Do I need a library card?
August 2, 2013 10:17 AM   Subscribe

I want to find a full-page ad in the New York Times from a few days after hurricane Sandy that thanked a bunch of corporations. (Maybe it was the WSJ?) Is this sort of information available still? Do libraries archive the ads in a searchable form? I haven't been to an actual library in years -- so I'm not looking forward to sifting through microfilm, but maybe I have to? Is there a digital record of newspapers I'm missing out on?
posted by mhh5 to Education (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
These days many libraries subscribe to databases, such as Lexis Nexis and ProQuest, instead of purchasing microfilm. A library card (number) is typically required to access electronic databases from home.
posted by oceano at 10:43 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Many libraries also have microfiche of back issues of major newspapers. The bad news on microfiche is that the only way to search it is to put the cards in the viewer, manually looking for what you want. The good news is that everything is usually included (that is, they don't remove the ads). Call nearby libraries to see what they have. Start with the biggest. Don't forget university libraries.
posted by ubiquity at 10:46 AM on August 2, 2013

Best answer: Most ads aren't indexed in Lexis Nexis or Proquest, though. You can check to see if your local library has a subscription to either the New York Times online or the WSJ (I don't think the New York Times archive online has a way of viewing the full page, but I could be wrong; I do not have back access to the WSJ.) Believe it or not, microfilm is still a really useful tool for seeing the full pages of newspapers and there are much better microfilm readers now than in the past. If you can narrow it down at all by title and date*, you may also be able to submit an interlibrary loan request for a scan of the page if your local library doesn't have access. Some of the bigger libraries by you may also keep the back issues for a year; you can check in WorldCat to see what the local holdings are.

*if you can do this, I should have access to the reels of microfilm for those dates for both publications and I'd be happy to look, but I need a more precise citation-- memail me!
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:50 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you want to find a library that has the microfiche of the NYTimes. I think a lot of academic libraries still carry back-issues on microfiche once they dump their current paper copies, but maybe that is becoming less common. The electronic databases won't have the ads.
posted by stopgap at 10:50 AM on August 2, 2013

It sounds like you have a lot of info to go on, so this should not really be a needle in a haystack----believe me, I know needles and haystacks. The only thing that could be a hitch is that there is a delay in converting newspaper to microfilm. It should be available by now.
If you act pleasantly and not full of dread, I bet the librarian or other library staff will be glad to help you ;)
As far as getting a library card, last time I checked it was not painful. I would seek out a public library first since the card should be free. I would also call the library first since one branch may house the microfilm and not all libraries have a reader, etc. You can also make sure you can print.
If you need to go to a university, now would be a good time since Fall classes have not started quite yet and it should be pretty easy. A university should not require a card for in-house research. If that is the case, maybe you know an employee or student who can help.
posted by TheLibrarian at 11:03 AM on August 2, 2013

Honestly, I think once you find out where to go and get there, this should take no more than an hour if that long.
posted by TheLibrarian at 11:06 AM on August 2, 2013

Go to the website of your local library, and it will give you the instructions on how to get a library card, if you wish, although you shouldn't need one to go in and look at the archives.

You will probably also be able to email a librarian from the website and ask the question and get a response.

Or even email a university librarian from their website, if there's any not too far from you--at my university, we help members of the public find this sort of thing all the time, and can usually suggest further places to go if we don't have it. (We prioritize students, so it may be a couple of days before we get to your request if it's midterms or finals and there's lots of students needing help, but you'll still get helped.)
posted by telophase at 12:14 PM on August 2, 2013

Proquest has ads, but usually in the Historic Newspapers, not the more current ones.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:17 PM on August 2, 2013

Best answer: Ex-newspaper librarian here - yes, microfilm will be your best bet. The digitised versions of NYT will be historic for the most part, other databases like Factiva & Ebsco (and ProQuest non-Historical NP) will include articles rather than the ads. You have a concrete starting point, scanning through a few days' of film (even with a huge paper like NYT) isn't too awful, but you will need to go there in person. Ring ahead to make sure that your library has it if you're not planning on going to the big one in SF. In fact, ring ahead anyway - you can check any fees for scanning, printing etc and suss out the technology etc. Then when you go you know exactly what you're looking for!
posted by Athanassiel at 11:01 PM on August 2, 2013

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