If you're a history buff, then you're probably already familiar with historical newspaper resources online. Digital archives like Proquest, Newsbank, Lexis-Nexis, and Factiva are fantastic tools for researchers. Whether you're looking into family history, great battles, arch criminals, famous politicians, natural or man-made disasters, scientific breakthroughs, obituaries, or simply news of everyday life from decades and centuries past, newspaper archives are the way to go. Unfortunately, many of the best sources are quite expensive. Worse, services like Proquest are generally available only to institutional subscribers, and not to mere individuals like me and you. But there are ways to get some freebies. Here's what you need to know.
**Check Your Local Library**
This is an obvious one, but if you haven't checked out your library's website in a while, then it's worth a visit. Public libraries have become more and more internet savvy, and are making increasing amounts of resources available online. These often include the very types of newspaper archives and other subscription databases we're talking about here. I'm not talking about online-while-you're-sitting-in-the-library type access, either. These are online newspaper archives that you can access from home (or anywhere else), 24/7.
If you don't know your library's website address, it's probably on your library card. But if not, a quick Google search on your city name (or neighborhood name) along with 'public library' should bring up a link very quickly.
**Check Your Non-Local Library**
Here's something you may not know. Many libraries have reciprocal borrowing privileges with other libraries (my city library has reciprocal borrowing with eight other systems!). Ask if this is the case at your library, and take advantage of the newspaper archives at your neighboring libraries as well.
**Check Your Really, Really Non-Local Libraries**
There are quite a number of libraries that offer borrowing privileges, including online database access, to non-residents. Details differ from one library to the next. Sometimes, you have to apply in person, while other times, you can apply online. There may or may not be a fee.
It can be tricky to find the details of non-resident library cards. When I travel, I make it a point to drop in to libraries and ask. I have a number of cards from across the US, and make wonderful use of a wide variety of databases that way.
One of my favorites is the Mid-Continent Public Library in Missouri, which has a terrific collection of databases, and offers a one-year non-resident card for a mere twenty dollars. Contact the library through their website for details.
**Look For Freebies**
Some subscription newspaper archives offer a fair amount of material available for free, either continually, or on a free trial basis. NewspaperArchive.com, for instance, has free topic hubs (The Titanic, Abraham Lincoln, Man on the Moon...that sort of stuff), as well as free access to front pages from any date. Ancestry.com, with it's own rich collection of newspaper archives, offers a free trial.
See Resources, below, for their links, along with links to other terrific freebie archives. And be sure to see Related Articles and More Articles Like This for even more tips.
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