Every once in a while, I get a reference question that proves to be a worthy challenge for my library reference skills. The picture above is the library branch that I am working at – Miami Beach Regional Library. A patron came in and began to tell me how he came from the Bass Museum, which was across the street, and spoke to a woman who swore there was no building in front of the Bass Museum which was the Miami Beach Public Library back in the 60’s.
The picture above is of the Bass Museum – my library is off camera right. My library from what I’ve been told is about 10+ years old and was at one time the Bass Museum. However, today’s reference question contradicts what I know about my branch as well as the women in question at the Bass Museum. For all that I know, this was patron was wrong or simply misremembered about the library being in front of the museum. As a librarian, I know I could not be simply dismissive towards the patron because I did not know first hand nor did I have anyone at that time that could help answer this question and even then, I would still want to give evidence to prove what I knew was true. So now the quest begins to either prove or disprove the patrons reference question.
Looking for photographic evidence is not as easy as looking up a book title or an author. In my cataloging class, one of the interesting lessons I learned is that cataloging non book material is tough. You and I can look at the same picture but when as for a brief description, our answers would not be the same. Luckily for us, since our Main Library was consolidating some of their collection, my branch was fortunate enough to get their Miami Beach collection. I directed the patron to look through the collection while I use the internet to find what ever information I could on my end. All my searches online were not coming up with the results that I could show to the patron. I decided, between patrons, to look through the stack as well.
The first thing I came across was the Miami Beach Bulletin which looked more like a newsletter but it started with an issue from the last 60’s and worked backwards till the last 50’s. The patron commented that he thought about looking through it but did want to bother because it was so big. Still, I perused through the binder hoping that something would come popping out. I did admit that it was a shame that we didn’t the content of the binder to make it truly useful as a resource material. I went then into the 900’s of the Dewey system to find from architecture or history books with picture of Miami Beach from the 60’s.I did find some interesting books but the jackpot was a book called Miami Then and Now by Arva Moore Parks and Carolyn Klepser. On page 134, I came across this picture of the Bass Museum or rather the Collins Library in 1931. So there was a library there in that place but not the Miami Beach Public Library. On the next page, we see the Bass Museum, the same as above, with the expansion wings on both sides of the main entrance. Underneath the picture we get this note, “The Collins Library was rededicated as the Bass Museum of Art in 1964.” So where was this library located then?
Finding answers to reference questions is not as simple as finding an X on a map. There are clues that lead you down a path of discovery or dead ends. The trick here is to not give up even if the patron has decided to give up on finding the answer. Luckily, this patron wanted to know. I went back to search once more with various combination of words and phrases and then I came across this video.
Right from the beginning, this was watch I was looking for and despite it being silent it spoke volume to me. I called over the patron to look at the video. At the 21 second mark of the video, the camera does a left to right pan which shows the building being constructed. The patron did say that this building went end to end for the entire length of the block. At the 34 second mark you see a roundish building in front of the building. This is the current water fountain-ish rotunda structure that is at the end of the block of Collins Park. As thus, this confirms that the Miami Beach Public Library was constructed in the 60’s and was in front of the Bass Museum. I did a screen capture of the shot at the 34 second mark and then put it in a word document and well as the YouTube link for the patron. Now, that was a reference question.