Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Elvis citing: or,
the neo-Luddite's embarrassment

On multiple levels, this one's a dilly.

A recent customer at the "Ask Here" (aka reference) desk was seeking the original print version of an article about Elvis Presley, but with incomplete citation information.

"It was in the Time/Life magazine for 1956. Either in August or November," she said.

"In 1956," I answered politely, "those were two separate magazines. But let's see what we can find."

Suspecting that our access to InfoTrac OneFile might not help, since that database doesn't have Life Magazine in its collection, I tried a rather sloppy Google search, which led me to the Life covers archive. The search we did gave us covers of 1956 issues in which Elvis was mentioned, but not the articles themselves.

[Note: Naturally, having done a "sloppy search," I now cannot retrace the URL I got to before.]

Then, just as we were jotting down from that search the likely August and November issues, I thought,

"Oh, duh! Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature! There's a reliable print resource that I know will work better than this database and Google searching!"

We grabbed volume 20 of RGPL, covering Mar 1955-Feb 1957, I showed my customer how to search for citations, and this is what she came up with:

Elvis citing in the 1956 Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature

Elvis, a different kind of idol. ill pors Life
41:101-9 Ag 27 '56.                      

I found the bound volume 41 of Life, and my customer found her article and photocopied what she wanted.

I was so pleased with myself that I decided to write a post about the neo-Luddite delight of print trumping digital. Here's the photo which amused me the most:

PRESLEY'S MOTIONS are demonstrated, from Life Magazine, August 27, 1956, page 105
PRESLEY'S MOTIONS are demonstrated by a 13-year-old, Steve Shad, in a Jacksonville record shop. High school boys in area have mastered Presley's gestures, but show little interest in his singing style.
Being an obsessive showoff, I decided to research the article a bit more for this blog post. I tried another Google search, now that I had a full citation of the Elvis article.


This first thing I found this time was the GoogleBooks link to the digitized original Life article.

"Duh. Well now I know better how to find this stuff online."

Then I found the GoogleNews link for an August 11, 2002, article from the Charleston, SC, Post & Courier, in which Steve Shad is interviewed.

Elvis Impersonators, The Post & Courier, August 11, 2002

"Oh, well...."

So, now I'm caught between two options: either the neo-Luddite's embarrassment that he didn't think of print reference sources earlier, or the neo-Luddite's embarrassment that he could have found more online while his customer was still there, if he hadn't been so sloppy.

Or, maybe it's the case that this path of online source—to print source—to better online source is actually a happy balance of the riches of both modes of searching.

Whatcha think?

Addendum: Refman just showed me this morning his post on Digitized Life Magazine, which I read when he published it back in November 2009 but had forgotten about. Thanks, Refman.


Cindy said...

Interesting...this same edition of Life has an article on climate change on page 117.

Anonymous said...


This reminds me of a time I DIDN'T help the patron very well. She needed an article from the early 70's about moving, and the emotions involved in a move. I tried online, no luck. I failed to get her phone number or email. Only after she left, I thought about and tried the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. There it was. With the citation, I may have found it online, or we could have submitted an ILL request. I hope I never forget about the Readers' Guide again. And I enjoy showing this resource to new co-workers now, when the situation calls for it. lcm/acld

Mike Shell said...

Thanks for noting that, Cindy.

Some people seem to think it's a relatively new, "flaming liberal" concern, but I remember Rachel Carson.