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Pro Tem archives come alive on the Internet

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A landmark project went officially live on May 8th when Leslie Frost Library and Glendon Advancement launched a new website housing the electronic archives of Pro Tem, Glendon’s bilingual student newspaper, founded in 1962.

Right: Frost's head librarian Julie Drexler and Glendon director of advancement Marie-Thérèse Chaput welcome the visitors

According to the newspaper’s website, Pro Tem is “…York University’s oldest student-run publication, and Ontario’s only bilingual newspaper.” Until recently, it was also only available in paper format, and its history was only haphazardly recorded through private collections of selected issues on yellowing, crumbly newsprint in the basements and attics of former Pro Tem editors and other packrats. Chief among these was Frost Library’s head librarian, Julianna Drexler, who was hoarding any copy she could get her hands on in order to amass an archival collection.

Drexler has been supervising part-time students on the Pro Tem project since 2005, funded by the office of Glendon’s Associate Principal, Student Services, Louise Lewin. These students were organizing and scanning the available issues of the newspaper, overcoming various technical difficulties, such as inadequate scanning surface dimensions and the fragility of some of the copies.

Left: Digital Initiatives librarian Andrea Kosavic explains how the system works

Enter the “York Digital Journals” project whose site currently accesses 15 York University journals. Under the direction of York Digital Initiatives librarian Andrea Kosavic, all the issues were digitized and hosted on the York Digital Journals site. “Our challenges were numerous and diverse”, commented Kosavic. “The huge volume of papers, the number of participants in the project, and the lack of appropriate technology resulted in slow progress, but we succeeded at last and we are very proud of the results.”

And well they might be, with the Pro Tem site ready for browsing, searching by title, author, date, text. “The project continues”, added Kosavic. “We plan to create an abstract for each issue from 1987-88 onwards, and make it easier for Google search to pick them up, so that the global community can access this wealth of historical documentation.” Abstracts for issues published before 1987 were done by Stefan Caunter (Glendon BA Linguistics 1990). The database will be continuously added to as current issues become available.


Left to right - back row: George Rust d'Eye, Paul Sheppard, Bob Waller, Chris Spraakman, Andy Michalski, Tom Ellison; front row: Paul Fabry, Patrick Banville, Marisa Baratta, Christiane Beaupré, Alex Ross, Rosalie Taylor and Terry Walker.r

The gala launching on May 8th welcomed many alumni, including several past editors and contributors of Pro Tem. An intriguing historical tidbit: according to the first issue of the publication, the title “Pro Tem” was intended to be temporary (it means “for the time being”), until they could come up with something more eloquent. But the name stuck and by now has an identity that no one would want to abandon.

Left: L-r: former Pro Tem co-editor-in-chief Chris Spraakman and Andy Michalski Pro Tem editor, 1970-71

“This is an exciting project, because […] now anyone can see how each year’s [newspaper] staff applied their energy and creativity and experimented with what they could produce”, said Chris Spraakman, Pro Tem’s former co-editor-in-chief with Julie Sage (2003-2004). “Working on this paper was the highlight of my degree”, added Spraakman. “I learned as much at Pro Tem as I did in classes.”

The co-hosts of the evening were librarian Julianna Drexler and director of Glendon Advancement Marie-Thérèse Chaput, who toasted the new website with a Glendon welcome of wine and cheese. Alumni, former Pro Tem staff, current students and faculty were then introduced to the intricacies of navigating the site by e-librarian Kosavic, and even had the opportunity to try their hand at searching and browsing at the library’s computer terminals.

“This is great for Glendon”, said Alex Ross, a 2nd-year Glendon philosophy major and Pro Tem’s incoming editor for 2008-09. “The history of this newspaper is the history of the campus and it will now be preserved and available for research for anyone who wishes to do so.”

Right: Visitors enjoyed trying the new system online

“It’s a way that the student newspaper can bridge the gap between the past and the present and, at the same time, keep up with the latest technology,” said another former editor of Pro Tem.

Glendon is home to a large international student community in the heart of Canada’s, and the world’s, most multicultural city. Pro Tem consistently reflects this diversity by publishing writers of various nationalities and experience, with a dedication to the power of the student voice.

It is important to note that many of Canada’s journalists got their start writing for Pro Tem, among them Harold Levy, John C. P. King, Andrew Nikiforuk, Rhéal Seguin, Vianney (Sam) Carrière, William Marsden, James Daw, Christopher Hume, John Spears, Nick Martin, Paul Weinberg. The paper’s catalogue is available online and accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. There is also a physical archive at the Leslie Frost Library of Glendon College. The website’s address is: https://pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/protem.

An article by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny

Published on May 29, 2008