Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Explorers' and Travellers' Journals Documenting Early Contacts With Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, 1741-1900.

Bob Bjoring, Susan Cunningham.
University of Washington Libraries, 1982

This is an interesting book, in part because it's a kind of grey literature. It's the product of a Department of Education-funded project done by the Pacific Northwest Collection of the UW libraries in 1982. This piece of the project was a bibliographic list of early travel journals documenting contact with Native North Americans.

The book is interesting from a librarian's point of view, not just as an information source but as an example of the kind of project that we take on all the time in libraries--a homegrown tool to help researchers get at our collections better. It's a reminder that providing access is harder than it looks. Amazon.com and Google have started people thinking that research shouldn't take more than a few clicks, but it does. It always has done. I just finished working on an exhibit with a colleague who literally spent hours combing old newspapers on microfilm to put together captions for a handful of photographs. There are indices for those newspapers, but anyone who's done genealogical research or any kind of local history research knows that an index to a 1926 newspaper doesn't cut the research process down to a few clicks.

Anyway, this is all by way of being a little sanguine and a little woeful about the work that we do. Because I never knew this book (Explorers' and Travellers' Journals...) existed until I wandered into the reference stacks looking for something interesting and obscure to write about. I have no idea how often it gets used, but if I don't know about it, I imagine a lot of our patrons don't either. And that's not surprising--how can anyone know about every little homegrown guide to research that's out there? We can't, and that's why we have catalogs. But catalogs don't always get you where you want to go, and if the book in question is shelved in the reference Zs, what are the chances you're ever going to stumble across it?

All of this musing becomes circular after a while, and boils down to: the researcher who really cares will find the tools, and use them. And maybe it helps a little if the reference librarian knows some of the oddball items in the collection's nooks and crannies. That seems to be what reference librarians are for, half the time. Like Ranganathan said, roughly: match the reader with the book.

So, anyway, for the readers who will find and care about this book:

Explorers' and Travellers' Journals Documenting Early Contacts With Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, 1741-1900.

A homegrown, staple-bound booklet put together by the University of Washington Libraries. Based on the Pacific Northwest Collection of the UW Libraries. Lists monographs describing the encounters of travellers in the Pacific Northwest with Native Americans of the region. Doesn't include periodical articles or formal ethnographies. Some further exceptions apply.

100 titles are selectively indexed, to provide a cross-section of the topics covered by the whole collection.

Divided by geographical regions from Alaska to Idaho, including British Columbia. Includes sections on overland journeys to the Pacific, and on coastal marine surveys.

Entries are alphabetical by author, with a brief annotation for each, summarizing its content.

Selective topical and name index in back.

The main goal of the book seems to be to capture accounts of pre-contact Native American cultures, and to provide a means of finding some of the more ephemeral materials not well cataloged by LC classification (i.e., travel diaries, etc.)


Post a Comment

<< Home