ARTICLE: Automation and the work of newsroom librarians

Picture: Archive storage by Samuel Zeller, license CC0 1.0

One of the first newsroom departments to encounter full-scale automation has been the newsroom library. Jan Lauren Boyles and Jared Meisinger, of Iowa State University, conducted in-depth interviews with 16 American newsroom librarians. They studied the automation of journalistic labor in the digital age.

Of the 100 largest print publications in the United States, 46 had newsroom libraries with at least one full-time employee. Today’s librarians are usually positioned in cubicles or desks directly next to beat reporters.

Duties of newsroom librarians stretch far beyond archival maintenance and research requests, Boyles and Meisinger write. Their day-to-work often lacks clarity, and they were proactive in seeking out new tasks. On top of serving journalists in their work, librarians were often called upon to contact readers through managing book clubs or scholarship funds, among other things.

Automation requires flexibility in re-approaching daily work. The research suggests practitioners can co-exist “with the heightened role of machines in digital newswork – provided newsworkers are not afraid to adapt their approaches to daily practice.”

The article “Automation and adaptation” was published in Convergence and is available on the publisher’s website (free abstract).

Picture: Archive storage by Samuel Zeller, license CC0 1.0

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