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Anthrax case study

Virtually day and night the British Library was on hand to provide articles to the Palm Beach Post during an outbreak of anthrax in Florida’s Palm Beach, some dating back to the 1940s.

When deadly anthrax germs were sent to the offices of the National Enquirer in Florida’s Palm Beach in October 2001, there was an urgent demand for information on the disease. The Palm Beach library and the local paper, the Palm Beach Post, were inundated with requests from journalists and medical writers wanting access to background research on anthrax. 

The FBI closed the offices of the National Enquirer’s publisher, American Media Inc, after a photo editor, Bob Stevens, died from the extremely rare inhaled form of anthrax and a colleague was found to have been exposed to the bacillae. 

Three of American Media’s six tabloids - the Enquirer, Globe and Star - were scheduled to go to press as more than 100 employees lined up outside a clinic in Delray Beach to be screened for anthrax. Against this backdrop of alarm the British Library was called upon to support investigations by journalists needing to understand and report on what was happening. 

The Palm Beach Post’s Library Director, Sammy R Alzofon, said: 'We value the Inside document delivery service at the British Library highly. It was there when we needed it virtually any time of the day or night. We purchased anthrax research articles dating back to the 1940s and our medical writer, Sanjay Bhatt, put together dozens of stories during the outbreak. Our paper is distributed widely and our coverage circulated internationally through many online services.'

This extract is taken from our Annual Report 2001-2002