Working week, 5-7 December

  • Datablogging: The Grammy nominations post I prepped last week hadn’t been picked up by anyone, so I spent Monday morning filling in the blanks myself! Better late than never. In the process I discovered the Official Charts Company’s excellent new web database – a listing of every single and album released in the UK, updated weekly (though it may take a few weeks to add new artists to begin with). Previously to get hold of chart info I’ve had to email the company, who do the research themselves, meaning a delay (because obviously they have more important things to be getting on with!). A great new service.
  • More blogging for the US traffic: Pearl Harbor’s 70th anniversary this time. The SEO team asked for a quick archive blogpost last minute again, which was easy to turn around (barring a minor string index error which meant I had to start again from scratch, grr). We’ve decided we need to be on the lookout for anniversaries ahead of time, particularly in light of the software malfunction.
  • Dealing with outside researchers: Officially we’re a private library for the use of (our) journalists only, but we field enquiries from readers too, and occasionally researchers. This week we had a request for a fairly long list of articles, which we sent as a favour. Unfortunately the researcher kept coming back with further requests (several articles can’t be found) and ended up taking valuable time away from more important tasks. I find it hard to say no – wanting to help is surely in our librarian DNA – but with a small team and big workload, we’re going to have to start saying it more often. Valuable lesson learned!
  • Gaps in the archive: They’re running a series of reviews by Michael Billington for his 40-year anniversary, and wanted his review of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal from 1978. We searched the digital archive inside and out, even resorting to reading through every edition from November and December that year, but it’s not there. The microfilm is made from the final edition of the paper, so we have to assume the review only made it into an early edition and was bumped for the later ones. Reviews weren’t clipped for the cuttings files, so no joy there either. It appears in a printed collection of Billington’s reviews, so we know it existed but there is no record in our archive, a glaring omission. It’s made me realise how easily things are lost to history. The archive is the ‘official’ record of the newspaper, but it’s far from comprehensive. What it also made me realise is how important it is to make contacts with others in LIS, and how useful those contacts can be. As a last throw of the dice I called the National Theatre archivist, who emailed me a scanned copy from their archive in less than half an hour. Brilliant!
  • From the archive – I found a lovely little letter from 1874 on the evils of drinking amongst women (for 19 Dec), the only West End panto in 1940 (Christmas eve), the 1913 rediscovery of the stolen Mona Lisa (15 Dec) and a 1923 piece on HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw and God (13 Dec).
  • Journalist queries included Dow Chemical and the Olympics, profiles of trumpeter Alison Balsom, contact details for an army Brigadier, commentary on Iran, an article from Time magazine (we don’t subscribe), a 2011 timeline of politics stories, celebrity quotes and Glenn Mulcaire’s address.

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