This project was intended to go in a slightly different direction when I first began brainstorming. As time goes on and trials and tribulations are tried, we find that not everything is going to go the way you plan. My original plan dealt with a couple of ideas: 1) researching and telling the story of how the different editions of Notes on the State of Virginia travelled from their original publication cities, 2) researching and documenting the differences in various editions, 3) connecting my university (USAO) to the book. My final project did one of those things and that was connecting the book to my own university. I was only able to do this part of my original plan due to the information, or lack of information, I found using WorldCat.
When I began researching the different editions, I found myself with over 80,000 findings – ranging from actual books to PDFs, to eBooks, to microforms, etc. This also did not necessarily mean that what I typed in was actually what I was getting in the results.
Here is where the problem began. After clarifying in the advanced search that the title was, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” the author, “Thomas Jefferson,” the publication dates, “1770 to 1855,” and the format, “Book,” the list shrank from 80,000 to 42. Progress! Or so I thought.
My project then changed to finding different editions of Notes on the State of Virginia in different Oklahoma university and public libraries. The problem with WorldCat here is that it creates a very misleading amount of information. For example, after the advanced search pulled up the 42 findings, I clicked on the first entry and below is what showed up:
“1-6 libraries out of 2,377 for all 248 editions”
So now, for each edition I clicked on, I still was pulling up more information than one person can deal with in a short amount of time. The first library that popped up was my own university’s library and from that point on, I realized that those results are misleading. This doesn’t mean that the edition I clicked on can be found in every one of these libraries. I go to USAO. I did most of my assignments for this class over Notes on the State of Virginia. I know which edition we have and it’s not the one that is shown above (Richmond, 1853).
WorldCat is tricky. Upon actually clicking the “just this edition” button, these are the results:
1-6 of 8 – and none of those libraries are in Oklahoma. Once I typed in “Oklahoma” in the location box, my results started looking like this:
It took me three hours of gathering data until I realized that the information I gathered was completely wrong. It didn’t even exist. I took the project head-on, with a lot of coffee, and individually searched through over 60 Oklahoma university libraries’ sites to find editions of Notes on the State of Virginia. I ended up with 10 colleges and 16 different editions of the book – either online access or a physical copy of the book. Even going that route, I’m sure I missed some schools due to the fact that I do not attend so I could not log onto their library’s site to view their entire catalogue. Some of the editions I found through individually searching were not listed on WorldCat, even when I searched for the specific book. Upon this realization, I found that WorldCat, although loaded with vast information, is not altogether reliable or helpful.
Even though my project changed gears and my workload was more than I was expecting, I found a lot of perseverance and will to complete the project. To be honest, this project isn’t even complete – it’s really just the beginning. Although I hope people enjoy and find interest in my work, I hope I can make people realize that online databases are not always easy to navigate or reliable to use without doing your own research to double check the work. With all of that being said, I truly appreciate having the chance to do this project because I learned a lot from doing it.