Wall Street Journal : Librarian Laments Research Shutdown

The following would just be a sad but passing story except for one thing. It is emblematic of what’s happening all over the country. Reporters are being “let go,” bureaus are being closed, broadcast news departments are suffering daily funding cutbacks and quality is suffering. And all that may just to be a stopgap measure to stave off what many consider the inevitable.

The news business is in big trouble and many a venerable journalistic institution is facing serious financial crisis and the very real possibility of going out of business.

— Thorne Dreyer / The Rag Blog / February 12, 2009

Librarian Leslie A. Norman says that the search softwear that reporters must now rely on cannot replace the ‘knowledge about how to research using all the tricks we’ve learned over the years.’

By Joe Strupp /February 11, 2009

NEW YORK — The librarian who operates The Wall Street Journal’s news research library — which is set to close with the elimination of her job and another staffer’s — said in a memo to other librarians that the shutdown is both a personal difficulty and a hit to news coverage.

“When I asked who will do research for the reporters, I was told, ‘No one,'” the memo from Leslie A. Norman, posted on a librarian list serve last week, stated. “The reporters will probably be using a Lexis product called Due Diligence Dashboard (you know how your moms told you ‘if you can’t say something nice…’)”

She later adds that it cannot replace the “knowledge about how to research using all the tricks we’ve learned over the years. We figure that the reporters will probably spend 10 times our compensation trying to do their own research.”

The library cutback is part of a 14-person newsroom job reduction announced last week by the Journal, which also includes news assistant Ed Ramos in the library. Norman and Ramos plan to remain on the job until at least March 23, the memo stated.

Asked to comment on the library closing and Norman’s memo, Journal Spokesman Robert Christie stated in an e-mail to E&P: “Yes, we are closing the library. It is regrettable. Our reporters do have access to multiple databases including Factiva and this migration to digital databases as you has been happening for many years.”

Officially an assistant librarian, Norman has been running the library since 2007 when the previous librarian left. She has been at the Journal since 2005, with four years’ prior experience at Bloomberg’s library. She declined comment, but confirmed the memo had been posted.

“I also love my job very much and I don’t see myself finding a news librarian job in the near future. Every day is different and a challenge. No offense but being a public librarian would drive me crazy,” she adds in the memo, which noted she may be able to remain in her post under a contract status without benefits, but has no confirmation yet. “I’m even worried about the microfilm. Between where the Proquest historical database leaves off and our PDF archives begins, there is about 10 years where the only physical form of the paper exists on microfilm.”

After that memo was posted on Feb. 5 at the NewsLib list serve, Norman received numerous notes and e-mails expressing sympathy through the list serve.

That prompted another memo on Tuesday that said, in part, “Your messages have been supportive and loving at a hard time. I got through half of them on Friday and I had to walk away from the computer because I was crying so much. I’ve printed them out so I can look at them when I feel bad.”

Both memos are posted below:

The announcement to her colleagues

Hi:

I regret to report that the WSJ Library will cease to exist on March 23, 2009.

Ed Ramos, the news assistant, and I were given our termination notices today. I have asked to continue on as a consultant with just pay, and not benefits. It’s in management’s hands now.

We will be put on a re-hire list and if the jobs open up in six months, we may be rehired.

When I asked who will do research for the reporters, I was told , “No one.” The reporters will probably be using a Lexis product called Due Diligence Dashboard (you know how your moms told you “if you can’t say something
nice…”)

But it cannot replace Ed’s and my knowledge about how to research using all the tricks we’ve learned over the years. We figure that the reporters will probably spend 10 times our compensation trying to do their own research.

I have many emotions, mostly fear. My husband was laid off by Dow Jones last fall. I also need medication for a chronic medical condition.

I also love my job very much and I don’t see myself finding a news librarian job in the near future. Every day is different and a challenge. No offense but being a public librarian would drive me crazy.

I’m even worried about the microfilm. Between where the Proquest historical database leaves off and our PDF archives begins, there is about 10 years where the only physical form of the paper exists on microfilm.

There are so many little things about what we do…how do I possibly explain them or even write them down?

We’ll be here in some form until March 23. Thanks.

Her gratitude for their support

Hi:

I can’t individually answer all the messages I’ve received in the past few days. So I’ll thank everyone with one big note.

Your messages have been supportive and loving at a hard time. I got through half of them on Friday and I had to walk away from the computer because I was crying so much. I’ve printed them out so I can look at them when I feel bad.

The reporters here have been supportive and compassionate also. Many have called wondering what they are supposed to do after the library closes. They told me how important my research was to their stories. I didn’t know I meant so much to them.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your magnitude of caring and support.

Leslie A. Norman
Assistant Librarian
The Wall Street Journal

Source / Editor & Publisher

The Rag Blog

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