|Photo by Tyler Harnach, on Flickr|
Fact-checking is a deeply ingrained part of reference librarianship that is often overlooked in all of talk of information literacy, research papers, and printer jams. In days of yore (read: before Google), if you wanted to know the largest moon of Saturn (Titan), the atomic number of nickel (28), or the capital of South Africa (which one?), your friendly, local reference librarian was the end of the line.The modern form of research assistance (in the form of helping to develop topics, navigate databases, cite sources, etc) is actually a rather new development. Still, every now and again, the lucky reference librarian will get an honest-to-goodness, old-school reference question.
I love reference questions, and the trickier the better. And what I really find interesting is that no two reference librarians tackle a difficult question the same way. So, I thought it might be fun to share a recent reference question and see if any librarians want to give it a go and share their search strategies. I’m genuinely curious about how different librarians interpret a reference question, which elements of a reference request they see as the “starting point”, and how they manipulate the tools of the trade. Solving a vexing reference request might require ingenuity, creativity, prior knowledge, logic, all of these, or none…and we all have our preferred strategies.
So, here’s a reference request that came my way not too long ago. In the spirit of privacy, I can’t identify the source of the question, but that doesn’t affect the request itself. Anyway, here it goes, quoted verbatim:
“We are trying to find a library that has thefollowing book:
Pera, Francesco: Memoria sopra il monument inalzato alGranduca Ferdinando I. in Livorno e relazione sulla presa di Bona. Livorno1888.”
Can you help find this book?
In a few days I’ll post a list of libraries that have the book, along with my search strategy. In the meantime, I’d love to see what you can come up with.