Researching For Your Novel: Librarians as Friends

LibrarianWriting a novel can be very intimidating, and very difficult. One of the hardest tasks any author needs to undertake is research. Whether it’s looking at the historical context of a war being used as the background of a romance novel, or understanding how an engine works for your new steampunk series, research is essential. It’s also very difficult and extremely time consuming. When you’re faced with the huge task of researching and writing a novel—most times while also trying to hold down a day job—what do you do? The easiest and most helpful solution is to turn to those who are research experts: Librarians.

Depending on what kind of research and how much research you need, you might have to seek different kinds of librarians. Below are some simple suggestions to determine what kind of library setting is best for your researching needs, as well as helpful hints to making this the best experience possible.

  • What are you researching? This is the most important question to answer honestly. There’s a very big difference between needing reference material to back up small pieces of your plot because you want your novel to seem realistic and writing a non-fiction book on someone’s life. Needing to verify background information is a significantly smaller project you can ask a public librarian for help completing, where as any other kind of research requires the help of a more specialized librarian.

If you find yourself honing in on one topic for the purpose of writing a non-fiction piece, then the first step is to find the right kind of library and the right kind of librarians. Many states have academic or research libraries that specialize in one kind of text or one kind of genre. This will help you find the quality material you need in order to get your book on its way.

  • When is the deadline for your project? If this is your first book and there’s no hard deadline, it’s easier to work with a public librarian. They’re often juggling an unbelievable amount of tasks, so sometimes there’s a little bit of a delay between when you ask for research help and when your materials are presented. Start early, but don’t expect the librarian to become your personal researcher. If the deadline is coming up sooner than you’d like, then it’s time to find the kind of librarian who can devote their entire focus to acquiring the kind of information you need.
  • Be honest with the librarian. Some of us feel guilty asking for so much time from someone, but being honest about your project with the librarian often yields even more benefits beyond releasing guilt. Many times, librarians have personal tastes in genres, as well as special skills. If you let a librarian know that you’re doing research for a project, they might know someone who specializes in that topic or area of interest. They also may know online resources that you can access from home for free, as well as different institutions you can visit for further research. The best part is that most libraries offer free passes and discounts to museums and other research libraries, so while being honest may just seem like an easy way to relieve guilt, it can also yield amazing results.

Librarians are experts in the library in which they work, so using them to gain access to the research you need is vital, and extremely helpful. Make friends with your local librarian and let them lead you to the information they have in their home library, as well as provide you with all the information you need to access any other library and research institute. Just don’t forget to give them some space in the dedication!