Research: Old and New
In a world of technology, it is easy to rely on computer searches for our research needs. Being from the old school, I find this amazing and not only a great time saver but also a wider variety of resources.
Libraries are my passion. Stepping inside surrounds me with a vibe that stimulates my creativity. Our small town library in Jerseyville, Illinois is a literal blend of old and new. You walk into the rear entrance to the modern two story addition and then straight through to the original library where the librarians desk sat on a raised dais under a beautiful, yet faded dome.
But those of us who grew up before the Internet remember the days spent in the library going through the card catalog, using the Periodical Index, microfiche, and films. Oh, and real paper encyclopedias.
Most microfiche –photos of information scanned in and put on pieces of clear plastic read under a large viewer with a screen- have been converted to digital by now. I won’t miss them. It was a tedious activity. So is scrolling through countless hits on Google. This is why the writer must learn to pull up keywords in order to narrow the responses. Two million hits for a search is a bit much.
The Periodical Index is a series of books listing all articles in the magazines, journals, and other periodicals. Now you can find it online with a small charge for use. The entries are broken down by subject, date, and author/magazine. The problem with the old system is your library might not carry the magazine listed.
Of course, encyclopedias have gone digital but I found the information to be less extensive than my old Encyclopedia Brittanicas. I still have a set of the Macropedia and Micropedia to which I refer regularly.
My current online reference favorite… Pinterest. Authors can set up folders to hold images pertinent to their current projects. And, of course, pins lead back to sources. I like to print out images of the characters, locales, inspiration and tape them up on the wall. You can also put them in a notebook. It depends on how you work. I am a visual learner so I like to be surrounded by information.
I know I sound old-fashioned. Not necessarily a bad thing. I also embrace the new. But I am cautious to make sure facts are verified especially what I find on the internet. There are no rules or regulations mandating veracity.
So take a look around your local library. Here’s mine: http://www.jerseyvillelibrary.org/. Most are part of a greater network where you can order books and have them delivered for your use. They still carry phone books from across the country. Phone books are a huge source of information about a particular locale revealing the culture, name base, and local venues that you can later investigate on the Internet.
As authors, we have a vested interest in seeing that our libraries succeed and are not bypassed as a primary source of information. Besides, I haven’t heard of kids falling in with the wrong crowd while they have their head in a book.