My head is still swimming from everything Dee Buckingham said to the Aloha Chapter on Saturday! She brought a suitcase full of research books, pamphlets, handouts, flyers, papers, printouts–man, I can't even remember it all. The most important thing I learned? Google doesn't know everything.
Seriously, I'm a lazy researcher. I hate the idea of going somewhere and searching for something (I'm talking for the fiction writing, not the academic stuff). I'd rather Google it and see what comes up. Want to know what a sniper rifle looks like? Google Images. Need to know the recipe for Long Island Iced Tea? Google.
But, as Dee explained, Google is only the surface. True, for a contemporary writer like myself, I don't have as much need for obscure facts. A historical writer, OTOH, might need to know about native Hawaiian plants in 1850. Believe it or not, there's a book for that. There's also a book that I thought was too cool: Firsts in Hawaii by Robert C. Schmitt. Want to know when the first bikini was worn in Waikiki? It was in the 50s (I don't remember the date now, but we were all kind of amazed on Saturday). There's a book for Hawaii in the movies, a book for the journals of New England missionaries to Hawaii, a war records depository at UH, and several small historical libraries with original documents scattered across the island (the libraries, not the documents). 🙂
Now, since most of us aren't writing about Hawaii, how about some other info? Well, did you know that your public library often subscribes to the online scholarly databases like Lexis Nexis and EBSCO and that access is free? Sometimes, you can even get to the databases without leaving home. Go to the library's website and see if you can't login (in the Hawaii system, we have a barcode and pin number). I get all the databases I want through my university, so haven't actually tried the library access (though of course I have a library card!). I was pleased to know they had it (perhaps I'm the only one who wasn't aware–duh).
And, while you're not leaving home, try the Librarians' Internet Index. How do you know you can trust the info you find on the web? Well, if you find it through LII, you can trust it. These sites are juried by librarians, so the content is trustworthy. You can also subscribe by email or RSS to their newsletter. Pretty cool, huh? I think I spent a couple of hours Saturday evening clicking on websites. Just what I need, another distraction. 🙂
That's about all I processed, though I did take notes! Oh, wait, one more thing. If you know an event took place in, say, 1960 and you wanted to find an article about it, most newspapers print an index to the previous year in their January papers. So, if the event occurred in Honolulu in 1960, we'd look at the 1961 January papers to get an index. Sunday papers, usually. 🙂
Finally, make friends with your librarian. And find a good research librarian, in case your librarian isn't a research librarian, and make friends with him or her. They are invaluable, love searching for info, and will probably be happy to help if you are nice (though of course there are grumps out there too; skip the grumps and find someone nice). 🙂