Help me access this unicorn-like book
July 6, 2015 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Librarians, researchers, logisticians: I'm working on a research project that centers on a court case from 1910. There appear to be only two copies of the transcript in existence. Please help me figure out my options.

There is a hard-bound, 5-volume copy of the transcript in a county library branch that's a 3- to 4-hour round trip from me (depending on traffic); it's only open during the week. There is also a copy in the county archives (don't know whether it's bound or loose), but Mr. Archive told me on the phone that the only way he would even go look for it was if I sent him a letter with the case title and a blank check -- and that it would be $.50 per page. (The bound volume is at least 2,500 pages, so....)

How do I manage to get a copy of this thing so I can spend some time with it?

If it's my only option, I could just take a few days off to spend in the library and make notes from the transcript. But, I'd much rather have a copy or a scan so that I can continue to refer back to it when necessary.

Is there any sort of duplicating service that I could use to get (i.e., purchase) a copy of a non-circulating book? Do libraries even do that? Could I take my own scanner and scan the bound volumes available in the library? (If it matters, these bound volumes are bound, typewritten pages on old, onion-skin-like paper.)

Is Mr. Archive being unreasonable? We're talking about a public record, so I know I can get access to the transcript in the county archives, but I also know that FOI laws allow government entities to charge for reproductions, so I'm not sure I'd be able to get around the $.50/page, and I don't want to pay $1,000 for this thing.

The librarian told me that they're working on digitizing a lot of their stuff. Could I request that they bump this one up in the queue? (Even if they did that, it seems like it would still be months before I could access it.)

I work for a university and have faculty friends. I could have a professor request a copy through the university library if that's an easier route. (It is not available through Interlibrary Loan, though.) I also have a work acquaintance who's a librarian here at the university -- is there anything she might be able to do? (Would like to know if it's even worth asking before asking for a huge favor.)

What are my options?
posted by mudpuppie to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is Mr. Archive being unreasonable?

Probably not. If the pages are onion skin like the other copy, it'll take time and care for them to handle the thing at all, let alone reproduce it, and they want as few people to touch it as possible.

You'll have to ask the library about bringing your own scanner, but I'd guess they aren't likely to let you. I've done some work in archives that only let you bring in paper and pencils for transcription.

Some libraries will take requests to move things up the digitization queue, so you could ask, but I think usually they tend to have an infrastructure for it, like a request form you can fill out.

If you can't ILL the thing, your faculty friends probably won't be able to help, but your librarian might have an easier time figuring out what exactly the two institutions that hold the thing can do for you.
posted by clavicle at 10:07 AM on July 6, 2015

If you can bring in a scanner, perhaps one like this would help. Obviously you wouldn't want to scan all 2,500 pages, but you could spend some time reviewing the materials and scan the part you find you'd like to spend more time with.
posted by clone boulevard at 10:26 AM on July 6, 2015

Go to the library and take notes. Photograph the relevant pages with a non-flash camera.

Visiting the archives may help. Some but not all archives have "expected use" as a digitization criterion. I say that visiting might help because talking to a person face-to-face is usually better for gaining traction than doing it over the phone.

Good luck.
posted by sockermom at 10:29 AM on July 6, 2015

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