Washington State Library newspaper collections to the rescue

Washington State Library newspaper collections to the rescue

Recently, a Washington State Library patron arrived to ask about accessing old Washington newspapers. She turned out to have quite a story.

She had just landed her dream job: no more night shifts, double the salary, and reduced commuting time. She was over the moon, except for one thing: her new job required an official copy of her state-issued birth certificate, plus other documents.

How hard could that be? She was born in Washington, and had a driver’s license and school records, but none of that was sufficient. She had a hospital-issued birth certificate, which had sufficed when getting her driver’s license many years ago. However, post-9/11 requirements had changed laws regarding official documents, and that was no longer good enough.

To add to the pressure she had one week to get satisfactory evidence, or this dream job would go up in smoke.

She had, from her mother, a small clipping from her local paper announcing her birth. The Department of Health (thankfully across the street) told her that along with the other information she’d brought, that this clipping could count toward the requirements as long as she found the original newspaper along with the date and masthead. This is where the State Library entered this story.

RCW 27.04.045 describes the duties of the State Library: “Serving as the depository for newspapers published in the state of Washington thus providing a central location for a valuable historical record for scholarly, personal, and commercial reference and circulation.”  We take this charge very seriously. We have rooms full of microfilm — around 50,000 reels of film, in fact. In addition, we have more than 400,000 pages of newspapers online.

A trip upstairs in the State Library, a few hours, and help from our reference librarians provided her with the information she needed. On the way out the door, she let us take a picture of her with that last little piece of information she needed to land that dream job.

We love when we can help someone in such a simple and yet life-changing way!



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