ASK! about Everything and Anything
It isn’t everyday that we receive compliments in our inbox. So, we were surprised when Mr Richard Borsuk, a user of our ASK! service dropped us this note of thanks.
“Dear NLB Helpdesk:
I can’t find the original email that might show who at NLB gave excellent help, but I can sum up the background quickly:
I wrote to NLB in early October asking if it had LIFE magazine issues going back to 1951, as I was trying to find a particular article in Dec. 1951. I’m attaching here an NLB email I can put my hand on, which acknowledges my request. Within a day or two, I received a 2nd email — that the one I can’t locate — saying that NLB doesn’t have LIFE issues that far back, but the staffer very helpfully suggested I try contacting a library in Atlanta, Georgia, and provided a link.
I contacted the Atlanta library, and today received a scan of the LIFE article I was looking for. I’m very pleased and impressed with the service from NLB and the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System.
I’d be grateful if the person who wrote me suggesting to try Atlanta could see this email.
The Public Librarian who handled Mr Borsuk’s query was Mr Chong Thong Yang. Out of curiosity, we asked him how he approached the question.
Read on to find out how Thong Yong solved the query!
“As I knew the exact title of the periodical, I did a “Browse by Title” search on our catalogue using the terms “life magazine”. That retrieved the title record, but we did not have the requested issue. Anyway I just took down the issues that we did have. Just thought that the enquirer may find it useful even though we did not have the exact issue he requested for.
I also remember looking at EBSCO and Proquest ([ASK! Editor: These are two databases that NLB subscribes to]) to see if Life mag was covered. Proquest did have it but it didn’t have issues earlier than the 1980s.
I went on to do a Google search by using various phrases and combined keywords like “life magazine”, “back issues”, etc on only Singapore sites, was just trying my luck to see if any of the other libraries or organisations in Singapore had the complete set. This didn’t turn up any useful leads.
So I eventually expanded to a global search on Google. Retrieved too many sites as always, but I found www.oldlifemagazines.com. It was fee-based though, but I decided to cite it anyway in case the enquirer really needed the article, he could still resort buying it.
I further limited the search by adding the keyword: “library”, and tried different combinations of search terms once again. Eventually, I found a write up on Sandy Springs Regional Library (www.sandysprings.org), using the combined keywords of “complete life magazine” and “library”. Read through the write-up and confirmed that they did have the complete collection and the link to the library’s offical website was also provided. So I cited URL of both websites and provided them to the enquirer.”
Well, there you have it, Thong Yang’s winning formula which resulted in a delighted customer (and also some delighted bosses!).
We’d like to thank Mr Borsuk for using our ASK! service and we hope that he will continue to support us.
As librarians, we’re happy to provide useful information to our customers and we will definitely continue to strive to provide better, value-added services for everyone!
Posted by Justin Tan
Librarian, Public Library Services
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