What do reference Librarians do when a question comes to us that seems impossible? We try anyway!
Joan Clark*, a former Janesville resident visiting from Arizona, asked whether we could help her find a photo of herself and her husband, Lefty*, that had been printed in the Janesville Gazette sometime in the 1990s. The only thing she remembered about the image was that the two of them had been photographed in their winter hats outside a tavern called, perhaps, the Blue Moon. The photo meant a lot to her and her husband because the original, once in their daughter's possession, had burned in a house fire.
What are our methods when trying to track down something as difficult to find as this? The Hedberg Public Library has many sources for finding local information. HPL has the Janesville Gazette back to when the paper was started in 1845. So we knew if we could verify the date and location of the photograph, we could get a copy of the photo. First, we checked our own Local History Database--an index to many books, photos, newspaper articles, and pamphlet materials about Janesville and Rock County. Nothing there. Next, we checked city directories and old phone books to see if there was a Blue Moon Tavern in Janesville. Again, no luck.
Questions that one staff member can't answer are written out and left at the reference desk for other staff members to work on. One librarian remembered that there was a Silver Moon tavern on Highway 14 back in the mid-1990s. This librarian phoned the Clarks who verified that the photo was taken at the Silver Moon Tavern! Sometimes we need the memory of staff members to get the question on the right track!
A mere year date is not going to yield useful results -somehow the date needed to be narrowed down. Next, a search was done on the Internet that included the search terms "Silver Moon Delavan." This search yielded contact information for Glenn Davis*, former owner of the tavern. The librarian emailed Glenn about the photo. He remembered that the photo was possibly taken during a Green Bay Packer Super Bowl event at the tavern. This was enough information to jog the Clarks' memories; they verified that it was a Packer Super Bowl game that had drawn them to the Silver Moon.
Staff found the dates of the two Green Bay Packer Super Bowls in the 1990s -- January 26, 1997 and January 25, 1998. So we now had likely dates for the photo.
Another librarian checked the newspaper microfilm for the day after the 1997 Super Bowl, which was Monday January 27, 1997. There, on the front page of the paper, was the very picture we had been seeking: Joan and Lefty Clark in their winter hats sitting in the "cold section" of the bleachers set up at "Rambeau Field" outside the Silver Moon Tavern!
HPL has the technology to take that image from the microfilm, put it on a flash drive, and email the image as an attachment. The Clarks preferred to have copies of the microfilm images printed and sent to them in Arizona by mail. Both the Clarks and the librarians, all of whom thought that finding this photo was truly a long shot, were thrilled.
Sometimes it takes the teamwork of a number of reference librarians, pooling their knowledge, memories, and skills, to answer a single - apparently impossible - question!
--posted by DM/LG/KH (*names used with permission)