Friends, in research, success often depends on what you do when you are told that a resource needed for critical information doesn’t exist. Many will simply take that as the final answer, and either rework the thesis (which isn’t always bad), or ditch the project (which can be tragic).
Very often, it is seeking the second opinion about that source that makes all the difference.
Yesterday, I shared the story about how I had been told a publication I needed did not exist on microfilm, and might not exist as a hard copy, only to have a reel of that publication appear in my film request package.
On that reel was an obscure story about Emmett making a speech in a church cornerstone-laying ceremony in Lynn Haven, Florida. I hadn’t known about this speech previously; also, because of the importance of this ceremony to the small community, there may have been a photo taken. It was worth a follow-up.
I contacted the Lynn Haven, Florida city hall with my query (because I did not see a local historic society source). The administrator then referred me to a historian at the Bay County (Florida) Public Library. I told her what I was doing with Emmett’s research, explained my current work with microfilm (i.e. my search for copies of the Panama City Pilot), and asked if perhaps the periodical existed, even in bound copy.
The historian referred me to one of the best resources for my work: Florida’s Hidden Treasures. And guess what’s there?
The Panama City Pilot, years of issues and
…wait for it…
it is digital. Winner!
More bonus: There are two other digital periodicals on that server that I had put on a wish list, as I was told by my institution’s library that they likely did not exist as microfilm.
I found dozens of items that I despaired of finding with regard to Emmett’s personal life (which is what these issues cover). Emmett didn’t leave letters or journals behind, so I have very little personal information about him. That’s why this find is such a big deal.
For what its worth, I’m not knocking the librarians at my own institution: They are very nice, always helpful, and they do an excellent job obtaining obscure books and periodicals for my research. Most of the time, they find them for me. Sometimes, I have to tell them where to look.
What I’ve learned from this experience is that, frankly, we don’t always know what information is out there, waiting for us to find it. Hell, even the Library of Congress doesn’t have everything in the world, although it would be nice if they did.
In sum, if someone tells me something doesn’t exist, I can’t (and shouldn’t) just take their word for it automatically. Good research is about follow-through, and the search itself, because you don’t know what’s out there — and that’s intriguing.