Index To Local Newspapers

by Alice Alford, Reference Librarian

People often come into the library with requests for articles or obituaries that have appeared in the local newspapers. When the exact date of the article is known, there is little problem locating the requested material. Most often, however, exact dates are not known. Prior to June 1999 requests without dates required searching through countless back issues of newspapers or reels of microfilm.

In the summer of 1999 the reference staff began the ongoing project of indexing current issues of the local newspapers, the "Hampton Union" and the "Atlantic News". The purpose of the project is to provide easy access to specific articles or groups of articles on a particular subject relevant to the town of Hampton and it residents.

Once the decision was made to create the online index, much consideration was given to what sections of the newspapers should be included. We examined all the literature that could be found pertaining to other libraries' newspaper indexing projects and learned that, besides news items and obituaries, some libraries had chosen to index such items as advertisements, property transactions, movie schedules, and legal notices, to name a few.

We decided to use the following sections of the newspaper in our index: news articles and features; editorials and letters; columns; school news; local sports; birth and marriage announcements; and obituaries. Each citation includes the name and date of the newspaper in which the article appears; page number; section; whether or not the article is accompanied by a photograph; caption under the photograph; and the author's name.

Using the index, which can be found on the library's web site, articles can be accessed by using subject, personal name, organization name, or keyword. After the citation has been located in the index the librarian or patron can easily find the article on microfilm or in the paper copy of the newspaper.