A couple of days ago I received an email from a Ph.D. student in the U.K.. I don't know him, or his supervisor, but the message came with a simple enough request. The student was having trouble getting hold of a copy of a paper published as a chapter in a book (Handbook of Applied Economic Statistics) that Aman Ullah and I edited a few years - could I help in some way?
This sort of thing comes up from time to time for all of us, I'm sure. When I got the email I was reminded of the first time that I was on the other end of such a request - in 1973, as a Ph.D. student in New Zealand, trying to get on top of what was then a newly emerging field - Bayesian Econometrics.
Arnold Zellner's classic book had appeared just two years earlier. I'd been through it from cover to cover - I still have my notes that fill in all of those gaps where there are statements such as: "Completing the square and then integrating, it can be shown that...." (Two pages of integration later....!)
Anyway, I was trying to get hold of a particular Ph.D. dissertation that Arnold had recently supervised. The University of Chicago didn't participate in the dissertations microfiche distribution service that the University of Michigan then ran, internationally. (Microfiche?? You had to be there!) So, our library couldn't help me. I was on my own.