All Hail the Mighty Librarian

Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Librarians are beautiful, noble people.

I’m sure this statement needs a little qualification. There is this rogue rumor out there that librarians are stuffy, book guardians or silence- mongers intent on throwing you out of the library for the smallest audible infraction. But watch the face of a librarian when you say, "I want to learn how to research better." Their eyes will light up like Christmas morning.

When I began my freelance writing career in earnest, I called my local library, desperate to find out the best and fastest ways to find research for articles. I realized that five years of college had only showed me how to research to please professors, not produce a thoroughly researched piece of writing that would be scrutinized by hundreds, nay, thousands of pairs of eyes. Because of my “mommy-hiatus,” there were new, more powerful research tools available that I knew nothing about.

So I met with a librarian one-on-one. (Make note that if you would like to do this, call ahead and make an appointment to make the best use of your and the librarian’s time.) He showed me two library sections and one electronic resource that has helped me gather the information I need for writing.

#1 Where the Style Manuals Dwell

In the Dewey Decimal System (D.D.S) you will find writing style manuals starting roughly at 808.2. You can go to the nonfiction books and find style manuals to check out, or go to the same call number within reference section. I found it great to be able to test drive these often colossally priced books by looking through them at the library. Usually, the reference section will offer the most current edition of any of these books. On the self at my library were titles such as 2008 Writer’s Market, 2008 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, The Chicago Manual of Style and the AMA Manual of Style (this is used primarily in medical and scientific writing).

#2 The Marketplace

Around 050 and on in the D.D.S. is a section that contains books primarily about the publishing industry. Here lies the Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media which could be considered a phonebook of sorts for print, radio, television, and cable companies. Nearby is also Literary Marketplace 2007, a contact book for over 14,000 listings of publishers, literary agents, distributors and events within the U.S. publishing industry. If you wanted information on the on the world-wide publishing industry, you could also look at the International Literary Marketplace 2007 on a shelf nearby.

The Encyclopedia of Associations lives in this section as well. This set of books is helpful to writers for two reasons: not only can you look through the book by topic to find a source for an article, but you can find associations with newsletters or publications within a certain field that you may want to query.

#3 Research in Your Underwear

The last, and I believe most helpful, tool that I discovered was my library’s online research database. An online database is a search tool that allows users to access millions of periodicals and academic journals. For instance, I did a quick search on breast cancer. I entered that exact term into my library’s database search field and it came up with 44,195 article s. Obviously, you would want to narrow that number so you can easily view the information specific to your article. The database offers suggestions to add to the breast cancer search, such as risk factors, treatment, and genetic aspects. When I click on risk factors, my results went down substantially to 1529. I can then pick between academic journals, magazines, or newspapers, sort by date or add another keyword to be more specific.

For me, as a wife and mom, having an online database at my fingertips means I do not have to drag two toddlers to the library for research. Most databases can be accessed via the Internet from home. All I need is my name and library card number to use the database (of course this can vary from library to library, so check it out.) I can put my hair in curlers, eat some chocolate, blare Norah Jones, and do research for my article without annoying one single, librarian.

While doing research for this blog, I spoke with a librarian who said they took whole, semester-long classes on the best keywords to use within database searches. (Can you even imagine?) I believe that most librarians are excited to share their knowledge of how to research effectively. After all, that is what they went to school for. Let these beautiful, noble people give you the tools to research well.

-Susan L. Eberling


Anonymous said...

Librarians are my idols! They are wonderfully helpful at my personal library. Not only are they happy to answer my question, they go above and beyond with further information.
Even though I do the majority of my research on the internet, I still make it to the library at least once a week.
Libraries and librarians ROCK!

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