When Postmedia suddenly closed 15 Canadian community newspapers in May of last year, five local weekly papers were removed from Windsor-Essex communities: the Kingsville Reporter, the Lakeshore News, the LaSalle Post, the Tecumseh Shoreline Week, and the Tilbury Times.
Newspaper profitability has been in decline for decades, but the media company, like other businesses, had been hit hard by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and suffered further declines in revenue.
Following the closure announcement, Leddy Library archivist Sarah Glassford reached out to all five local newspapers with an offer to rehouse back issues in the library’s Archives and Special Collections.
“Local newspapers offer a rich snapshot of our communities’ histories by chronicling important events and issues,” said Dr. Glassford. “When the closures were announced, many community members wanted to ensure that these unique records would be saved."
Editors from two of the five papers responded to the offer, happy to secure new homes for a rich historical legacy that may have otherwise ended up in a recycling bin.
“Archival rescue missions like this are not uncommon,” said Glassford. “We often have to act quickly to ensure that valuable records are not permanently lost. Completing the transfer under pandemic conditions added to the challenge in this case.”
Masked and socially-distanced volunteers from the Kingsville-Gosfield Heritage Society, Kingsville Reporter, and Leddy Library co-ordinated the packing, transportation, and unpacking of the newspaper’s archive from Kingsville to Leddy Library. Shortly after, the archives also received a small delivery of back issues from the Lakeshore News.
The Lakeshore News and Kingsville Reporter newspapers, a collection of issues going back roughly 125 years, are now safely stored in the archive’s climate-controlled, secure vault. As pandemic conditions permit, staff are cataloguing the papers and taking emergency conservation steps.
Glassford intends to eventually digitize some of the older fragile issues that will allow the library to better preserve them. Digitization will also increase public access to the collection by sharing through online initiatives such as Our Digital World, a newspaper database supported in part by Leddy Library.
“Much of the detail found in newspapers — from local events to obituaries — is not captured anywhere else, particularly when we're talking about newspapers from small communities,” said Glassford.
“We’re happy to preserve this piece of Windsor-Essex history.”
Learn more about the Library’s Archives and Special Collections during Archives Awareness Week, April 5 to 9, on the library website.