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Doing Research at the Library of Congress

VIII. Talking to People

Often a telephone call, an email, or a letter will provide important information that cannot be found even in the largest of libraries. The Library, however, can provide the resources that enable you to identify knowledgeable people in any subject area, and their phone numbers or other contact information. For example, when human-rights activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize he was not well known outside Argentina, and articles about him had not yet appeared in conventional indexes to newspapers and journals. A reporter assigned to write a story on him thus could not find articles already in print. The librarian working with him, however, at that point asked the basic questions for pursuing research outside the Library: Whose business is it to know this information? Whose interest is it to know? These questions led to a phone call to Amnesty International, a human-rights monitoring group; Amnesty turned out to have a whole file on Pérez Esquivel. When asked if they could supply additional leads, the Amnesty contact suggested phoning another human-rights organization, the Washington Office on Latin America; it, too, had a whole file of information about the new Nobel laureate.

When looking for knowledgeable people to contact, a few sources are particularly useful:

  • The Encyclopedia of Associations
  • Washington Information Directory
  • Web of Science

The first is a comprehensive directory of nonprofit organizations; and there is usually some organization for anything. The second is a large directory of government, nonprofit, academic, and other information sources in the Washington, DC, area. The third source is a very large index of scholarly journal articles; what makes it useful in this connection is that it provides the institutional addresses of the authors of the articles. It is a good way to locate academics who are currently writing in any field of interest.

Thousands of other directory sources exist, both online and in print. Reference librarians can help you to identify them.

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  December 1, 2016
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