Thursday, July 12, 2012

Answer (7/11/12): Where can I get that book?


I’m impressed by all of the people who found the book so quickly and (interestingly) MUCH more easily than I did.

I found this problem to be pretty hard.  I thought you would too.  Mea culpa.  And therein lies a tale…

Where’s the window?  As several of you pointed out, it’s not difficult to figure out that this stained glass window is in La Sagrada Familia, the church under construction in Barcelona, Spain.  At least one person found this step difficult because they dragged the image to the desktop rather than doing a Save-As of the full image.  Hint:  When doing an image search, use a good size, high quality image.
Now that you know it’s from La Sagrada, the next question is to find who designed the stained glass.  Several people automatically assumed that the stained glass was also designed by the church architect, Gaudí, but that’s not the case.

My next query was:

That step isn't hard:  I learned that in 1999 the painter Joan Vila-Grau (or Joan Vila i Grau) was commissioned to design and make the stained glass window on the western facade.  The church was so pleased with that piece that he was then asked to design ALL of the windows in the church, a task he began in mid-2001 and continues to this day.  

Now that I know the designer, I need to find the book he wrote.  So I did the obvious query:

… and saw that there was the Spanish language Wikipedia entry about Grau.  (I learned, among other things, that "Joan" is a male name in Spain.)  

I thought that this would be somewhat more authoritative than the English version of the Wikipedia entry, so I read through the article and found this phrase:  “…siendo autor de Los vidrieros de la Barcelona modernista (1982)”  That is, “.. he is the author of “The Glassmakers of Modern Barcelona."  

Now, I knew enough to know that “modernista” is actually a reference to the Spanish Modernisme (or Modernista) design movement (a bit like Art Noveau or Jugendstihl movements), so the translation into “modern Barcelona” didn’t bother me much. 

So then I did the next obvious thing and searched for “de Los vidrieros de la Barcelona modernista”

Much to my surprise, if you do THAT search, there are many references in Spanish, but you can’t find a book by that title.  Sure, I searched Google Books—nothing.  I searched Amazon and various library catalogs—nothing.  I kept hammering away on this and failed failed failed. 

I finally wrote to a friend at the Library of Congress who immediately pointed out my problem:  “Your title is mixed languages, vidrieros is Spanish.... Try searching this title: ‘Els Vitrallers de la Barcelona Modernista’.”  I did that search, and voila, LOTS of copies can be found—even on Amazon. 

Knowing a little Spanish can be blinding.  I knew that Grau is Catalan, and that the Wikipedia entry was in Spanish, but I’d incorrectly assumed that NOBODY would translate a book title from the original.  My mistake.  And it cost me several hours while I futzed around with that mistaken identity. 

Finding a local copy:  As many of you know, WorldCat is a service provided by OCLC (Online Library Computer Center) which provides a wonderful meta-catalog for many of the world’s libraries.  That means you can use WorldCat to search over many thousands of library catalogs for a book (and other kinds of materials as well).  IN PARTICULAR you can put in your zip code and have it search libraries near your house for the book you seek. 

As you probably also know, Google Books has a link from the book page to WorldCat via “Find in a library”

And once you’re at WorldCat, your problem is basically solved. See: 

According to, there is a copy at the UC Berkeley library and a few other locations nearby. 

Search lessons: 

First off, my big problem was that I ratholed on a bad version of the title.  I should have realized after 30 minutes or so that there was a problem with the original title.  It’s not that the Spanish Wikipedia entry is wrong, it’s just been translated from Catalan to Spanish (“Los Vidrieros” to “‘Els Vitrallers”) which changes enough words to make all my searches fail.  Perhaps every reader of the Spanish Wikipedia realizes this; but I, as a non-native semi-literate Spanish reader, didn’t.  Don’t rathole.  When you’re failing repeatedly, try a different strategy.  As all of the comments showed, there are several other strategies that work really well. 

Secondly, sometimes you just need to know what tools (and capabilities) are available.  You need to know about WorldCat and it’s “find in a library” function.  Some readers were successful by looking up libraries in the Mountain View zip code and checking their catalogs manually—that’s a good strategy (albeit slower).   In the same way you just have-to-know about seach-by-image, you have to know that databases like WorldCat exist. 

Part of being literate is... I know you'll be surprised by this... knowing a bunch of stuff.  If you're going to repair bikes, you need to know what the various wrenches do and the mechanics of how shifters and cables actually operate.  You can't go looking up "how does a 7 mm box-end-wrench work" every time you want to use it.  To be efficient, you just need to know.  

Same thing: To be information literate, there's some stuff you have to just know.  

And now you know a few more things.  

Keep reading! 

Search on! 


  1. Re: being literate. A lot of times, Google can be your proxy for literacy. In this search, you didn't have to know the 'various wrenches' for finding books - you just needed to know Google Books, which collects many of the tools you need and helps you choose the right one.

    In your case, you used 'find a library' which sent you to WorldCat. In my case, I used Google Books to find the book via 'inauthor: Joan Vila-Grau' and sidestepped the translation rathole.

    My rule of thumb is if I can't figure out how to search for something, check out the options in the Google Search realm to see if it has something that works.

  2. So if there are some resources like WorldCAT that you just need to know, do you mind providing a concise list of some of the more useful sites and databases you use?

    Edit: One other thing. I don't know if it's just the default blogspot CAPTCHA or one for your site, but it's damn near impossible to pass. The images are horribly blurry, the audio option is worse, and I almost didn't even want to bother going through it to post, but I figured the answer could be worth the trouble. But please, look into that. It's obnoxiously difficult for a CAPTCHA, and I've got great vision and hearing.

  3. Very useful. Just as a small addition to this, when you are in Worldcat, you can click on the author's name, which will search for all resources by Joan Vila-Grau, then in the left hand margin, you can go down to "Language" and click on "English". This limits to English, and then you see a very recent book in English precisely on the topic.

    Unfortunately, the only copy shown is in Spain but if you then search the ISBN in Google, you find that it costs 6 euros and if you are interested, you can buy it.