Unfortunately, this easy access to information has made the process of research somewhat one-sided or even lazy at times. It is sad to see documents out there (that pertain to the SCA or, actually, even papers that are turned in for classes in school) that have bibliographies which list nothing more than a serious of websites. And, to make matters worse, those websites are often only tertiary resources at best. (Edited to add that I understand that some items could be well-researched online if the proper resources - such as academic journals - are used. Unfortunately, that is not the first, or even the last, stop for so many people.)
Now, I fully understand that some people do not have an innate love for research. They are happy to find a document that reasonably describes what they want to portray and then just replicate the item. As long as they aren't pursuing a Laurel (or college degree, lol), there is nothing wrong with that. Everyone finds different joys in this game.
However, for those who are really looking to dig further into the past, research is mandatory. And I will even go further to say that you will have to - at some point - look beyond the standard collection of SCA resources and weblinks and search out those primary sources and extant items. And yes, you will need to start tracking down those hard-to-find articles and books.
Those books, while wonderful, are often run in small numbers and therefore are quite pricey. Or, they are out-of-print and therefore pricey. Or both. There are some other options though.
Look on Google books. Yes this is technically internet research, but occasionally you can find a great text there in its entirety. Many other volumes are there in partial format and you can at least scan through the pertinent information to see if you really need to spend the money on the book at all.
And don't forget to check with other SCAdians. Someone might not be willing to loan you a $600 book, but many are more than happy to bring it to an event for you to take a peek. (Some events even have a library space set up were individuals can take the time to explore the collections of other SCA researchers.)
And yes, you can even go to the actual library. Despite our Kindle filled world, libraries still exist. Most small branches will not have much in depth on SCA topics, but if you have access to larger branches or university libraries you are quite lucky indeed. You might not be able to check-out a book from a college facility if you are not a student, but you can usually still browse and copy the resources that interest you. Thanks to the internet, you can even find out in advance if the titles you are looking for are available at the nearby establishments.
And finally, do not discount Inter-Library Loan. For those who do not know what ILL is, it is a very powerful resource that allows you to borrow a book from a library elsewhere in the world right from your own branch.
I actually did not take advantage of ILL for the longest time because I listened to the people who told me it never worked. Given my experience with the system this year, I have to wonder how often they actually tried the system or how many decades ago they tried the process. I know that I have had nothing but fabulous luck so far and highly recommend searching out those rare books via this method.
I do have a few tips for people new to ILL:
- Make sure that you have the full title of the book in question, as well as all of the author/s and the editor. Run additional searches to see if the title was ever different or spelled differently in the case of a title in another language.
- Make sure you have the ISBN number, if possible.
- Perform your own library searches online. This will allow you to potentially figure out locations of these books before you even put in your ILL request (this definitely helped me track down a copy of Osebergfundet, Volume 4, in the US). The item exists in a fashion school in NYC, but was improperly listed in their system (there was no Volume number listed with it). I was able to contact them to verify that it was indeed the correct volume and have my library pull that copy, and not one from overseas (for which I would have had to pay shipping).
- Understand in advance that you made be asked how much you would be willing to pay to have the item shipped to your branch. I always put that I am willing to pay $25, but have yet to actually pay for any shipping.
- Also understand that you will likely only have use of the book for a few weeks, and often that borrowing time starts from the day it arrives in your library, and not the day you actually pick up the book.
- You will also likely have a limited time (my library gives 5 days) for you to check-out the book.
- Finally, be patient. It can take some time to get a book via ILL, a few weeks or even a few months. I recommend that you do not try to resource a book during a time when you have vacations planned. For example, I would not request a book in June for fear it would show up while I was at Pennsic.