Monday, March 2, 2015

My go-to place for info

I have sought its assistance when writing every book.

When preparing The Mine and The Mirror, I asked it for information on the peacetime military draft in 1941 and 1964.

When researching The Fire, I inquired about the price of pearls in 1907, public reaction to Halley's comet in 1910, the workings of the National Forest Service, and the incubation period for polio.

When planning September Sky, I requested turn-of-the-last-century fire insurance maps of Galveston, write-ups on Pullman porters, and a primer on U.S. copyright law.

The Library of Congress delivered every time.

It delivered again last week. Mere days after I requested news articles on the cherry blossom festival in Washington, D.C, in 1939, the LOC sent two Washington Post stories directly to my in-box.

I expect that these articles and others will prove useful when I write the second novel in the American Journey series later this year.

I point all this out not only to praise the LOC — a national treasure if there was one — but also to draw attention to libraries in general.

In today’s digital world, where information can be obtained and shared with lightning speed, many believe that libraries are not necessary. They believe they are obsolete and needlessly expensive. As a result, many of these institutions for forced to scrap for funds and continually justify their existence.

As a former reference librarian who knows the difference between the first answer from a search engine and the best answer from a book, I hope this kind of thinking passes. A strong society depends on information that is not only timely but also accurate, relevant, and accessible. It needs information that is free.

As an author of historical fiction, I can’t count on life experience to fill every void or answer every question in a novel. I must depend on others to provide facts, materials, and guidance.

Libraries, including that treasure in the nation’s capital, continue to do just that. For that reason alone, I will always have their back.

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