Student Newspaper Archives Should Go Digital, Says Drake University Librarian

Yellowed newspaper stacks are passe.  Microfilm is so 20th century.  The key to ensuring old college newspapers remain relevant in the age of Google: Go digital.  At a recent conference, Drake University digital-projects librarian Bart Schmidt said “unindexed and totally underused” campus newspaper archives need a digital (r)evolution.

As someone who has spent way too much time poking around student newspaper archives, I can confirm digitization would be an enormous leap forward.  A large majority of old campus newspapers literally sit in cabinets, get slapped into mega-huge scrapbooks or are plastered onto microfilm.

To view them, you must actually visit the related campus library or embark on a sigh-inducing interlibrary loan journey, followed by index card torture and long chats with the single bearded guy in each school library who knows where to find what you are looking for.

According to a brief Chronicle of Higher Education Wired Campus report, the way out of this madness, a digitization project, “doesn’t take a lot of resources. . . . At Drake, they use a Microtech Scanpro microfilm scanner, Adobe Photoshop, CONTENTdm digital collection-management software, and student labor.”  What they have achieved in a year’s time: fully-searchable PDF scans of roughly 1,000 back-issues of The Times-Delphic student newspaper.

In respect to search results, displaying PDFs of full issues is key.  For any historian, it’s a blessing to simply find an article for which you have been searching, even if it’s text-only and separate from everything else.  But to view an article in its original context– including seeing its exact spot in an issue, its design, and its accompanying visuals– is an absolute dream come true.

One interesting side-question raised by Wired Campus: Will alumni or family of alumni be mad at “having embarrassing youthful work or peccadillos” suddenly easily searchable?

Below are screenshots of the Drake digital project homepage and the About page of a similar project at Cornell University that has made The Cornell Daily Sun archives accessible to all who wish to search through them.

Update [April 12th]: Jenny Lockhart, editor in chief of The Mirror at South Dakota’s Augustana College emailed me after this post went up.  As she wrote, “I wanted to share what our college has done this past year. Our library staff created the Augustana Album, which not only hosts every newspaper since 1908 (the year we moved to Sioux Falls), but also yearbooks, alumni magazines, and all other campus publications. I thought you might find it interesting!”

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6 Responses to “Student Newspaper Archives Should Go Digital, Says Drake University Librarian”
  1. Tom Lany says:

    As a staffer at a small college newspaper in Minnesota, I think it is fun to page through old newspapers. The web is a great delivery method.

    Issues from 1920-2005 of The Gustavian Weekly (our newspaper) are available online. Others may enjoy this page, which provides links to several publications’ (including ours) online archives.

    I have talked to alumni who have enjoy reliving their college experience through the online archives.

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  1. […] from: Student Newspaper Archives Should Go Digital, Says Drake … Posted in Comentário, Media, TV | Tagged college-newspapers, Comentário, drake, […]

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  3. […] Uncategorized Studenten & Digitalisierung 20. April 2011, 8:36 am Filed under: Uncategorized “Student Newspaper Archives Should Go Digital, Says Drake University Librarian” […]

  4. […] Dan Reimold, Ph.D., at the University of Tampa wrote two months ago, scanning and making your school’s student newspaper collection is an extremely valuable […]

  5. […] Dan Reimold, Ph.D., at the University of Tampa wrote two months ago, scanning and making your school’s student newspaper collection is an extremely valuable […]



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