Recently I mentioned wanting to find out more about what my father did during World War II. I’ve submitted requests for Dad’s service records to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis (so far I’ve come up empty), and nosed about on the internet trying to see what I could find. Earlier this spring, Ancestry.com, normally a pay-for-access site, announced they were making their military records databases available to search for free for a limited time. I searched and turned up an enlistment record for Dad, but without a serial number. A Google search for Dad’s old unit, “U. S. Ninth Air Force in World War II” turned up the marvelously useful United States Army Air Forces in World War II site, where veterans, children and grandchildren of veterans, researchers, and military history buffs can ask questions and gather and share information. I cannot say enough good things about this site and the people who contribute to it! Within just a few days they had graciously and courteously answered many of my questions, provided information I didn’t have, and pointed me in new directions for research, including a database of Army enlistment records (with serial numbers) administered by the National Archives and Records Administration, and useful Wikipedia pages on the history, organization, and nomenclature of the U. S. Air Force in general and the Ninth Air Force in particular. With the help of these fine people I learned that the predecessor of the present U. S. Air Force was the U. S. Army Air Forces (plural), and that there is a difference between the U. S. Army Air Forces and the U. S. Army Air Corps. I was most impressed when veterans answered my queries. Often they would sign their postings with their rank, their unit, and the dates of their service. I am in awe of these men: their courage, their sacrifice, their humility, and their willingness to share what they remember. I know what they tell me is accurate because they were there to see it–and my father was one of them.
All this exploration and discovery of what happened to my father (what I’ve dubbed “the Dad project”) has made me realize that I might want to become what is variously called an information broker, an independent researcher, or an independent information professional. These are people who will plan and conduct searches for information (often highly specialized) in conventional and electronic sources, distill and package the information, and present the results of their search to the client for a fee. Many have library science degrees, as I do, but some don’t. The largest professional association of information brokers is the Association of Independent information Professionals, which I’ve joined as a prospective (free) member. I’m working my way through a bibliography of articles about the profession and know I want to read more. I’ve ordered three books on the subject that are frequently cited in the literature and are considered essential reading for anyone thinking about the IB business.
This is a new and potentially exciting career direction for me. This is problem solving, investigation, detective work and creativity–the kind of work I wanted to do when I decided to become a librarian in the first place. I want to see where this path leads. I hope Dad would be proud of me for following it.