« Back to Collections

Revitalization of Main Library Newspaper & Periodicals Collection

Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, OH

Innovation Summary

The library owns a large, historical collection of newspapers and magazines, dating back to the 1700 and 1800s. For years these materials were housed in a fairly inaccessible location at the Main Library that was not conducive to preservation. This collection has been reorganized and moved leading to increased accessibility.

Problem Statement

Our newspaper collection was housed in conditions not conducive to preservation. Some preservation steps had been taken throughout the years, but these efforts had been somewhat limited, particularly in relocating the collection. The challenge faced was finding a new location and the existing staff resources to move the 7,000 bound volume collection from the older of our two Main Library buildings. Many volumes are in poor condition and require care when moving any distance at all. The collection was moved to the newer of our two buildings, which is far more climate controlled. This move would also clearly require careful analysis of the collection. The magazine collection includes several thousand titles and had traditionally been entirely for in-house, reference use only with much of the collection bound and not accessible to customers. Some titles were retained for only a year while approximately half the collection was located in closed stacks, including the newest issues. Because all materials were reference, it was difficult to determine customer demand and usage. Statistics were meticulously gathered for each issue shelved. This usage information was a key element to determining retention and reshaping the collection based on customer interest and demand rather than perceived reference needs.


Several improvements were made to enhance the life and usefulness of this large magazine and newspaper collection. The bound volumes were moved to a storage area with a more preservation friendly climate. These items are retrieved much more easily and quickly for use by both staff and customers. Additional equipment was purchased including two small handheld scanners available to scan items for customers, particularly when the related microfilm is unclear or the microfilmed edition is different than the print edition. Digital microfilm readers were purchased for public and staff use. To increase usage of the newspaper collection, limits on reference requests, primarily focused on scanning articles and obituaries, have been completely removed. A Remote Reference Team was created to handle this large workload. We enhanced our platform of digital offerings by purchasing digital newspaper subscriptions and Zinio, a product that offers access to popular magazines online. Previously hidden-away historical newspapers have gained new life and attention through rotating displays located in a spot previously occupied by large microfilm cabinets. Reference only popular magazines are now circulated from this previously in-house use only collection.


Digitized newspapers have proved popular. For example, the Historical Cincinnati Enquirer, the local paper, had 191,668 uses during just the second six months of 2012. Requests for newspaper scans have also greatly increased and continue to do so with 300 requests received in December 2012, 375 received in January 2013 and 400 received in February 2013. Turnaround time on these requests is generally no longer than 48 hours. The majority of magazine titles are now available on the public floor rather than shelved in closed stacks. We saved significant funds by eliminating the 200 titles that had previously been “stacks only” subscriptions, meaning these titles were received and immediately placed the stacks. Our magazine microfilm collection was evaluated and consolidated as appropriate. Large, unsightly microfilm cabinets which had previously served as an unintended barrier between customers and the larger magazine collection have been removed. In place of these large cabinets, magazines and historical newspapers are now displayed along with options for interactive activities that foster customer engaged with the magazine collection. Currently a sampling of titles from the Main Library’s large, diverse and previously reference-only magazine collection is circulating. The goal is to have the majority of titles circulating within the next 12 months. The careful analysis of the magazine collection resulted in the realization that nearly 70 titles needed additional cataloging to ensure full access for customers.