Sunday, May 13, 2012

National Public Radio (NPR) Library

Special libraries are found within many different types of organizations, such as broadcast networks. Many have internal libraries and librarians which provide archival, research, information retrieval and reference services. These library collections are often closed to the public, focused on serving the needs of direct staff and affiliates. Librarianship within media organizations is a fascinating part of special libraries. In an article from American Journalism Review, in 1995, the 'news librarian' was described as, "the collectors, managers, and re-distributors of the organization's primary product, information. This is critical in all stages of information's flow through the organization – initial information gathering for use in news reporting, in the collection of the news product into databases, in the repackaging of information created by the organization into new products." Much has changed in the industry in the last fifteen years, however the role of collector and manager of the organization's content is still a vital one.

NPR is a non-profit privately and publicly funded membership media organization. The content produced by NPR is nationally syndicated to over 900 public radio stations in the United States. The NPR library does not have a publicly accessible website, as their collections are not available for circulation and reference outside of NPR affiliated patrons. The collection consists of archival audio of NPR produced shows, collections of commercial music and spoken word (films, tv shows, speeches, poetry). Library staff do have a twitter account that is well worth following. The tweets often highlight stories on the NPR website such as this one about the The Most Gigantal, Behemothian Thesaurus In The World

The NPR website is full of ancillary information about the library. An example is this post from This is NPR about a request for Generic Superhero Music for a taping of All Things Considered. A search of the NPR website for "NPR Library" returned 56 results, a mixture of heard on air, blogs, multimedia, and full-text stories. Browsing through the results provides some background on the work and efforts of library staff at NPR. For further information about NPR in general, the Wikipedia site is rather robust, and contains an extensive list of references. The NPR library won the ALA Information Today, Inc. Library of the Future Award in 2012 for the Artemis training project. This article discusses the work at NPR Library in more detail, and this is a DC/SLA tour report from 2010.

I did not take any pictures of the space when I had the opportunity to tour the NPR library. I found a nice one on NCinDC’s Flickr Photostream of the NPR headquarters building. I also found a tour write up from the Medical Library Association 2010 conference with some pictures of the space, and one of former intern (now Music Librarian) Jane Gilvin from NPR's Intern Edition Blog searching the CD shelves, published in August 2011.


  1. Cathy! I love NPR. What a great tour and day. Thanks for sharing!


    1. Thanks Tammy. The tour was fascinating. There's a lot going on at NPR headquarters. It really was a great day.