Reference books and sets you must read in print




In my last post, about editing, I cited my father’s entry in Contemporary Authors, a still-growing set with more than 200 printed volumes. I couldn’t find the photocopy I made several years ago when I first stumbled across it. I found an online version in WorldCat, but it’s available only at 8 libraries, none within 500 miles of my home. I had to go to a local library to consult the print version. How many other important reference works are available¬†only in print? … Continue reading






Something old and something new in a recent research project




I concede: Real research can be done using only web sources. Just not much. Since this month is Earth Month, I want to look back at the first Earth Day in 1970 for one of my other blogs. Can I find enough information on the web to write something about it? Sure. And I’d produce a post every bit as disappointing as an online article I wrote about last fall, which appears to have started out as an undergraduate honors paper. So I had to use some very old research methods. Along the way, I found a new piece of … Continue reading






Library robots




Libraries have always been at the forefront of adopting new technology, but their innovations usually have something to do with organizing and retrieving information. The online library catalog is a good example. Now some libraries are borrowing technology from manufacturing: robots that shelve and retrieve physical books. It may come as a surprise to some people that printed books are still such a big deal to academic libraries. After all, much of formerly huge reference collections has been replaced by online databases. Long runs of many important journals and other periodicals are likewise available as full text online. Ebooks have … Continue reading






Roots: digging for your family tree at the library




When I lived in the Chicago area, the Newberry Library was one of my favorite places. I occasionally had occasion to cross paths with “the cemetery lady,” a researcher who knew more about cemeteries than just about anyone else in the area. And why shouldn’t she hang around the Newberry? It has one of the best genealogy collections in the country. If you’re serious about tracing your family tree, be prepared to learn a lot about cemeteries. And the best place to start learning about them, or anything about your ancestors, is at the library. Your local library does not … Continue reading






Digitizing old books




Not everything is available for free on the Internet. Once upon a time, the list of material not available for free on the Internet included almost every book ever published. The problem was that unless a book or other printed format was either currently in print or available in multiple libraries, it wasn’t conveniently available to much of anyone at all. Now, many libraries and archives are digitizing their collections. Not only old books, but old pamphlets, sheet music, maps, manuscripts, etc. have become more accessible than ever before. … Continue reading