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Finding Answers – Unexpected Reference Sources

by on November 27, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part four in a series. You can see the previous posts in the series and the author’s other posts here

I marvel sometimes at the interests of my friends and I also find that I don’t always know them as well as I thought. One friend from whom I learned a lot about U.S. history, I recently learned, has a graduate degree in music. Another friend, a poet, is related to the publisher of Lapham’s Quarterly, a literary journal whose themed issues are anthologies covering many different topics of history and ideas. The issue of Lapham’s Quarterly that I saw on my friend’s table was about music and it is a treasure trove of information for general readers and researchers alike. This is an example of a ‘book’ which would be helpful to music researchers and students in the music departments of libraries, but is likely not found there.

Some time ago I was helping with an inventory of books in the Government Documents department of our university library and ran across things that were not exactly about the government. One was a book on Paul Hindemith, the composer. While it is a government publication, I ordered it be cataloged for the Performing Arts Library. Back when we were working with new tape recorders and needed to know about them, we found a book on tape recording in our Engineering Library, even though the book was all about recording voice and music. I’m not sure who fought for it to be reclassified for the music department, but engineering won…with a set of cards for the music department’s catalog. At the University of Michigan I remember trying to locate a book. I was sent to the college of music way up on a hill called North Campus; a long bus ride down past the river and up into the northern hills. When I got there, I was told it was at the Business Library, a place just across the diagonal from where I started. Duh! It was about music business, so, of course, it should be in the Business library.

A little know trove of information has been around for years in the government National Archives in the form of microfilm. Back in the late 50s many of the thesis, dissertations, and educational programs such as surveys, for which government grants were made, were put on microfilm, and could be searched if you had the specific document number; usually found in a bibliography. Looking for government archives one finds that there are archives in every state as well as the National Archives. For many years and continuing, the GPO (government printing office) published many items having nothing to do with the government, but everything to do with living. Many libraries continue to have those items in “Depository Libraries” even when they have been discontinued in the GPO catalog. I’m not sure about the searching process, but you can browse newest collections of books, ebooks, and pamphlets in the online catalog.