Day 5 in Rare Books & Special Collections

May 27, 2014 3-6pm

I spent today researching the various people that had written letters to William D. Gresham: Dr. Enid Starkie, W. H. Auden (Wystan Hugh), May Sarton, and Muriel Rukeyser. When I sat down to conduct my research I assumed that I would easily be able to research all of the names I had found in the Gresham box, but these four names took me the full three hours. Why did it take me three hours to research four people? The reason is simple and likely already a given if you’ve read my Article 2 post about conducting research on the internet. Wikipedia is the go to internet resource when trying to understand who someone was, but how do we know that Wikipedia has the correct information listed? I knew that I needed to find information from reputable sources about these people, especially because part of processing an archival collection is writing short biographies  – around a paragraph – of the people who wrote the documents contained within the collection. Perhaps no one will look at these archived documents or perhaps several researchers will look at them; I realized that I have a responsibility to all future persons, as well as the people who wrote the documents, to ensure that I acquire information from reputable sources. The first name I researched – Dr. Enid Starkie – took the longest, likely because she was the first name I’d ever researched for an archival collection and I wasn’t entirely sure where to pull information from. Researching the names became easier as I progressed to each new name. My research process was to begin with Google, typing in the person’s full name and in quotes just as I had learned in Olivia’s library instruction class last week. Then I would pick another piece of information that I pulled from the person’s letters, such as street address or college they had taught at and I would add that to my Google search. This gave me better and more applicable results. I tried to sort through the junk – and there was still a lot with Wikipedia always at the very top – and choose a result that came from a poetry society or a university. If the search results allowed for it, I would look at several results and compare answers. This made me feel much more comfortable about the information that I was gathering. I perused the library catalog for the names: articles, newspapers, magazines, books, etc. A few times I found the exact document in the library catalog that I had found through Google; this reassured me that the information I had noted was correct.

I appreciated the research time Lynda allotted me today because it allowed me to take what I had just learned and written about in my Article 2 post and apply that knowledge to a real situation. It also helps that I love researching!

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