LJ Talks to Barbara Olson, ProQuest’s Director of Product Marketing for Historical Collections and Primary Sources

Barbara Olson, ProQuest’s director of product marketing for historical collections and primary sources, spoke with LJ about new content that ProQuest has added to its offerings.

Barbara Olson, ProQuest’s director of product marketing for historical collections and primary sources, spoke with LJ about new content that ProQuest has added to its offerings.

What defines ProQuest as a publisher?

ProQuest has been the connection between libraries, researchers, and foundational content since 1938; when the growth of microfilm ushered in a new era in scholarly research. The reproduction of printed media for storage and retrieval enabled libraries to share rare collections with a global audience. Time and technology evolved along with ProQuest’s pivotal role in digitization. Today, our reputation as pioneers in preservation and access means leading research institutions worldwide and hundreds of other premier organizations trust us with their fragile, irreplaceable material, while also supporting publishing workflows to make their information more accessible.

Who are the primary users of ProQuest’s databases?

ProQuest serves several library markets globally. In the academic world, we provide solutions for universities, colleges, and research institutions as well as community colleges of all sizes, trade schools, and two-year programs. In addition to higher education, we serve elementary schools, primary schools, high schools, and public libraries. Finally, we provide solutions for corporations and professionals in the pharmaceutical and legal industries as well as government agencies, patent examiners, grants administrators, and more.

Are there any unifying features that users could expect to see in all your databases? What are the best ways for users to navigate your content?

ProQuest databases sit on various platforms, each with a unique set of features and functions that allow users to navigate the databases. Each platform has a variety of tools to allow searchers to narrow down a search by date, content type, database, and more. The Advanced Search page allows users to construct more complex search queries to help them find the materials they need.

With the launch of research experiences, such as ProQuest Black Studies in February 2022, we have developed other tools that are intended to help students and researchers with their research. This database features easy-to-use functionality such as timelines, topic pages, and collection pages that allow researchers to easily navigate the database and location sources and information.

It is exciting to see that new content is being added to your Historical Black Newspapers collection. Can you tell us more about this collection?

ProQuest Historical Black Newspapers offers essential primary source content and editorial perspectives of the most distinguished African American newspapers in the United States. Each of the 11 Historical Black Newspapers provides researchers with unprecedented access to information that was excluded or marginalized in mainstream sources. The content, including articles, obituaries, photos, editorials, and more, is easily accessible for scholars studying the history of race relations, journalism, politics, education, African American studies, and more. Coverage is drawn from the Chicago Defender, The Baltimore Afro-American, New York Amsterdam News, Pittsburgh Courier, Los Angeles Sentinel, Atlanta Daily World, The Norfolk Journal and Guide, The Philadelphia Tribune, Cleveland Call and Post, and Michigan Chronicle. Louisville Defender launched in August 2022.

Each of the 11 Historical Black Newspapers are cross-searchable with all other ProQuest Historical Newspapers, allowing researchers to evaluate history from multiple points of view from various places throughout the world. In 2023, we have one new title signed, which will launch in the first half of 2023, and we are continuing to work to add other titles. We are pleased to make our 12th title the Kansas City Call.

Historical Black Newspapers are offered as single titles or as one bundle of all titles, either as a subscription or via perpetual access. Coverage begins on the first day of publication through 2010. 

What challenges has ProQuest encountered in recent times? How have you been able to overcome these challenges?

In 2020, the unthinkable happened, and overnight professional workers, researchers, academic faculty, and students across the globe shifted into enforced remote study, work, and social interaction. We experienced an instant digital revolution as the global pandemic accelerated a behavioral shift toward digital content consumption and the integration of digital technologies.

While demand for digitized information surged, we faced many challenges—many archives, museums, and other collection sites were closed, which made it difficult to access information to digitize materials and launch databases. As did all other businesses, we halted travel, conferences, and other avenues to visit customers. Webinars and other online events were important for customers to connect with us, and we were able to adapt quickly to meet the need for access to digital materials.

What new databases or updated databases are you looking forward to? 

My colleagues in product management are always looking for the best content—we have a great lineup for 2023 that will include over 20 new products. We will be ready to share with customers later this year, but I can give you a sneak preview on a few exciting developments. We recently signed an agreement with NPR allowing us to launch a new title, Latinx Thought and Culture: The NPR Archive, 1979–1990. This collection will showcase radio programs such as the weekly Spanish-language Enfoque Nacional (1979–1988) and the daily English-language Latin Files (1988-1990). They focus on Latinx issues related to politics, sociology, human rights, the arts, and more, with interviews of key figures and news reporting by a generation of Latinx journalists at the time. This database is due to launch in Q1, 2023.

The second half of 2023 will see another exciting product—ProQuest Women and Gender Studies. This will be a research “experience” similar to ProQuest Black Studies, where we bring content together in one place and organize it into Topic Pages, a time line, and other features and tools, allowing researchers of all levels to further their learning and scholarship around the topics of women and gender studies.

ProQuest Black Studies was developed in collaboration with faculty, scholars, and librarians, and brings together our award-winning Black Studies content into one destination for research, teaching, and learning purposes. Since its launch, this database has continued to grow. New additions include topic pages on 19 featured organizations such as the African American Police League (AAPL) and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); Black Lives Matter movement; Black Studies in Video; Supreme Court Records and Briefs on Race, Racial Discrimination, and Civil Rights; and selected items from Alexander Street’s Black Thought and Culture.

Lastly, we are delighted to be partnering with Qwest TV, cofounded and curated by Quincy Jones, for a new collection in our music portfolio showcasing 150 videos reflecting timeless concerts and new voices of culturally and racially diverse people. This new database will launch in the first half of 2023.  

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing