Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Super Sleuth!

After all of the books have been turned upside down, after all of the websites have been carefully explored, and after all of the other viable research options have been probed to no avail, librarians have to sometimes travel even farther down the Road of Resourcefulness to find an answer to a tricky reference question. Somewhere near the intersection of At Wit's End Boulevard and Lightbulb Moment Avenue is a little alleyway we like to call Inference Lane. And we just got back from a short journey!

A few weeks ago, the fabulous Margy Vogt visited our Reference Department with an old Washington High School class photograph (not unlike this one) she was considering using in her upcoming book. The only problem? The picture was undated. Would it be possible, she asked, for us to track down an approximate year?

One of our reference assistants, Teressa, handled the query like a true detective. From simply looking at the picture itself, she reasoned that the styles of hair and clothing worn by the students in the photo dated to the 1920s or 1930s. When Teressa began hunting through the MPL's collection of old WHS yearbooks in an attempt to match Margy's photo with one that was published in a yearbook, she discovered a gap in our archives: a yearbook for 1932 did not exist. Hmm. What would cause such an omission, she wondered?

It didn't take long to put two and two together. The Great Depression, of course, was in full swing by the time 1932 rolled around, and it was likely that WHS could not afford to publish a yearbook. Not wanting to deprive its students from a simple class photo, the administrators probably arranged for a photographer to visit the high school and snap a few group shots to distribute to the students. While Margy's photograph never made it into an actual yearbook, it was, in fact, an official WHS class photo. Teressa verified this by checking class pictures in the 1931 and 1933 yearbooks and matching up the teenagers to the ones present in the mystery picture. Sure enough, they matched, and the elusive puzzle piece finally dropped into place.

Kudos to Teressa for cracking this case and for proving, once again, that reference librarians are a force to be reckoned with!

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