Research Tool: The Telephone

By , December 8, 2010 6:23 pm

by Philippe Cloutier

While the Internet has certainly made research faster and more efficient, it can leave us disconnected and sometimes misguided. We understand that everything isn’t online, but how can we be certain without first running multiple Google searches, scouring through paid databases and digging through bookmarks. Many times our efforts are rewarded, yet there are cases when time is wasted.

I’ll admit that telephone conversations aren’t my thing, rather favoring text messages and e-mail. However, as a research tool, it sits at the top of my list. I’ve worked with too many patrons who have searched online for hours, even days, hoping that the right search string will give them something that has, in all likelihood, never been scanned. In many cases, these are government documents. A quick call to the appropriate department or agency can save not only hours, but grief.

I’ll also admit that I get enjoyment out of patent research. US patents and much of the information surrounding them are easily accessible for free on government websites and in paid, specialized databases. The same isn’t true around the world. Research guides are readily available and can get you on the right track. However, a call to a country’s intellectual property office can yield tremendous results.

A little closer to home are out-of-state resources. Much like the foreign patents, a call to a state archive (usually falling under the Secretary of State) can lead to business, legislative, and other government documents.

Getting help with government documents is simple enough with the right phone call. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for secondary resources. A call to a publisher for a continually updated work as it read in the 70s will leave them baffled. Some vendors may prove the exception, but in this case a telephone call to other libraries may be the only solution.

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