Thursday, May 20, 2010

Research for New Project or, How I Love my Library

I'm one lucky skunk. Really. I live in a college town and work across the street from an eleven story bastion of books known as "The Main Library." There are dozens of other libraries scattered across campus. I can get pretty much any book I want.

It's glorious.
They have a really wonderful system that I use (abuse?) regularly, in which you can browse the online catalog and request delivery on any book in circulation. Which is great, because I can pick out a half dozen books from various libraries around campus, or even in auxillary storage, on Monday morning and pick them up Tuesday at lunch.

So I dove in on fact-checking and fleshing-out research for my latest project, tentatively titled December and set in post-WWII Chicago. I have one character who was part of the Women's Land Army, so I picked up On the Farm Front, which is really fascinating for its exploration of how different regions accepted or didn't accept female farm laborers. For instance--many places were fine with women as seasonal workers, thought not as full-time laborers, and women would sign up for two weeks picking cherries or peaches. Some recalled these temporary stints as nearly a vacation, though a hard-working vacation.

And then I encountered one of the drawbacks of not browsing the stacks myself. Another character was in the Army Air Corps, and requested Masters of the Air, which is a history of the Eighth Air Force. Eeep. It's something like 700 pages long. A tome, if you will. I was hoping for about half that. On the bright side, it's engaging writing and I love reading about this era. On the downside, finding anything is brutal, and I'm having to search subjects in the index and then look up individual pages to get a concise history of the development and use of the various elements of the Air Corps at the time. For instance, I wanted to know how fighter escorts worked, and had to read pages 44-46, then 132-22 and then 213-15 just to determine when it became standard for bombers to use fighter plane escorts. Sheesh. I'm ashamed to admit that I might resort to watching old episodes of Dogfights on Netflix to fill in the blanks...

Isn't research grand?

In the meantime, I also requested one book just for fun--The Postmistress, which I've been dying to read. Pure coincidence, of course, that it's also set in WWII! The fellow checking my books out must have thought me a bit of a nut!


Kat Zhang said...

Aw, I'm jealous of your library system! Mine at home is alright (though now...I find myself 68th in line for a popular book). At school however, it's a whole 'nother story. My campus library hardly has any leisure reading, and the nearest big library is a 20 min bike ride away..

Although, maybe that's a good thing. Fewer distractions from studying ;)

Connie said...

I'm jealous! When we lived in Connecticut we had library access like that. Here in Tennessee the library system is much less helpful.

Speaking of women farm laborers, I found out that my husband's great (great?) grandmother laid railroad tracks--I can't imagine the discrimination she must have faced. Nor can I imagine the physical strength she must have had to wield that hammer! Too bad she didn't leave a diary.

Kathleen said...

That is like a dream, to live across from a huge and helpful library! I'd be there all the time if I were you.

Rowenna said...

The library is pretty incredible--it's easy to wander around in there for hours--especially when you find the archives of old magazines--1940s Vogue is fabulous!

Connie--so cool about your family's interesting past! She must have been one tough lady!