How It Was Done

In March 1988, Bob Harriman, Technical Coordinator of the United States Newspaper Program (USNP) contacted Penn State to see if the Project Team would present at an upcoming USNP Participant’s Meeting to be held later that summer.  Specifically Bob asked if the Team would present on “fieldwork techniques” since much of our Project work dealt with private collectors.  Bob thought our experience and expertise in dealing with private collectors would be an important aspect of USNP field work that other Program participants should know about.  According to Bob “not all states include private collectors, but should, and having us [the Penn State Project Team] present could convince them to reconsider.”

The Penn State Project Team had successfully finished inventorying newspapers in 30 central, north central and northeastern Pennsylvania counties on October 15, 1987.  The Project Team had visited 462 sites and traveled 14,922 miles before ending the Project on February 26, 1988.  Becky Wilson had left the Project in September 1987 and was serving as the Assistant Director at the Blough-Weis Library at Susquehanna University.  By March 1, 1988 Sue Kellerman had joined the Penn State University Libraries Acquisitions Department as a Serials Librarian.

While neither Becky nor Sue were “officially” with the Pennsylvania Newspaper Project in March 1988, they jumped at the chance to present at the June meeting.

Letter from Bob Harriman to Sue Kellerman officially inviting Sue and Becky to present at the USNP Participant’s Meeting on June 2-3, 1988.

A Pic Step by Step Procedures

The presentation given on June 2, 1988 consisted of an overview of the “Step-by-Step Procedures” that the Project Team followed in conducting field work on a county-by-county basis and the letters and forms they used.  Moreover, as new USNP participants joined the national initiative each was given a copy of the following the procedures and the forms.

To the USNP Participants on June 2, 1988:

“[We] discovered that doing this project for 3 years was much easier than trying to tell you how we did it in just 30 minutes.”

                                                                        – Becky Wilson


Step-By-Step Procedures for Organizing Files and Data

to Conduct Field Work on a County by County Basis

Compiled May 1988


The following procedures outline the basic groundwork that must be in place to begin field work in one or more counties.

A.  Start-Up Procedures

a) CREATION of a master card file to identify repositories and individuals with newspaper collections, and to record all subsequent phone contacts and correspondence.

Stress importance for keeping organized – Becky Wilson

    • Repositories were identified by using published reference sources, (directories of public and academic libraries, newspaper publishers, historical societies and museum, etc.).
    • Private collectors were identified through the “grapevine”, calling post offices for names of historians, asking local people, word of mouth, etc.

All arranged by county.  We decided that was the best way for use to work.  May not suit in other situations.  It gave us a better handle on important people in the area and a manageable number of titles to look for – Becky Wilson

a) COMPOSITION and mass mailing of letters with questionnaires (surveys) attached to all the identified repositories and individuals.  Receipt of survey recorded into master card file.

b) COMPOSITON of publicity release and introductory letters to publishers for new releases and radio coverage.  Letters were composed for both pre- and post- site visit publicity releases, and sent out both before and after the site visits occurred.

Publicity played an important role in identifying collections Becky Wilson

c) IDENTIFICAITON and gathering of newspaper bibliographies (Brigham, Gregory, and state and local bibliographies), and county histories.

d) CREATION of a packet of preservation information (where to get supplies), basic preservation techniques, and the Library of Congress preservation handout on “Newsprint and its Preservation”, leaflet no. 5).

This was something that we were not assigned to do – found that institutions and private collectors needed this information; so we created this packet in response to their requests – Sue Kellerman

B.  Planning For Field Work – General Procedures

a) It was undoubtedly a time-saver to have both project people on the site visit.  We could do original cataloging on site, check for holdings data and condition reports, gather ILL policies and the release statement, and complete in one day what would have taken a single person two days.

Three Weeks before site visit – Responsibilities of FIELD LIBRARIAN

  • Look through master card file and select sites we need to visit.  Sites reporting “no holdings” on survey were eliminated, but were called on the phone to confirm that they understood the survey and really did not have anything.  All sites not responding to the survey were also called.
  • Mail out pre-site visit publicity letters, asking publishers to promote project.

This really helped – people who read it gave us extra-warm receptions and it lent legitimacy to the work – Becky Wilson

  • Examine all responses received (surveys) and any other correspondence to see who has what and how many.

[Here we identify major holders] – Becky Wilson

  • Call major holders in upcoming county to give advance notice of visit and to “start the ball rolling”.  (e.g., if institution has no list of holdings ask them to start making one for you, and to organize collection if possible, and make it accessible for your visit).

Remember To Record All Conversations on Master Card File

Three Weeks before site visit – Responsibilities of FIELD CATALOGER

a) Identify all known titles for a county (from surveys and published bibliographies) and search them on OCLC.

b) Build a working stack of titles to be used in the field.  This will go everywhere with you.  (This was composed of OCLC bibliographic records or workforms and LDRs.   This was the cataloger’s working file in the field, kept in alphabetical order – by title – and referred to constantly as we cataloged.

c) Pull and photocopy all newspaper histories for the county; read histories to outline complex title changes and to identify short-lived and obscure ones.

(For fun, pick a title at random and decide to find it!)

We did this for each county – Sue Kellerman

Two Weeks before site-visit – FIELD LIBRARIAN

a) Working from card file, surveys and a map of the county, put a tentative schedule in place.  (See sample Bradford County Itinerary below).

For tips on how to determine the length of time needed for a site visit, see sheet, “Things to Consider” below.

b) Begin detective work.

Working from surveys received from institutions and individuals, Cataloger’s working stack of titles, and state bibliographies, comparisons are made to determine what we have located already and what we now need to dig out.

We looked for published titles no one listed as having – Sue Kellerman

Phone calls and more calls, hundreds for each county, are made as we look for long runs of defunct small-town papers.

c) All calls and information, especially people’s names, and titles we need to find, are recorded on the master card file.

d) Confirm schedule of dates and times with participating sites and individuals to finalize itinerary.  Additional appointments may be added later.  In some cases, this could be a third or fourth call to a major site.

Did this to build good rapport – Becky Wilson

For more detail on points to ask while on the phone, see sheet “Things to Consider” below).

In Pennsylvania, we had a scheme in place to include private collectors and even people outside the State with important Pennsylvania titles – Becky Wilson

Two Weeks before site-visit – FIELD CATALOGER

a)  Input all known titles for the county into our PC.  Include title, place of publication, whether located so far, 780s and 785s, etc.

b)  Print out this listing alphabetically by title.

This was very helpful in identifying titles we found unexpectedly – Sue Kellerman

(This will create a title list that we refer to throughout our field work as we encounter titles along the way).

One Week before site visit – FIELD LIBRARIAN

a) Continue making phone calls and digging for lost titles.

b) Prepare certificates to hand out to each institution and individual we plan to visit.

c) Assign OCLC symbols to each site and individual.

d) Make room reservations if necessary or appropriate.

Local snake hunt or Fireman’s Convention – Becky Wilson

e) Check supplies of all forms needed:  workforms, LDRs, accessibility statements, release forms, preservation forms, etc.

f) Respond to calls and correspondence coming in as a result of publicity and squeezing newly identified holders into an already impossible schedule.

Frequently added people after 5pm to fit it all in; re-confirm any site visits with people you think may have forgotten you – Becky Wilson

One Week before site visit – FIELD CATALOGER

a) Search on OCLC all titles, Pennsylvania and otherwise, by institution – based on lists and surveys sent to us.  For large holders, a folder is made with all data for each institution:  OCLC records, NAD record, certificate, and all lists they sent us – to ensure that we see everything while there.

b) Review check list of things to take in the field with us.

See “Survival Check List” below

Note: For details regarding the actual site visit and on-site cataloging, please see article:  Wilson, Rebecca A. and L.S. Kellerman.  “Challenges of On-Site Cataloging.”  Cataloging and Classification Quarterly.  6(4): 31-38 (1986).

Post Site-Visit Procedures

Follow-up was very valuable.  People pleased that we would continue to interact, and to help them with things they needed.  We also frequently called to verify data or get information we missed – Becky Wilson

Field Librarian

a) Write thank you letters to all institutions and individuals for their hospitality and assistance during the site visit.

b) Respond to any questions or requests for information received on-site.

c) Answer all correspondence received in our absence.

d) Send out post-publicity letters to publishers.  Include in this letter:  sample articles for other papers, statistics on what we found for the county, needs and finds lists, and titles we especially want them to ask people to look for.

e) Assist cataloger with filling out LDRs and completing cataloging on workforms.

f) Update mast card file with date of visit and letters sent out; record mileage statistics, expenses, number of sites visited, etc.

Field Cataloger

Cataloger’s work really begins now! – Sue Kellerman

a) Re-work LDRs and put in summary holdings format (final form).

b) Input on our PC:  “found” and “not found” title status, earliest date cataloged, notes, OCLC symbols for sites, major holders, etc.

c) Input on PC new titles found.

d) Print out from PC files listing of titles found and not found for our “needs and finds” lists, to be sent to interested individuals and newspaper publishers.

Very useful.  Everyone liked it – Sue Kellerman

e) Compile statistics for the county on percentage of titles found, etc.

f) Input name/address and ILL policies on PC for each site visited.

g) Catalog titles on workforms or update OCLC records where applicable.

h) Create linking histories, showing changes of titles throughout history of publication (send to interested publishers and historical societies).

i) Revise all workforms and LDRs.

j) Xerox all materials to send to Pittsburgh for inputting (CONSER authentication).

k) On request, send out comprehensive listing of titles and holdings to institutions, and specific holdings lists for a particular institution.

Many places wanted this – keep a list – Sue Kellerman

l) Suggest list of titles to be microfilmed for the county.

At the point of cataloging we made a list of titles to be microfilmed.  We would frequently talk to historians and curators and librarians to get a sense of what titles were important – Sue Kellerman



September 24 – 27, 1985



Sept. 24 Tues.

7:35 am                       Leave State College

12:00 – 2:00pm     Independent Sentinel Office   (Go to Green Free L. when done)

Time – Open     Green Free Library     (Hrs: 2-5; 7-9)   (Call Leslie if we need to go earlier)

Granville Summit

Late afternoon       Ruth Kinney      (Private Collector)   Early evening

Troy          Laurel Lake        West Burlington Township

Sept 25 Wed.

8 – 11am       Gazette-Register Office   TITLE CHANGES!

11am – 1pm     Pat Barber    (She will meet us at G-R & lead us to Laurel Lake)

1 – 2:30pm     Bradford County Library   (RD-3; West Burlington Township


3 – 9pm              Spalding Memorial Library (Hrs: 2-5; 7-9)

(100+ issues; can work through supper hour)


3 – 6pm       Sayre Public Library  (Hrs: W, F 10-6pm)   (Try to go by 6pm; work around  Spalding Library


Sept. 26 Thurs.                     

8:30am       Mather Memorial Library      (Will try to find papers for us!)


9 – 10am         Daily Review Office      (Paper going back to 1879!)

1 – 4pm                       Bradford County Historical Society

(Landmesser can let us in at noon if she is free; call her)


Sept. 27 Fri.

8:30 – noon       Rocket-Courier Office       (Go sometime in the morning)

9:00 – noon          Wyalusing Public Library (Hrs: 9-12; 3-5; 7-9)

11:45am                  Neal Estelle                 (Private Collector)

New Albany

1:00pm   New Albany Community Library    (Call if we need to go earlier)



DETERMINE number of visits per county and length of time per visit.

Time is based on the following factors:

Number of titles published in that county

  • Number of institutions/individuals with collections
  • Distance from home site (travel time involved)
  • Number of titles at a given institution/individual
  • Extent of holdings for each title
  • Organization of and foreknowledge of the collection
  • Number of title changes thought to exist per newspaper title
  • Number of titles on microfilm versus paper copy
  • Microfilm is more tedious and time consuming to inventory and catalog

POINTS to cover while making phone contact to arrange site visits

It may be helpful to know in advance:

  • Who your contact person will be at the time that you will arrive
  • Any special arrangements that must be made to have access to all collections (if Archives are locked, can someone let you in)
  • Do you need to reserve a microfilm reader
  • Who will be there with authority to sign release forms (for accessibility)
  • Special parking instructions and directions
  • Hours of operation and after-hours accommodations
  • Any special gear needed:  wear jeans, bring flashlight, and need portable microfilm reader, dirt shirt?
  • Secondary contacts and phone numbers (at home if necessary) in the event that your primary contact does not show up to let you in (important at small historical societies and libraries lacking extensive hours of operation).



  • Itinerary
  • maps
  • state bibliography – county breakdown
  • “needs” and “finds” lists from previous counties inventoried
  • working stack of county titles
  • county histories
  • holdings lists and surveys received from institutions and individuals
  • pre-assigned symbols sheet (county specific)
  • blank workforms, LDRs, accessibility statements, ILL forms, preservation forms
  • typed certificates
  • telephone calling card
  • tape measures
  • dirt shirts
  • flashlight
  • hand-held microfilm viewer
  • blank paper, paper clips, mechanical pencils, pens
  • camera and film
  • survival food – granola bars, boxed juice, cheese on wheat crackers
  • gloves
  • umbrella
  • snow shovel
  • band-aids
  • Kleenex



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