This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, December 1, 1999

December 8, 1999 - Catalog Research Tips

Some time back, I mentioned that I assigned my daughter a homeschooling project to trace the historical development of Christianity. The subject interested me, too.

Our first stop was the encyclopedia. I tossed off a list of possible entries (Jesus, Apostles, Pope, Luther, etc.). Then Maddy read aloud to me as I made dinner one night. Enyclopedias don't tell the whole story, but they give a good overview. Maddy made notes of other topics to follow up on.

(By-the-bye, this is one big advantage of having a PRINT encyclopedia at home. Kids can fetch a volume and drag it into the kitchen. Try that with your CD-ROM drive.)

Our next step was to go to the library. Here I taught Maddy how to quickly build a list of more precisely focused resources. Here's the abbreviated outline:

1. Do a title keyword search on whatever subject interests you (for example, "Christianity" or "Pope"). Using a question mark at the end of the term is often useful. For instance, "christ?" brings up "Christ," "Christian," and "Christianity."

2. When the list of matches comes up, choose the titles that look most like what you're after.

3. If the titles DO match what you want, type "RW" (without the quotes) to pull up a list of Related Works. Then choose the subject heading that best seems to describe what you want.

4. You now have a list -- a bibliography -- of all the items we own on that topic. Typing "SL" allows you to Sort the List by author, title, or publication date. Sorting by publication date puts the most current materials first. The bibliography can be further "limited" by entering the letter "L." Then just select from the menu to choose, for example, only those titles owned by the library you happen to be in, or just kid's books, or just videos. Alternatively, you might want everything we've got. It's not hard to put a hold on a title that belongs at another location.

5. Save the titles under "SB" (Saved Bibliography). Write down the unique combination of letters and numbers the computer gives you to identify your list. Then back up to the main menu with "SO" for Start Over.

6. From the main computer menu, choose Print Saved Bibliographies. Then, assuming your terminal is attached to a printer, you can print out the list. The default list includes subject headings and call numbers.

7. Repeat the above steps for any of the other subject headings that came up under the titles you liked. You can add any new titles to your previous bibliography, or build several separate ones.

If you've taken care to include books that have their own bibliographies (usually noted in the computer record), you now have a solid beginning for your research. Then, you just have to carve out the time to start reading.

The next part of Maddy's research involves attending area churches in roughly the order of their denomination's founding. So far we've only gotten around to four churches, but they've all been fascinating.

I particularly like going out for tea afterward, when Maddy and I talk about what we've seen and heard. After all the church visits, Maddy also has to do some follow-up interviews with ministers -- which introduces an entirely new sort of research process.

The older I get, the more things I discover that I do not know. But it's a relief also to discover that almost any area of my ignorance can be overcome by sustained and systematic inquiry. This may be the biggest lesson of our project: Research is fun!

No comments:

Post a Comment