Sunday, September 19, 2010

DC/SLA Tour of NPR Library and Studio, 9/11/2010

By Chris Vestal

All things considered, librarians are information aficionados, so it’s no surprise dozens of chapter members jumped at the chance to go on a guided tour of NPR.

Members gathered on Saturday, 11 September 2010, at NPR’s headquarters in Washington DC. Chapter President-Elect Mary Talley introduced members to several NPR librarians who led the tour, including Janel White, Maureen Clements, and Lauren Sin. Talley also introduced members to long-time NPR librarian, Kee Malesky. Malesky recently wrote a book All Facts Considered, a collection of facts she’s come across in her years as a reference librarian. Her book is available for pre-order from

The tour started off NPR’s Broadcast Library. This library houses archival copies of NPR’s broadcasts both in cd and reel-to-reel tape formats. About fifteen librarians work in this area. Librarians retrieve archival programming, music, or other audio content of interest to reporters. In fact, during the tour a reporter working on an obituary came to the library to request a copy of all programs the deceased had spoken on. There’s also a collection of over 70,000 music cds and records NPR staff can request. The library has a very experienced music librarian, Robert Goldstein, who can answer a request like “music about snow” by indicating which album and then what track on the album (and even what portion of the track) would be most useful.

The next stop on the tour was the Digital Media Music Unit, which is home to the podcasts All Songs Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts. Musicians regularly perform mini-live concerts here which are in turn filmed and available for free download or streaming at iTunes or NPR’s website here.

In addition to the Broadcast Librarians, NPR also has Reference Librarians who are embedded with reporters. They train staff on how to use an internal wiki which links to several commercial databases, AP Style Guide, homegrown databases of NPR programming transcripts, a pronunciation guide, and information on important people and events. They also help reporters with fact checking stories and gathering background material. Each librarian is associated with specific NPR programming and sometimes receive on-air credits. For instance Malesky is associated with the weekend news programs and has received numerous on air-credits over the years.

For a final treat, members were able to watch a live broadcast of Weekend All Things Considered in NPR studio 2-A (the Daniel Schorr Studio). Following the tour half of the group networked and ate over tapas at La Tasca.

DC/SLA group at NPR

DC/SLA member Jay Santiago at NPR front desk

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