Monday, July 11, 2011

Mad Librarian Skillz

A friend of mine is getting married this weekend and while talking to her at her bridal shower a few weeks ago, she told me about a Thoreau quote they wanted to use at the wedding. They could not, however, figure out where the quote came from.

Being the good librarian/information junkie I am, I offered my services.

She emailed me the quote and I dug in. I figured a Google search was in order first and if I had no luck I would go to the library and use a quote dictionary. Well, the Great Google did not fail me (All hail the Great Google!).

It turned out the quote is not from one source, but three. My friends probably found it on one of those quotation websites, which are none too reliable, and couldn’t find the citation because they’ve been searching the whole quote (which was misquoted at any rate therefore harder to find), not the parts.

Helpful Librarian Hint: When choosing a quote for a special occasion (i.e. wedding, baptism, bar/bat mitzvah, etc.) use a quotation dictionary. This kind of dictionary ensures correct wording and source and you can usually search by who said it, beginning of quote, and/or subject. It’s a very useful tool.

I was able to track down all three parts of the quote with relative ease because I’ve been trained on research techniques and it’s what I do for a living. In fact, I was not only able to verify that all parts were, in fact, originally Thoreau, but I was also able to find what they are cited from (including a direct links to places on the web where the original can be found; thanks Google Books (All hail!)), and the original wording of all three.

Helpful Librarian Hint: If you are having trouble with any search topic, try adjusting or rearranging the wording, shortening the search terms, using synonyms, and don’t be afraid of Booleans! Booleans are your friends!

Now my friends will be able to use a more accurate Thoreau quote, or quote mash-up, to begin their married life which will obviously be better luck than using some dubious thing from a quotation website. I have just saved their marriage from the dark cloud that covers all things tainted by faulty research.

This is why librarians are necessary.

Post Script: I’m aware this entire article is rather self-satisfied and smarmy. Deal with it, I’m awesome.