Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why I love medieval studies, the Internet, and librarians

I need to take a look at a copy of an uncataloged edition of an obscure sixteenth-century pamphlet in a small library on another continent. So I e-mailed someone whose job it is to support the cataloging and management of smaller collections in his state. I mentioned what I was working on and the book I was hoping to get digital copies of, and asked who the best contact person would be.

The reply: Well, the contact people are quite busy and don't really have the resources, but I have to visit that library in a few weeks, so I'll bring the pamphlet back with me and have it digitized here. Will that work?

Yes. Yes, that will work just fine.

* * *

I need to take a look at another obscure pamphlet. According to VD16, there's one copy, not in a major research collection. But a bit of Google searching and wading through digitized card catalogs turns up a second copy. So I e-mail another librarian: any chance of getting a digital copy? Digital photos arrive by e-mail the next day. Is this the work you mean, the librarian asks? (Well, no, it's not quite the right one, and we're having a bit of difficulty tracking down which one it is. But it's still awesome.)

* * *

Yesterday someone contacted me about an older project of mine. Available images weren't great; did I have any digital photos available? Why, yes, I did, and I've now sent them off to help that person with his research.

It's the digital-images-of-obscure-old-books Circle of Life.

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