Thursday, September 21, 2017

Photographing a newspaper library for history

Earlier this year, the wonderful library staff at my newspaper in Lancaster was hit hard by layoffs, and we were informed that the library area and holdings — easily one of the best of its kind nationally at a newspaper of our size — are likely to be radically downsized in the near future, in favor of other needs and priorities.

Newspaper libraries, also known as morgues or archives, were once robust and essential, even at the smallest community newspapers. Certainly, though, the advent of digital technology has rendered some of their functions less important. Additionally, libraries have not fared well as newsrooms have had to make difficult financial decisions as a result of the industry's struggles during the past 15 years.

But I think we moved too far and too fast in these cutbacks. Libraries retain information in permanent ways that can be more efficient and practical than cloud computing. And — a point I harp on constantly — the Internet is hardly permanent or fail-proof. Libraries are a great part of our heritage, too. But soon we'll only see these aspects of newsrooms in movies and old photographs.

So I wanted to make a tiny contribution toward preserving our Lancaster newspaper library for posterity. Here's a gallery of 15 photos I snapped earlier this year, when we didn't know if the library's remaining lifespan would be days, weeks or months.

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