For love of research

Last night at Michele Martinez’s Black Orchid signing I got a couple of people saying that yesterday’s total output was on the tad depressing side, so even though my Friday posts are normally reserved for Galleycat (and today I’ve been posting far more than my usual clip — why does all the cool stuff happen on Fridays?) I thought I’d add some needed cheer here.

So, research. I forgot how much I love it. A few days ago I was in the NYPL sitting with musty books so out-of-print they had to get them from underneath Bryant Park — who knew that’s where books went for permastorage? And even though I didn’t spend all that much time there, I’m going to go back soon and indulge in one of my early researching loves: microfilm.

Sure, the Internet is a wonderful thing and yields all sorts of incredible goodies — many of which I either forgot about or didn’t know at all till I took a class on Internet research Wednesday night. But there’s something about scrolling through microfilm, looking at image captures of newspapers from a bygone age and feeling like you’ve been sent through a time warp where people wrote differently, behaved differently and the world seemed a little more manageable. Just a little. But not that much.

Oh sure, using the microfilm equipment is a complete bitch, and every single time I’ve had to, I needed assistance. But from the time I first discovered microfilm back in eighth grade, I’ve always held a special love for it — and probably always will. Maybe because the unwieldiness and difficulty makes turning up gems even more special.

That said, my all-time top ranking research-related prize is this. Why? Because of the joys of Ebay. It was an early weekend morning and I saw the print version of that magazine edition go up for auction and I knew, just knew that I had to have it. No one else could. So I put in my bid about 20 minutes before closing and proceeded to trade bids with someone I knew — someone who wouldn’t have an altruistic purpose and would hide this interview from the world. So a few minutes passed, then some more, and then it was 1 minute to deadline and this person had the higher bid. That could not be! So I put in one last bid…waited….waited some more…and it was mine.

I guess there’s some irony that I had to pay a fair bit to make an interview available to people for free, but hey, that’s how my mind worked a few years ago.

But the real reason that research appeals to me, and presumably so many others, is the chance to play detective. To sift through public record after public record and find that undiscovered nugget. To pore through old books and find out a telling detail. Even if it doesn’t necessarily amount to something now, it might later down the line.

So who else is a research geek and why?