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Humanities librarian, Liorah Golomb, received an email from a student who was unable to find information about Mercedes de Velilla y Rodriguez, a 19th-century poet from Seville.

Golomb took that information and began searching.

“In traditional Spanish naming conventions, she (Mercedes de Velilla y Rodriguez) would properly be indexed as Velilla, her father’s surname; Rodriguez would be the mother’s surname,” said Golomb. “Searching all variations of her name yielded articles on medicine, biology, and geology but none on our subject, apart from a HathiTrust edition of her poems. Neither WorldCat, the MLA International Bibliography, Gale Literary Sources, Google Scholar, nor Google provided much; the most I found were a couple of rare anthologies in which her poems appeared. I also found editions of Velilla’s one-act verse plays, also rare. In any case, I was looking for the poet’s biography, not her work. A couple of tantalizing sources didn’t pan out. I had hopes for a book on our shelves, Escritoras españolas del siglo XIX: manual bio-bibliográfico, but it provided little more than Velilla’s dates and places of birth and death.”

Golomb looked at other books on the shelf and found nothing. Then, she tried searching on the Spanish version of Google, google.es.

“Success! There were several hits right on the first page of results, including a recent newspaper article and, most wonderfully, a Wikipedia entry,” said Golomb.

The Wikipedia article result was not discovered through searching the English version of the site. Like Google, the Spanish language source was required for returning the best result.

“I went to wikipedia.org and looked for the entry or any article on Mercedes de Velilla, but nada.,” said Golomb. “The article was only in es.wikipedia.org. While Wikipedia may not be the preferred resource of librarians and professors, it has proven to be pretty reliable, and sources are cited. If someone wanted to check the article or get more information, the sources are there.”

Golomb said she did also find a chapter the student might find useful.

“Because we had communicated by email and met in person, I was able to contact her and let her know about it. My fellow subject librarians and I go on these hunting expeditions with students all the time. It is not unusual for us to follow up with a student when we have more ideas about their topic. We develop relationships with students and faculty, and my relationship with the student’s professor meant first, that she knew to refer her student to me, and second, that I was familiar with the student’s assignment. As I tell students in virtually every library use class that I give, working with them truly is the most rewarding part of our job.”

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