One of the biggest, not-so-secret pleasures of writing science fiction and fantasy is that you have to keep on learning; whether it’s keeping up with the latest advances in nanotechnology or dissecting the structure of a “dead” language, learning the basics of plasma physics or metalsmithing, research is an important component of successful world building (or even idea generation).
For those no-pants days when you need help finding information and Google/Wikipedia isn’t cutting it, you’ll want to know about these 5 free resources to help you with research:
- The New York Public Library Chat with a Librarian: One of the country’s most stalwart and venerable libraries offers the opportunity to chat, live, with an actual librarian 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (yes, apparently even at 2am on a Sunday morning).
- The Internet Public Library: The IPL has an email form where you can submit a question, which is then routed to a volunteer librarian who can help you locate additional resources. They indicate that they usually can get an answer within a few days (but may need up to a week).
- The Library of Congress: Depending on the subject of your question or research, you can email a subject matter librarian your question and receive an answer within 5 business days or, depending on the area, chat live with a librarian (hours are limited and vary per subject).
- Government Information Online Ask a Librarian: Looking for government-specific information? Chat with librarians from twenty public, state and academic libraries throughout the United States who can assist you with finding information from government agencies.
- Radical Reference: If your research needs are more political in nature, Radical Reference’s volunteer librarian collective may be able to help. They state that their service aims to“…support activist communities, progressive organizations, and independent journalists by providing professional research support, education and access to information.”