Thursday, August 5, 2010
If you’re over 25, you probably used the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature in high school and college. When you needed to find a magazine article on a particular topic, you reached for the Reader’s Guide, an index for over one hundred periodicals. Every school I taught in had one. My first job at the high school summer debate camp at the University of Michigan was to coordinate the use of the University library system by several hundred debaters. I learned a lot about other indexes to periodicals besides the Reader’s Guide. Of course now, the Reader’s Guide is electronic and searchable on computer. Where I presently teach, we use periodical indexes by EBSCO. It has several different indexes to choose from, each of which indexes different types of magazines- general academic, humanities only, science only, etc. But I have never encountered anything like the Index Rerum before.
The Index Rerum is an index created by the librarians at the Iowa Masonic Library. The librarians over the years have made index cards, BY HAND, for hundreds of Masonic topics found in Masonic periodicals and Research Lodge Proceedings. Masonic students can use this Index to find articles on an array of topics. For example, I researched the symbolism of the Rough and the Perfect Ashlar during my visit there this past week. Under the subject heading Ashlar, I counted 96 cards, each of which referenced a different Masonic periodical! One of the articles I used in my research dated back to 1857 and I’m sure the Index Rerum goes back even further as the Library has older periodicals. This resource is an incredible research tool.