Former BPL president could preside over shredding of 19th-century Boston newspapers stored in New York

The Albany Times-Union reports that Bernard Margolis, now New York State Librarian, is overseeing the shredding of books and other publications the shrinking state library no longer has room for:

The weightiest challenge is what to do with 17,000 square feet of old newspapers, including dozens from outside New York state. Many ceased publication long ago. There is the Washington Globe, a semiweekly from the 1830s, and the Washington National Observer from the 1850s. There are stacks of defunct papers from 19th-century Boston, including the New England Palladium, Boston Investigator, Boston Evening Gazette, New England Galaxy and Boston Pearl.

Limited storage and resources will result in jettisoning newspapers from outside the state if they are unable to find libraries or archives that will take them. Digitizing them is cost-prohibitive.

Margolis left the BPL in 2008, after 11 years as BPL president, the last several spent in acrimony with Tom Menino after Margolis refused to install the Internet filters Menino wanted on library computers.



Free tagging: 


    why don't they

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    Why don't they auction it on ebay? I am sure there is a hoarder out there that will be interested.


    Definitely should auction them of

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    Definitely should auction them off.. There are history buffs, or organizations with collections, that would be glad to have them. Not to mention the funds it would generate for the BPL, which could use them. I can't imagine they haven't thought of this. Is there something that prevents them from doing it, or is it just that they think there may not be a demand?



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    As someone who actually would sit and read newspapers that old, this is very sad. As we continue to move to a digital era where one false move could wipe out years of articles and such (right, Adam?), we see people just destroying history to 'save space'.

    Yeah I get digitizing them is expensive but how much of a price tag do you put on history? Its just one of those things that you just suck up, and pay for the sake of preserving history.


    Probably going to fade away at some point........

    I picture that scene from 'angels and demons' where they are in the basement of the Vatican in that special room that keeps the literature and some special temp and humidity. I assume that's just too much for some local news papers.

    oh I agree

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    About newspapers they will eventually go away. So wouldn't it make sense to PRESERVE what's left and digitize them before that happens (either newspapers finally all die out OR the paper becomes too faded to read)


    Who's going to pay for it?

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    From what I read in the article, I don't think Margolis would disagree with you. But he just doesn't HAVE the money to spend on it. If that stuff is to be preserved and digitized, either a White Knight with the resources to do it himself will have to step in (hello, Google!), or a lot of New Yorkers will have to pressure their state legislators to give more of the taxpayers' money to the library.



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    While I agree, there are grants for this stuff.. some gov't some private corporation (Google being one). It can happen. I just don't think he's trying hard enough. Its easier to just say "this will be trashed" than to spend time trying to find money to digitize them.

    (sorry I don't buy the fact that he may have 'tried enough'', because where there's a will, there's a way)


    Well, Google did scan all those books and put them on line. Why not at least ask if they want to do the same for newspapers?


    Sorry I thought they would all be digital, I didn't read how expensive it was.

    It's not entirely from the

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    It's not entirely from the article why these basement stacks have to be cleaned out.

    One of the photo captions says the Education Department is moving some testing materials in.


    Preservation costs

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    Not to defend shredding old newspapers but preserving them costs. Merely maintaining the space at a minimum costs. If we want to maintain old records then taxes have to rise. But who wants to pay more and especially for services which appear to have a tiny constituency?

    Plus if the space used for storage is demanded for use by another - and more powerful agency - the what is a library left to do? No money for continued storage and no money for new storage.

    This reminds me of the gorilla on the back of the T. The T is limited in what improvements can be made because it carries an 800 pound gorilla in the form of Big Dig debt. Suggestions of increased fares meet with torches and pitchforks. Meanwhile the idea of increasing taxes to fully fund the transportation needs (e.g., new subway cars) is welcomed by the legislature with the warmth of a dead fish.

    If agencies such as the T were privatized but were expected to provide the current level of service then fares would have to increase. But substantial increases in fares might result in decreased ridership. On the other hand if that meant more cars that might lead to higher parking fees and greater challenges in just finding parking. So the two might offset each other. Perhaps then what needs to be done is to follow the route of charter schools and prisons by privatizing other government agencies that provides services to residents. Poor residents could be given transportation subsidies while everyone else pays full freight. Plus a private "public" transportation system could be a stock holding company with a focus on selling stocks to local residents who then can benefit from a profitable system. Part of me thinks that this is an insane idea. Yet I also wish that public transportation was better than it is. Boston's subway system is still better in some respects than a city such as Washington. There subways run every 20 minutes on weekends. Way too in infrequent. But if trains are not replaced here we will start to see reduced schedules just to not wear out the rolling stock which remains.

    It's only Big Dig debt if you

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    It's only Big Dig debt if you consider the Silver Line and the Greenbush Commuter Rail to be part of the Big Dig.

    Probably not so bad

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    Some of these are included in databases like America's Historical Newspapers which BPL offers to the Public. I bet the rest have been Microfilmed as there was a big push with federal funding to do this "Newspaper Project". Most likely there is nothing unique with all those newspapers.

    Squirrel !

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    You posted that just to flush out Don, didn't you. :-)

    By Nicholson Baker Double Fold, Libraries & the Assault on Paper

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    By Nicholson Baker
    Double Fold, Libraries and the Assault on Paper

    By Nicholson Baker
    ..."One of the library’s treasures was a seventy-year run, in about eight hundred volumes, of Joseph Pulitzer’s exuberantly polychromatic newspaper, the New York World. Pulitzer had discovered that illustrations sold the news, and in the eighteen-nineties he began printing four-color Sunday supplements and splash-panel cartoons. The more maps, murder-scene diagrams, ultra-wide front-page political cartoons, fashion illustrations, needlepoint patterns, children’s puzzles, and comics that Pulitzer published, the higher the World’s sales climbed; by the mid-nineties, it had the largest circulation of any paper in the country

    old papers

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    I hope they at least check to see if the papers have been digitized or microfilmed. this might leave a much smaller collection to be digitized. The papers could then be offered to libraries in their home cities, where the historical value would be appreciated. And certainly, put them up for auction.