Then I Fell Down Another Research Rabbit Hole – Gov Docs Edition!

In the midst of a wild rainstorm Monday afternoon, my chat reference service “binged.”

– Hi! Are you available to answer a question right now?

– Yes, what can I help you with?

– I’m looking for the 1938 statistical supplement that goes along with the Social Security Bulletin.

And then, like Alice, down I went again.

Sadly, the patron was headed off to a meeting with a professor and couldn’t stay on chat for any follow-up questions. Tools I used to help me figure out what exactly she might be looking for included:

I was easily able to find the 1939 version of what I think the patron wants in HathiTrust, the Internet Archive, and my print local collection (although for some unknown reason the 1939-later editions aren’t shevled in the government documents collection, but in the regular collection.) Unfortunately, serials records for government documents in this time period are challenging to interpret at best and completely incomprehensible at worst, so what she asked me for and what I was able to find have somewhat different titles. And the agency was the Social Security Bureau then. And maybe she needed the annual report and not the yearbook or the supplement… But who knows? Maybe those things are all exactly the same, although knowing the federal government, not likely.

This question took me 90 minutes to work through. My colleagues who were on the desk with me at the time were extremely patient with my mutterings, rumblings, and rantings (our documents collection is organized in a completely non-standard way that makes no sense to me, someone who’s worked in 3 prior depository libraries). And in the end, I had to suggest to my patron that she would need to request the item through interlibrary loan. But I think I found the right record in WorldCat that will ensure she gets the thing she most likely needs. I hope.

It’s questions like this that remind me – again – just how awesome this job is.

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