Thursday, February 25, 2010

What? Search the print sources?!

Today I had one of Swiss Army Librarian Brian Herzog's Reference Question of the Week experiences.

A young woman came up asking to find information about boxer Peter B. Jackson.

(Granted, it was another case of a mom doing homework for her kid, but that's another story.)

As you can see from the link, she'd already Googled Jackson, and the two-page Wikipedia article was what she had found and printed out.

Peter Jackson, from BoxRec Boxing Encyclopaedia(She could have also gotten this and this and this and this...but in a sense telling you that spoils my story. Anyway, this was one of those folks who grab the first Google hit and quit.)

She came to me from the main lobby saying, "They told me you might have something besides this." Ah, the omniscient, omnipotent They.

Since I assumed—oops!—that she had already exhausted Google, I turned to our Gale online Biography Resource Center. All that gave me was an entry which listed citations in lots of "Further Reading" print sources like Biography Index.

My initial reaction was to see this as a dead end, since there was nothing substantive which I could print out quickly for my digital immigrant customer.

Then this little voice said, "You are in a big city library reference department. You have print resources and an MLIS. Get them out of mothballs and use them!"

I searched our online catalog and found that we actually have Biography Index.

(You would think a reference librarian would know his own print collection—but when, besides right now, does anyone ever actually ask us to search it?)


We searched for this entry:

Biography Index. A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines. Volume 11: September, 1976-August, 1979. New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 1980.
That led us to this:

JACKSON, Peter, 1861-1901, Australian boxer
Langley, Tom. Life of Peter Jackson, champion of Australia; il. by Rigby Graham. Vance Harvey. '74 80p pors
Oops, a source we don't have and cannot get through Interlibrary Loan in time for her kid's *ahem* Monday assignment deadline.

But then I scanned on down the "Further Readings" list:

American National Biography. 24 volumes. Edited by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Once we searched Peter B. Jackson in that source, we found a two-page article which I helped the customer photocopy.

The bonus: she said several times, "I really appreciate what you're doing for me."

So...once more a real person managed to overcome my resistance to making a real effort at customer service, and in the process I got excited about doing the reference search the good old way, as I originally learned to do it from Linda Walling and her colleagues at the University of South Carolina.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love these real reference transaction stories. I always save them for training scenarios. I wish I had a whole book of them (You won't like this but I want it to be a digital book so it's easily searchable).

Thanks for sharing it.