Subject specialists often run into a recurring problem when helping students with research: finding relevant data. The Lilly Libraries’ digitization of the War of 1812 materials is a perfect example. There is likely at least a dozen PhD/MA students somewhere in the world researching the War of 1812 or some aspect thereof. The problem is that a simple Google search will return millions of results and somewhere, buried in the avalanche of information, there will be a link to the Lilly Library. If you go to the Wikipedia entry for the War of 1812 there is no external link to the War of 1812 (that is until I changed it a few minutes ago).
The problem of finding the right archive for a researcher is best described by the Philosopher George Carlin. Carlin believed that there was a spy at every airport, your job was to find them. The perfect archive exists for almost any researcher, their job, find it. As Moira’s discussion of her research demonstrated, you often have to spend a considerable amount of time just to figure out where to look in the first place. Digitizing unique collections aids researchers that do not have the budget to spend a week (or perhaps month) in Bloomington to examine the documents of the War of 1812.
The issue with finding these unique resources is a recurring problem for libraries, marketing. The very mention of marketing will get eye-rolls/snorts of discontent and any number of other negative feelings from librarians, myself included. The barrier that we must get passed is that libraries have never had to market their services before, but now we must embrace the idea. Too often we hear, “it is all on the Internet.” Librarians know this is not true, but we cannot blame the user for believing this. If you have to tell someone how cool you are chances are you are not that cool. However, with the case of libraries and digital collections we need to be shouting it from the rooftop/sides of buses/t-shirts and just about anywhere we can get an audience.