New Data for Decision-making on Newspaper Digitization and Preservation

At the recent Newspaper Section open session at IFLA ( I spoke about the International Coalition on Newspapers (ICON) Database.  Developed and managed by the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), the ICON Database is a registry of information on the hard copy, microform and digitized holdings of U.S. and foreign newspapers held by research libraries ( The purpose of ICON is to provide data to inform decision-making by libraries and publishers on newspaper preservation and digitization.

ICON now contains bibliographic records for over 170,000 newspaper titles, published in 51 US jurisdictions, 9 Canadian provinces, and 159 other nations.  It also includes issue-level data on the holdings of these titles included in major repositories and digital collections, including CRL, the American Antiquarian Society, the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America database and the CRL/Readex World Newspaper Archive.

We at CRL aim to further expand the database, to include data on newspapers digitized by other national libraries and by credible commercial publishers.  We now have commitments from Readex, ProQuest, and Gale to contribute issue-level metadata on the contents of their newspaper databases.  We are exploring inclusion of metadata for newspapers included in the Europeana Newspaper project and The Australian Newspaper Digitisation Project from the National Library of Australia’s online repository Trove as well.

Based on the data gathered CRL will do an analysis of the coverage of world newspapers by these digitization efforts to date.  We will report on our preliminary analysis, and its implications, at a meeting to be held in conjunction with the IFLA Newspaper Section midyear conference in Stockholm, in April 2015.  This preliminary analysis will provide the basis for exploring prospects for wider disclosure of metadata by libraries and publishers digitizing newspapers, and of aggregation of technical and operational information about the digital repositories and platforms.

We welcome members of the library community to provide us data on their physical and digitized holdings for ICON.  Our metadata requirements are fairly simple, involving data normally generated in the process of digitization. We are interested in information about three different kinds of entities:

1. Title-level information: titles, city and country of publication, beginning and ending dates of publication, frequencies, and other data that identify unique titles (including unique identifiers such as ISSN, LCCN, or OCLC no.).

2. Issue-level holdings information: a detailed listing of each issue held by your repository, with significant indicators such as volume, issue numbers, other useful masthead data from the dates of publication.

3. Repository information: data on where the issues are held and stored, the source and provenance of the reformatted content, and other useful information linking the metadata to the repository.

ICON’s specifications on the desired and required fields we would like to obtain from libraries are available on request. We anticipate working with repositories to periodically refresh the data to stay current with ongoing digitization.

To obtain more information about this project, you can contact James Simon at CRL (

Bernard F. Reilly, Jr.
President, Center for Research Libraries


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