that if we continue to rely on artificial distinctions in organizing library material, our users will desert us altogether for the ostensibly more straightforward and immediate results afforded them by internet search engines, and we will be left to contemplate the tragedy of underutilized library collections.

Impact of Web Delivery

At the same time, the online availability of current newspapers has called into question the rationale for maintaining print subscriptions. No other genre of electronic text has achieved the ubiquity or level of acceptance as that of online newspapers, which is starkly reflected in the dwindling number of readers of current print newspapers in the Newspaper Library. These developments raise urgent questions about the responsible use of shrinking acquisitions and operating budgets. With static or decreasing funding for collections, we can no longer afford to subscribe to print copies of newspapers, to be read at most by a handful of individuals, only to discard these copies 3 or 6 or 12 months later when a microfilm copy arrives, nor can we justify the investment of human capital in processing these print subscriptions at a time when staffing levels are being significantly reduced.

Newspapers as Resources for Historical Research

Once the traditional practice of maintaining current print subscriptions is called into question, it becomes possible to envision the Newspaper Library in new ways. If our students and faculty increasingly turn to the web to read current newspapers, the character of our newspaper collection is fundamentally altered. Its main constituency becomes students and scholars engaged in historical research, using our rich retrospective newspaper files as primary source material.

With the announcement last fall of the launching of the National Digital Newspaper Program, the successor to the U.S. Newspaper Program, we can look forward to a not too distant future when searchable digital facsimiles of hundreds of newspapers will be available to our users. There is probably no digital resource so eagerly embraced by our faculty and students as the complete retrospective files of newspapers such as the Historical New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Early American Newspapers, and Times (London). According to our teaching faculty, the availability and searchability of these sources have radically altered the types of research projects that undergraduate students can undertake.

But even with the NDNP’s goal of digitizing 30 million pages of U.S. newspapers, we will rely on microfilm for a long time to come to provide our users with much of this important primary source material. For now, microfilm remains the archival medium of choice. Moreover, digitization of foreign newspapers will, for the most part, lag behind efforts to digitize U.S. newspapers. Maintaining our collection of newspapers on microfilm remains an essential service to our users.

Does Format Matter?

In this period of transition, it is vital that we remain cognizant of the potential losses to scholarship, as well as the gains, posed by the substitution of the digital medium for print. Form (or format) and function are inextricably linked in newspaper publishing. Electronic surrogates take many forms, from digital facsimiles to full content to full text (and, unfortunately, not so full text). Although online access is available for many dailies via aggregator databases, often the online delivery of articles removes them from the context provided with the print edition. As stewards of our intellectual heritage, we must address the larger philosophical and hermeneutical issues raised by online surrogacy. What is the nature of context in an increasingly digital knowledge environment? How does electronic textuality differ from the print medium? How do differences in materiality affect the production of meaning and the reader’s encounter with a text?

Clearly both libraries and users are profoundly affected by changes in publishing practices and content delivery. The digital representation of information changes not only the mode of encounter with the text, but its very meaning and uses. We are challenged to try to anticipate the new issues and questions that scholars will take up as they confront these new modes of presentation and dissemination of news.

Web delivery of current newspapers and the availability of digital facsimiles of backfiles fundamentally alters the concept of a newspaper collection in the new millennium. Nonetheless, the process of substituting online access for print must be approached carefully and with full understanding of the implications of our decisions, even when our choices are severely constrained by fiscal realities. Prudence dictates, for example, that we continue to offer students and scholars a selection of current newspapers in print format, precisely so that vital questions such as the nature of context in a digital environment can be fully explored.

II. Overview of Merger

Mission of Unit

As we have seen, a confluence of economic, technological, cultural and behavioral factors has created a mandate for change. The changes in patterns of use of the Newspaper Library, with the shift in focus to the historical backfiles, pointed toward a fusion with the cognate unit, the History & Philosophy Library, to create a central locus for historical research in the library.

This consolidated unit is designed to serve students and faculty engaged in historical scholarship from all departments and programs on campus where such research is performed, from curricula as diverse as speech communications, educational policy, religious studies, advertising, foreign languages and literatures, political science, art history, environmental sciences, and sociology, as well as history. For novice and expert users alike, this library brings together source material for their research and provides assistance in discovering and locating these resources, as well as guidance in formulating research strategies. The format of the source material may be digital, print, or microform, but the organizing principle of the collection is the content.

Creating a “historical research node” in the library permits concentration of expertise and resources in a way that offers users a more cohesive research experience in a comfortable, welcoming environment. At the same time, we must ensure continuity of services to the allied disciplines of philosophy and religion, which are presently supported by the History & Philosophy Library. Recognizing that students and scholars in virtually all departments on campus rely on web delivery of current newspapers, we are also challenged to establish a single entry point for newspapers in all formats on the Library’s web site. The new History, Philosophy, & Newspaper Library must convert the expectations of all constituent user groups into a coherent repertoire of services and operations consonant with the goals of the Library’s strategic plan.

Planning for the Merger

An advisory committee was appointed by the University Librarian at the beginning of the Spring 2005 semester to assist in planning for the consolidation of the two units. Members of the committee included teaching faculty with ties to one of the programs served by the libraries (Mark Leff, History; John Nerone, Journalism; Patrick Maher, Philosophy), library faculty with allied interests (Lisa Romero, Communications Library; Betsy Kruger, Central Circulation and Bookstacks; Tom Kilton, Modern Languages and Linguistics Library), and a non-UIUC longtime user of the Newspaper Library (Tom Kacich, News-Gazette). The advisory group considered several issues facing the consolidated unit, such as the instructional role of the History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library, the collection development policy, and user services. The group also entertained various proposals for the unit’s name and carefully weighed the advantages and disadvantages of each suggestion (continuity vs. break with past practice, inclusiveness vs. brevity, format vs. function) before adopting the present nomenclature.

Reconfiguration of 246 Library

In designing the layout of the consolidated unit, we wanted to give priority to the comfort and convenience of our users wherever possible. Individual and group study spaces, public computers, and microfilm viewer-scanners and reader-printers are dispersed throughout the History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library and in the adjacent microfilm and newspaper stacks areas. The entire space offers wireless internet access. The reference collection, current periodicals section, and new books section are flanked by reading tables, and the public services desk has been reconfigured to highlight the circulation, reserves, and reference functions.

The general microfilm collection from deck 7 in the bookstacks was relocated to the stacks area adjacent to 246 Library. At the same time, the microfilm collection of the former Newspaper Library was integrated into the general microfilm into a single call number sequence. Microfilm guides have been relocated to this area. All microfilm now circulates to faculty, students, and staff and to researchers at other institutions through interlibrary loan.

Current Newspapers Online

As tempting as it may be to hope that online availability of current newspapers will lead to simplified or streamlined structures of bibliographic control, unfortunately the opposite obtains. In tandem with the goal of facilitating historical research, the new unit faces a major challenge in the creation of a single entry point in the Library’s web site for both current and retrospective newspapers. The plethora of delivery mechanisms for online newspapers, including subscription aggregators, dedicated databases, hybrid databases, and publicly accessible sites confounds traditional modalities of bibliographic control, and new solutions are required to provide users with straightforward access to current as well as retrospective newspapers. The Research Information Specialist for the History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library will work closely with the Associate University Librarian for Information Policy and Planning, Library Systems staff, and technical services staff to accomplish this goal.

Instruction and Reference

Library instruction and on-site and remote reference services are the cornerstone of the new unit, and all staff participate in the delivery of information services. A current news online instructional module is planned, which will be offered to librarians in other units both as a stand-alone online module and as a template they can adapt for use in their own instructional sessions when current news is a featured resource. Web-based instructional modules on conducting research with primary sources in the UIUC Libraries are also in development.

The ability of the new unit to achieve its mission as a node for historical research will depend in large measure on the availability of an extensive menu of public services, including instruction, on-site and virtual reference, support for the use of the microfilm collections, good signage, and an inviting layout of reader space, collections, public computers, and microfilm viewer-scanners and reader-printers.

Mary Stuart
History, Philosophy and Newspaper Librarian
Professor of Library Administration

Interim Collection Policy for Newspapers

I. Historical Background

These changes took place over the longue durée of the twentieth century. In contrast, the digital revolution represents rupture and discontinuity with the circumstances and forces that drove our collection policy in the preceding hundred years. No other genre of electronic text has achieved the ubiquity or level of acceptance as that of online newspapers, which is starkly reflected in the dwindling number of readers of current print newspapers in the Library. Meanwhile subscriptions to online services have placed further strain on our collections budgets. While many newspapers offer their current issues for free to anyone with access to a computer, more often this material is available only through a commercial vendor by institutional subscription.

II. Transition from Print to Digital Format

Fortunately, we can look forward to a not too distant future when searchable digital facsimiles of hundreds of newspapers will be available to our users. Over the next few years, the National Digital Newspaper Program will produce 30 million pages of U.S. newspapers, and at UIUC we already have access to commercial databases offering retrospective files of newspapers such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Early American Newspapers, and Times (London), and to selected runs of other important newspapers digitized by historical societies and libraries (e.g., the Brooklyn Public Library’s Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online, or Colorado’s Historic Newspaper Collection). The British Library has recently undertaken a project to digitize two million pages of nineteenth-century British national, regional, and local newspapers. Similar projects are underway in other countries. The digital capture of newspapers as facsimiles preserves the cover-to-cover content, as well as the graphic material and relational context that students and scholars (in contrast to most casual readers) often require.

Clearly both libraries and users are profoundly affected by changes in publishing practices and content delivery. The digital representation of information changes not only the mode of encounter with the text, but its very meaning and uses. We are challenged to try to anticipate the new issues and questions that scholars will take up as they confront these new modes of presentation and dissemination of news.

III. Future Access

The present state of archiving of digital newspaper content is chaotic at best. Many major papers, including the Chicago Tribune, do not currently maintain a digital archive. Even when a publisher does host a digital morgue, it may very well not meet standards of integrity and reliability acceptable to libraries, and in all likelihood there is no guarantee of permanent stability. Consortia and other organizations, such as the CIC, the Center for Research Libraries and the International Coalition on Newspapers, must play a leading role in lobbying commercial vendors, especially database producers and aggregators, to adhere to minimum standards for digital archives and to ensure persistent access. Working consortially, we are much more likely to be successful in influencing commercial content providers to produce cover-to-cover electronic surrogates that are fully searchable and browsable, and as a group, we are better positioned to shape the terms of our interaction with these commercial entities. As a charter member of the International Coalition on Newspapers (an NEH-funded project based at the Center for Research Libraries), UIUC should take a leading role in these efforts.

The process of substituting online access for print must be approached carefully and with full understanding of the implications of our decisions, even when our choices are severely constrained by fiscal realities. It is vital that we maintain a working collection of current print newspapers to complement online access in order to support research and teaching that bridges the print and electronic media. To be sure, this working collection will be smaller than the array of current newsprint that we were able to offer in the halcyon days of ample acquisitions and operating budgets. For archival purposes, we will continue to rely on microfilm as the accepted medium of preservation. New microfilm viewing and scanning technology that delivers film images to the desktop will increase the appeal of this medium to students and scholars, and acquiring and supporting this technology is an essential component of our mission.

The interim collection policy for newspapers should incorporate all of the following efforts:

  1. Provide electronic access to current issues of newspapers as extensively as possible.
  2. Maintain a smaller, more select working collection of current print newspapers that is both representative of major currents in newspaper publishing and also tied to the curriculum.
  3. Continue to purchase access to digital facsimiles of historical backfiles of major newspapers. Our desiderata list includes the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Constitution, and Chicago Defender [all since acquired].
  4. Continue to rely on microfilm as the medium of preservation and access for back files.
  5. Work with consortial and entrepreneurial partners to ensure that our unique and important international newspapers are filmed and to lobby for adoption of library standards for digital content, access, and preservation.
  6. Continue to convert some print subscriptions to film subscriptions when a full-content online version is available for current coverage.
  7. Promote reliance on the Center for Research Libraries and other institutional partners for access to film when feasible.
  8. Work with the Associate University Librarian for Collections and the Preservation and Conservation staff to develop a prioritized list of titles for conservation and to devise solutions to long-standing preservation and storage problems.
  9. Work with the Associate University Librarian for Collections and the Head of Preservation to identify material appropriate for grant-funded or commercial microfilming.
  10. Explore pilot digitization projects with Head of Preservation and Digital Services and Development staff.

Mary Stuart
History, Philosophy and Newspaper Librarian
Professor of Library Administration