Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hope, the New Research Strategy

In February of this year, I realized that I needed to read an article from an obscure but relatively important scientific journal published in 1797. Following the advice that Thomas Mann gives in his excellent Oxford Guide to Library Research, I started by assuming that what I was looking for must exist. I spent a couple of hours looking for an online copy, using many of the techniques that I've described in this blog, and a few I haven't gotten around to describing. No luck.

At that point, of course, I might have found a copy in one of the libraries or archives in the greater Toronto area and gone there to read it. Instead, I decided to try something completely different. I made a note of what I wanted and recorded the details of my inconclusive search. Then I said to myself, "boy I sure hope that Google digitizes the journal soon and makes a full copy available on Google Books." At that point there was nothing left to do but wait.

Today, again, I realized that I really should read that article. When I typed the journal title into Google Books, there it was, waiting for me to download. Now, I don't recommend this strategy to anyone working on, say, their dissertation. Maybe it was a complete fluke. I suspect, however, that it is weak measure of the seismic shifts that our landscape of information costs is currently undergoing.

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