I got a call from a faculty member trying to track down the full citation to an article the person wrote. Turns out the professor wrote this back in the fifties, or sixties. I started asking the questions I would have asked anyone.
Do you have the title?
–Well, I know Something-something was in the title.
Was the professor the sole author?
Who were the other authors?
–Well, possibly Dr. So-and-So or Dr. Other-So-and-So.
Can you spell those names for me?
–Well, I don’t really know. It was a long time ago.
Any idea what journal this was in?
–Hmmm, I think it was Proceedings of Such-and-Such. In 1952 or maybe it was 1954. Wait, it was in 1962.
What was the article about?
–It was about Topic X. [Very definitively] Yes, it was about Topic X.
This is what I like to call an offshoot of “The Green Book Phenomena.” Quite possibly I heard that somewhere else or this has a real name. If so, let me know. Anyone who has ever worked in a bookstore or library has experienced this. The person cannot provide you with any real solid info. They don’t know the name of the book; have no clue as to author; can’t even tell you what it’s about–but they do know the book had a green cover (or red or pink or whatever).
Not usually a searchable field in a catalog or database.
And then somehow, miracle of miracles, you find it.
Since working in academia, I’ve encountered this little offshoot a bit more often. It astonishes me how frequently faculty have forgotten what they’ve published.
Several dusty print indexes, a couple of database searches for the heck of it, Google, Google Scholar, more print indexes (print is not dead), a call to another librarian, and a database I almost never use, we came up with one remote and doubtful possibility.
Journal name was different, title did not have the words the faculty had said were there. Authors were partly right. He mixed up first names and initials. His date possibilities were way off and the subject of the piece was not what he’d told us it was.
So it was with trepidation that I presented this to the professor, who subsequently was overjoyed. It was, in fact, exactly what the professor was looking for.