The libraries supported by media organizations are types of special libraries. Both the materials and the clientele are unusual. As the likely first stop for the communicator during the early stage of the information search, media libraries are crucially important. Many media organizations – whether in the business of producing a newspaper, a national magazine, a local television news broadcast, advertising campaigns, or public relations materials – have some sort of library collection or research function.
The in-house library of a newspaper office may have a small, current collection of major reference tools (dictionaries, directories, almanacs), may subscribe to a handful of magazines and journals, may have access to online database services, and most likely is staffed by a professional librarian. But by far the most important resource, in the opinion of a newspaper staff, is the back files of the newspaper itself.
Today, every large circulation newspaper has its content stored and searchable through an digital library system. With the growth of online news publications, the challenge of reconciling the archive of the print edition of the newspaper and the digital version of the newspaper has grown and often news organizations will have two separate and not entirely equal database representations of news products they create.
Broadcast news libraries may not have as many of the print and digital reference tools found in a newspaper or magazine library, but they do have a major resource for their employees – the archive of tapes or digital files of previous broadcasts. When you see file footage flashed on the screen during a television news report, you are seeing one use of this archive of materials. Broadcast news organizations keep archives of their own broadcasts, but journalists also have access to Web-based archives of streaming audio/video files through services such as those provided by the Vanderbilt Television News Archive. Current clips can sometimes be found using YouTube, Google News or Yahoo! News.
Strategic communications agency libraries are designed to meet the information needs of communicators creating the ads or news releases, preparing the media kits, conducting the market research, studying audiences or clients, and developing “new business pitches.” The library for an advertising agency or department, for instance, may include tear sheets, pages ripped out of magazines and newspapers that serve as examples of ads for particular products or services. The library may have files of pictures and photos so artists have examples if they need to draw a cheetah or a cricket bat. The library has industry and trade information so communicators can do background research on potential and current clients and their products and services. And these libraries have all of the specialized market and audience research tools that help determine message context. A public relations agency library will subscribe to the important media tracking services and provide access to the databases and digital services that help the PR professionals follow news about their clients.
Media organization libraries, then, serve a special function. Those creating messages must have at their fingertips examples of the own organizations’ output; materials produced by other communicators around the country or the world; information about the industries, products and audiences for whom messages are produced; and general fact-finding sources for quick reference.