Over a Century of Newspaper Archives Digitized

Scarlet & Black articles available online.

December 20, 2014

Hayes Gardner ’15

For the first time, Scarlet & Black will be completely digitally archived and available online, with volumes dating back to the first issue printed in 1894.

Many of Grinnell’s peer institutions have already digitized their newspapers, and Richard Fyffe, Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Librarian of the College, has been eyeing the project for years. He had been hampered by a lack of funds needed to contract a digitizing company.

Last semester, he noticed funding might be available.

“What enabled this to happen were some lower-than-anticipated subscription costs for [academic] databases. As we realized that had happened at the end of last year, we decided to take the extra money that wasn’t going to be needed for those subscriptions, to contract for having the newspapers digitized,” Fyffe says.

Fyffe worked with Chris Jones, special collections librarian and College archivist, on the project. In late spring, they contracted with ArcaSearch, a company that digitizes documents and hosts them in an accessible database.

The idea was Fyffe’s but it was Jones who worked over the summer to produce the final product. Burling Library keeps archived issues of S&B in the Department of Special Collections and Archives; the librarians evaluated the bound copies held there to determine which hard copy of each issue was the best candidate for digitizing.

“We boxed them up and borrowed a company van, and I drove them to Minnesota, where [ArcaSearch] is,” Jones says. “They did their digitization magic, and I drove up later and picked them up when they were done.”

Every issue, except for a handful from the mid-1890s to be added soon, are available on the database.

Jim Reische, vice-president for communications, calls the project a “treasure trove” and noted that alumni, students, faculty, and staff will be able to explore details of the College over the past 120-plus years.

“The S&B is the best record that the College has of the day-to-day life on this campus,” he says.

The database has considerable practical applications as well. Library employees, who in the past often spent their time searching through hard copies of S&B to answer questions for people researching Grinnell’s history, won’t be called upon as heavily to research.

Additionally, the communications office hopes to use the database to highlight historical moments from S&B in school publications and social media.

Currently, the database will only include newspapers published up to May 2010. This allows recent graduates to explore the workforce without worrying that employers may uncover S&B articles that would present them in an unprofessional light. Articles published in S&B since 2010 are available at www.thesandb.com, however.

In another precautionary measure, search engines, including Google, won’t crawl the database. To find a story on a particular person or subject, an employer would need to search the new database directly.

“We think that’s a good balance between providing open access to this information and respecting privacy — because most employers are going to do a Google search, but they’re probably not going to make the extra step of going to the school newspaper site,” Fyffe says.

“Right away, I don’t think that there’s much risk of employers finding anything incriminating about potential employees,” says Stephen Gruber-Miller ’15, S&B co-editor-in-chief.

Gruber-Miller and Emma Sinai-Yunker ’15, co-editor-in-chief, worked with the librarians to establish a policy statement for how the archive would be presented in a way that maintains the historical record and is also sensitive to real-world desires of graduates.

Another issue in the process was a question of intellectual property. Do the students or the College have ownership over the S&B? Reische says technically, the College is the ultimate owner. Even so, the permission and concerns of the current editors were considered during this process.

“The really nice aspect of this is the fact that the College and students can work together and do something really cool, without a lot of fuss. By college standards this happened pretty quickly,” Reische says. “We do hope people will go to it and explore it. We’re certainly going to mine it and share the fun stuff that we find.”

The free database is at http://usiagrc.arcasearch.com/Research.aspx.

This article was originally printed in the Oct. 3, 2014, online edition of Scarlet & Black, Grinnell College's student newspaper.

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