Colgate University Libraries
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Academic Library Newsletters in the United States
Updated October 30, 2012
During the nineteen nineties the editors of print newsletters generated by academic libraries in the United States began to closely examine their traditional mode of distribution as well as the changing expectations of their readers. Most initially produced online duplicates and distributed print copies to their traditional clientele. A second group followed the same course but quickly abandoned print on the grounds that it was not cost effective and less convenient for readers. Lastly, academic libraries with no print newsletter experience began to publish exclusively online newsletters that incorporated traditional print characteristics as well as creative elements distinctive to online venues.
Newsletter editors were concerned that the growing number of publications made access to titles a challenge for online readers. Many institutions with multiple libraries produced upwards of a dozen titles. To improve the timeliness of their content, the publication schedule of many titles accelerated from quarterly to monthly to weekly then daily or hourly. Many editors abandoned traditional newsletter titles and repackaged content under the “What’s New” merchandising mantra.
As Library Director at the University of Hartford libraries I saw an opportunity to assist the profession by congregating this ephemeral literature. In 1998, I located, evaluated, and aggregated all the titles that could be recovered through Internet search engines and close examination of library web pages from institutions offering four-year degree programs.
This unique online newsletter directory required the exceptional in-house talents
of Barbara Dessureau, Web Applications Developer and Technology Specialist. To manage web access to this dataset, an Access database was developed in conjunction with the technology of active server pages. The search criteria was entered and a list of specifics was generated, whether by institution (thereby aggregating all titles) or by newsletter title (which frequently changed or was not unique). She designed both the front end access to its content and emphasized the importance of being able to access the current version of an institution’s newsletter.
Criteria for inclusion were finalized, site maintenance policies were developed to ensure reliability and timeliness, and the site was branded with a collage of newsletter titles. In February 1999 the site was launched supported by extensive publicity promoting the new directory of 300 titles with announcements in ACRL publications and notices to international library associations. The Editor’s institutional affiliation changed in 2001 resulting in the relocation of ALiNUS to Southern New Hampshire University.
As librarians responded to user expectations and the newsletters of their colleagues the number of titles steadily grew. Currently the database includes over 600 titles. ALiNUS continues to provide immediate access for researchers who want to efficiently assess developments and trends in the library and information technology profession. Since my retirement I am delighted to know that the libraries at Colgate University will provide new editorial management of ALiNUS.
-- Ronald H. Epp, Ph.D., Editor (1998-2007)
In 2007, the Colgate University Libraries took over maintenance of the database. During the years 2007-2009, libraries increasingly changed from infrequent PDF newsletters to blog-based what's New lists, and the number of links needing maintenance increased dramatically. Once deferred, delayed monthly maintenance made a total update necessary. This version - ALiNUS 2.0 - is based on a data-mining strategy to offload some of the link collection from human to computer.
-- Cindy Harper, ALiNUS maintainer and Colgate Systems Librarian (2007-present)