Monday, July 16, 2007

You still have to know something

I am visiting another Ontario city, mostly to relax and recuperate. But I decided to take advantage of the fact that the local university library, unlike NU's has a copy of the 13th century legal treatise, Coutumes de Beauvaisis by Philippe de Remi, sire [lord] de Beaumanoir. This very important work is usually referred to by the name of the author, i.e. Beaumanoir.

I showed up at the library today, was issued an external reader's card with no fuss, and went off to a catalogue computer, where I found no listing for Beaumanoir under author or title. I knew it was there, so I kept at it, and by recalling the name Coutumes de Beauvaisis (getting the placename spelled right on the second try), found, attributed to "Philippe de Remi," the book and its location in the collection. When I got there, I saw a book labelled clearly on the spine in gold letters, Philippe de Beaumanoir. Which, plus the full title, was also on the title page. I had to dig into the introduction to find "de Remi."

A while back I linked to a James O'Donnell article from the mid 90s where he said sifting through a waterfall of data (rather than building huge collections of data) would be scholars' great challenge in the future. Here was a good example: in the waterfall of data that is the collected assets of the Ontario universities library system, I almost missed my drop of water because of the past efforts of an over-punctilious cataloguer. Fortunately, though I've never had need read Beaumanoir before, I have paid attention and when I really needed to know "Coutumes de Beauvaisis" it was there for me.

Image: a waterfall in Croatia, hailed by a Dallas paper as "pristine."

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I completely agree, that is why important not only to teach how to find information but also to evaluate the information that they do find!