Reference Gymnastics: A Sampler of Creative Search Methods for Librarians on a Tight Deadline

By Asokan, Nisa | Searcher, May 2003 | Go to article overview

Reference Gymnastics: A Sampler of Creative Search Methods for Librarians on a Tight Deadline


Asokan, Nisa, Searcher


News librarians are the air traffic controllers of the library field. We work with multiple blood-pressure-raising deadlines. Accuracy is essential. The information we provide is critical and, in some cases, the final call. With 5 minutes to answer several reference questions, the phone ringing with more, the paper going to press in 15 minutes, I like to think the reference interview with a client is similar to an air traffic controller assuring pilots they have a place to land.

Knowledge of a wide variety of resources is important, but even more important is how you use them. Creative researching can save you time and money If the front door is locked, climb though the window. Here I'd like to show some unconventional uses of some Web sites we all access.

Google Cache

Google cache is a powerful resource that often gets overlooked. It's a researcher's loophole dream come true. Google takes a snapshot of each page examined as it crawls the Web and caches these as a backup. In essence, it can keep alive pages that the Web administrators have decided to take down. If Google cannot find the original page, it will provide a "cached" copy of the Web page as viewed on the day it was indexed. This means access, although limited access, to archives of newspapers, older financial documents at corporations, and other stuff Web site owners don't always want you to see anymore.

Many newspapers have only the most recent weeks' worth of the paper on their Web sites, then you are pointed to the fee-based archives. Search in Google on a topic -- site:.newspaperx. corn +subject y -- then scroll through the results, and click on the indexed link. It might say, "That page doesn't exist on our site. Go pay for it." However, you may get lucky and find a cached version of the page with the text you need.

The same thing goes for financial documents at companies. If you can't find specific numbers on the corporate Web site, don't stop until you have searched site:.companyx.com +subject y and clicked on the cached documents.

Google lives in the gray area of copyright infringement, but the Internet is the modern-day Wild West and, until someone makes a fuss, it's a free-for-all. Deep in the "how-to" section lie instructions for Web site owners on how to keep Google from archiving content. Google suggests using a metatag on the pages Webmasters don't want archived by any robot. Google also has a metatag specifically for Google crawlers.

eBay, the Gold Mine

According to eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove, more than 50 percent of the 12 million items listed on eBay on any given day have photographs. …

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Reference Gymnastics: A Sampler of Creative Search Methods for Librarians on a Tight Deadline
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