The Joy of the Hunt

I heard today the temperature broke a record, and the winds whipping up whitecaps on the Charles gave me pause to consider just what effects a solar flare might have down here at sea level. It was nice to feel the warmth even if the blustery air blew me just slightly into the fence on the walk to the train this evening. A full day of all sorts of tasks gives one incentive to sit back just for a while and breathe.

Today I relished the joy of the hunt. One son loves to hunt in forest or meadow, hoping to bring home some venison. My terrain may not appear at first glance to be so exciting, but looking for obscure documents from the late 1950’s that real people want in 2012 is exciting to those who remember how lib/info/sci was done “in the old days”…actually not very long ago. It’s a chance to dust off the brain.

Picture a 59 page report of research from a pre-minent university’s academic department in 1958. The elusive report carries a number that indicates its own campus ownership, and another to indicate what grant it served. We aren’t sure what yet another number on it means. 

We begin the hunt. All the normal tools of library work today only show the originating institution as owner, and probably not lender. (Of course, that place might charge you for a copy, and that could put a speedy end to the problem, Selah.) And yet, there is something that nags at the back of this experienced librarian’s mind, because remember,  this report was supported by government research funds, and maybe, back then, this report was issued with that kind of number on it as well. These can be PB or AD kinds of numbers.

Happily there were back then indexes into this world, but the online version of it only reaches back to 1964. No, the only way to find reports before that time is to paw through 50+ year old dusty fat volumes of the index when it was pumped out in paper. It’s quite likely a whole generation of librarians doesn’t even know these exist! However today, in the waning hours of warm and blustery light, I found the PB number of this elusive report, buried like a gem in a tiny listing of academic report numbers, leading us to a PB number, and thus another number to dangle on our document fishing line. It was a fine piece of reference work, I have to admit!

More importantly, however, this little find reminds me of the rewards of perseverance, and sometimes staying with that “Gibbs gut “ feeling (cf, NCIS, of course)  This story has been a small booster shot to remind me of the joy others feel when they, too, find something hunted with diligence and, well, maybe a little luck.


1 Comment

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One response to “The Joy of the Hunt

  1. It seems like a luxury these days in libraries to be able to do a “real” reference question!

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