Does Your Public Library Have a Vertical File? - Tuesday's Tip

(Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) Back in the old days (we're talking the mid to late 1980s), when I started working in libraries, we had something called a "vertical file" at my library. It was kind of an archaic form of the Internet except way, way, way, way smaller--all the information was contained inside of one filing cabinet. Vertical files were often used to organize articles, pamphlets, reports, and other items that might be of interest to library patrons. Many libraries eliminated their vertical files when easy access to the same or better quality information became available on the Internet. It was kind of like turning in your horse and buggy for a Lamborghini. For most, though not all, intents and purposes the concept of the vertical file has become obsolete.

Some libraries have retained their vertical files or portions of them for people researching local history and genealogy. The wonderful folks at the
Worcester Public Library realised the value of the biographical/local history information in the library files. While more recent issues of our local newspaper, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, are indexed and accessible electronically older issues are not. The Worcester Biography File offers a wealth of information on people with Worcester connections, and the Worcester Clipping File offers information on a variety of Worcester subjects. The files don't contain information on everything and everyone, but they sure offer a lot of information which is difficult or cumbersome to access in other ways. I use the clipping files for the info in the files and to figure out where and when events took place. I look for the date of an event in one of the files and then go the microfilm of the newspaper for that date for additional coverage.

Tuesday's Tip: Ask the librarian at your public library if they have some kind of a clipping/vertical file. You'll be glad you did. That little red Lamborghini's sure is pretty, but sometimes the horse and buggy will do the job just fine.

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Tuesday's Tip: "Ask A Librarian" Service at Your Public Library
Tombstone Tuesday: Jacob Riis, Riverside Cemetery, Barre, MA
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Dorene from Ohio said...

Through the years I have found amazing treasures in the Vertical Files of libraries! Great post!

Cynthia Shenette said...

Dorene - Thank you for your comment! I'm glad you too have had luck with vertical files. I use them all the time, but I wondered if other people were aware of them.

Greta Koehl said...

Ditto here - I checked out the vertical files at the Greenville Library and am aware of such files in a couple of other locations I plan to visit.

Cynthia Shenette said...

Greta - Good for you. I'm glad other people have found them useful as well. Not all libraries (and archives) have them, but many still do. It's worth asking.

The Genealogy Gals said...

In addition to lots of information there's the thrill of not knowing what you will find and the tactile pleasure of running you fingers over old stuff.