Thursday, April 5, 2007

Research Tip: Ask An Expert

Last week I spoke about state virtual libraries. (By the way, I've added several states to that list at Facts for Fiction, if you want to check it out.)

I recently discovered a fabulous online library that anyone can use, without logging in. It's called Library Spot, and I'll talk more about it another time. I wanted to point out just one of its many features, a listing called Ask An Expert.

This portal gets you started not only finding databases or search engines to help answer questions in specific fields. It also has links to loads of spots with volunteer experts, or librarians or researchers. Just think--actual human beings to give specific answers to specific questions. For free!

Being an introvert, I often find it difficult to approach some stranger and ask for information I need for a story. (And you know how it is. When you're writing fiction, the question is usually pretty weird. "So, Doctor, what kind of poison could a woman give her husband that would look like a simple heart attack?") So I love the idea of having experts standing by, waiting for my questions. Questions that I will send via email so they won't see me blush.

So it sounds wonderful, if it works. Here's my confession. I recently discovered this site and haven't tried asking the experts anything yet. I played around with the links this afternoon. I found problems with one or two. Others seemed great.

If you decide to try it out, please let me know if you have any problems--or if it's the best thing since grits. (Or sliced bread, for you non-Southern persons.)