As my book goes to press and launches on May 31st I have to say a hearty "Hats off to you! I couldn't have done it without you". I dedicated my historical novel Imaginary Brightness to all of you; it says, "This is dedicated to librarians everywhere, because they never stop searching."
For me the research journey started with the one of the librarians on my campus - Margaret, you know who you are. It was summer and slow and I asked her, how would I find out where a person from 1890 lived and more about her? I gave Margaret the name of Minnie Kirby, the famed mistress of the woods in my novel - and real person. And voila! Within what seemed like minutes but was probably longer, Margaret had her obituary in front of me.
"How did you get that?" I asked her. She showed me this magical site that has old newspaper archives from the North Country in New York.
One thing I appreciate the most about the librarians and archivists I have worked with (and there are many) is their absolute delight, professionalism, and curiosity when it comes to looking up information. I think some may call it an obsession. I for one am glad. I recall another instance when I was trying to track down William West Durant's transcribed Egyptian Diaries from 1869-1873. I was lucky enough to find a citation on the internet but only two libraries in the U.S. housed it.
The librarian at the Onondaga County Library was able to obtain for me a digital copy from the folks at the NY Public Library. Within weeks I had it in my possession. Brilliant!
And the collections! Oh the collections. I fall in love with collections. There was nothing like finding a post card drawing made in 1932 by the artist Lillian Tiffany, addressed to Poultney Bigelow tucked away in the 10,000 letters that are housed under his name at the NY Public Library.
And then there was the visit I made to the Isle of Wight Registry Office in the UK in the summer of 2014. I was feeling forlorn that I didn't find what I was looking for on the Durants when the archivist showed me this wonderful 1876 real estate portfolio of the Binstead Estate. It had a hand drawn color map, and layout of the estate from the time period when William West Durant would have been a visitor of his family lawyer and friend Sir Charles Locock who lived there at the time. Grist for the mill: I was able to visualize what it would have been like for William to participate in a hunting party on the estate.
What amazes me as well is the various levels of sophistication at each of the places I have visited. If possible I would rather not use my own digital camera - my hand is shaky and some things don't turn out well in translation.
The Library of Congress as a fancy schmancy digitzer and as long as you don't put sticky notes on the pages you want to make copies of (oops), you are golden. Then there is the old copying machine at the Adirondack Museum. I was in there copying a court case document for so long that the archivist came to check that I was still alive (mind you, it wasn't fragile). I promised him if I made money on my book I would try to donate some to them so they could buy a digitizer.
Big, small, old, new. It is all the same. Libraries are the world's repositories of all of our secrets.