The Marriage of Libraries and Commerce

By Helfer, Doris Small | Searcher, March 1997 | Go to article overview

The Marriage of Libraries and Commerce


Helfer, Doris Small, Searcher


A recent announcement from McGraw-Hill caught my attention. McGraw-Hill proudly announced, and rightly so, a very generous grant of $100,000 to the Friends of the National Journalism Library at the National Press Club. The donation went to fund the Library's newly renovated News Information Center. The News Information Center serves as a research center for the National Press Club's more than 2,000 journalists and journalism student members.

While there is nothing very unusual about a generous benefactor supporting a library, the grant struck me as out of the ordinary. It seemed to focus much more on a realization of the significance and vital importance companies should place on having access to a state-of-the-art Library and about how libraries are now getting donations from non-traditional sources.

When I asked one of the librarians at the Washington Press Club how this specific donation came about, she said that many members of the National Press Club were taking initiative and looking for opportunities, pursuing their own companies for the benefit of employees who belong to and use the National Press Club. "Wow!" I thought to myself, "Our patrons are soliciting donations for us now."

The McGraw-Hill donation came about because of the actions of a National Press Club member, Doug Harbrecht, who also works for McGraw-Hill. He took the initiative and persuaded McGraw-Hill to give this grant to help the News Information Center purchase equipment and build a 15-workstation training classroom. The upgrade in the facility allows the library to offer full-day training sessions without having to physically close the library, as had previously been the case.

This wasn't the first time a National Press Club member successfully solicited for the library without the Library staff even having to ask. It seems the president of Compaq computers was booked to give a speech before members of the National Press Club. The member making the arrangements with Compaq's president took the opportunity to mention to him that the National Press Club's Library and members could certainly greatly benefit from having some of his company's computers. When the company president arrived to give the speech, he generously announced the donation of Compaq computers for the library.

Suzanne Cheloe, the National Press Club librarian chiefly responsible for systems and training, describes a major portion of the Library's mission as training for electronic journalism, computer-assisted reporting, and Internet skills. The McGraw-Hill grant has really enhanced traditional services at this point. In just the year since Cheloe has worked at the National Press Club library, she has noticed a change in demand for the type of training classes needed by members. A year ago, there was a huge demand for beginning level Internet training classes. Although there is still a continuing demand for basic Internet training today, the Library has experienced a large increase in demand for specialized skills training for computer-assisted reporting and more advanced Internet skills. Thanks to the National Press Club's Library, the professional skills that member journalists can now bring to bear have greatly increased. The Library increasingly finds they need to offer more sophisticated training to members.

"To move information efficiently was the planners, goal for a new library without walls. The grant from the McGraw-Hill Companies gives us the opportunity to meet the new expectations of the library profession. In the News Information Center we will be able to retrieve information from remote sources and deliver it to reporters, wherever they may be located," said Barbara Vandegrift, library director for the Eric Friedheim Library at the National Press Club. The McGraw-Hill grant has specifically allowed the Library to install a LAN to support sharing of files among the staff and standardization and upgrading of equipment to allow more than one machine to be used for the same function, when needed.

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