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Researchers' Courtesy Code  

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Researchers' Courtesy Code

You can also view and/or downlod the couresty code in PDF format.

Before you contact any research institution

  1. Make exhaustive use of all relevant reference tools available via the internet or at your home library
    1. Databases, periodical indexes 
    2. New Zealand Libraries catalogue 
    3. National Library’s catalogue
    4. Community Archive: NZ’s hub for archival collections  
    5. Manuscript databases of major institutions,

                                                    i.      eg ARK (John Kinder Theological Library) 

                                                   ii.      Tapuhi (Alexander Turnbull Library)

                                                  iii.      Archives New Zealand 

                                                   iv.      Hakena (Hocken Library) 

 

    1. Papers Past for contemporary newspaper reporting
    2. Biographical sources, eg

                                                   i.      Dictionary of New Zealand Biography 

                                                  ii.      Schofield, Book of New Zealand Women,

                                                 iii.      Cyclopedia of New Zealand

 

  1. Select and define your topic closely.  Preliminary work on the framework of the topic is necessary before consulting especially primary resource materials

 

  1. Background.  Work through the available range of relevant secondary sources before you begin looking at primary materials.  Otherwise you may miss the significance of some points in your documents.  Use library catalogues to find secondary (published) sources

 

Planning a research trip to use primary sources

  1. Adequate notice is essential.
  2. Send a letter, email or telephone call a week in advance.  You should include the following information
    1. A description of your proposed research topic
    2. An outline of the sources you hope to use, or an enquiry as to what sources they may have that are relevant
    3. Expected time of arrival and how long you plan on being there
    4. A list of material already perused to save unnecessary duplication of effort
    5. An indication as to whether you are planning an initial exploratory visit or a major research trip.

 

  1. The above
    1. Enables archivists and librarians to do some preliminary getting together of materials for you
    2. Ensures that a staff member with suitable expertise is available
    3. Enables prior clearance of restricted materials if this is possible
    4. Prevents a fruitless visit since staff have time to advise you that nothing relevant is held
    5. You can also ask in advance for an assessment of the amount of material available.  Reading handwritten records is very time consuming.

 

Once at the Library/Archives

  1. Introduce yourself to staff, and ask to meet with someone who can assist you with your particular enquiry
  2. Ask for advice on procedures and services, eg how the catalogue works, how to request a book or manuscript, how to have material held over for the next day.  Check the policy on photocopying, ask how a manuscripts numbering system works
  3. Ask if they have any special  lists or indexes to material, or inventories or series lists of manuscripts

 

Observe the procedures

  1. Fill out any request slips for items carefully and accurately
  2. Always take precise references, including the system of coding or classification
  3. Request only a reasonable quantity of material at one time
  4. Plan your requests so that you are not sitting in the research room with nothing to do.  Some libraries only retrieve materials at stated intervals during the day
  5. Keep a record of what you have already used
  6. Respect the rights of other researchers

 

Keep photocopying requests to the absolute minimum

  1. Manuscript and rare material if it is allowed to be copied is always done by staff, who have to hold over other work to do so
  2. Photocopying damages the material; some photography may be allowed
  3. Take detailed notes as you read
  4. If you do request photocopies keep detailed notes of your request
  5. Respect the Institution’s photocopying policy.

 

Observe basic courtesies

  1. Inform the library staff when you have completed your visit so that they do not hold over material for you
  2. Verbal thanks could be followed up with a letter or email especially if staff have put a lot of time into assisting you
  3. Pass on your experiences to fellow students to save them making any of the same mistakes.

 

Based on The Researcher’s Courtesy Code by Jeannine Graham.  New Zealand Journal of History, 20:2 (1986) 198-201

 

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