July 11th, 2017

How to do research

My father recently wrote to me wondering if I could help him find the abstract for a doctoral dissertation from 1947. The abstract wasn't available online, and it appeared as though one of two physical copies was at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Library.

My niece was visiting the same week, so I thought, what a good opportunity for her to see how old-fashioned research was done, as in the days Before Google!

We drove to the St. Paul campus and discovered that the first challenge was getting to the library itself. It was on the 4th floor, but the elevator was out-of-service. We took the stairs but arrived at the 4th floor to find a closed door with no handle. We descended a floor and accosted a graduate student who gave us proper directions.

Perhaps because of the difficulty accessing the library it was not surprising to discover that it was devoid of scholars. Only one librarian, a student worker who reminded me of Travis from Clueless, was present. Demonstrating good research techniques, I asked him where I would find the volume in question. My niece wandered off and plopped herself down in a chair.

I quickly located the thesis. I cajoled my niece into joining me and showed off some of the more intriguing features of the volume: typed with a typewriter on pages bearing a watermark of the university's seal, the figures were photographs adhered to the pages with photo corners. Marvel at this book, I said, for it is likely that only 2 copies exist in the world!

I don't think she was impressed.

Collapse )