As librarians we think the catalog, databases and discovery tools should lead to the articles or other library materials that we seek especially for a known item search. I found a case when the cataloger or indexer did everything right, yet the article was still difficult to find.
In brief – Ahad Ha’am (Asher Ginsberg’s pen name) and Theodor Herzl were rivals in the struggle for the soul of the Zionist movement. Ahad Ha’am believed in spiritual and cultural Zionism that is a state that would be a source for growth, development and eternity of Jewish culture. Herzl was a political Zionist that is he believed a Jewish state would solve the “Jewish question.” Looking back on the history of the movement and what eventually happened, they both turned out to be right. Israel today is a product of both streams of thought.
Since library databases would help I thought I could find another book that told the story and that author would have the exact citation. I had to learn a little more about Herzl and Ahad Ha’am to be able to continue the search. In Gershon Winer’s The Founding Fathers of Israel,  he profiles both Herzl and Ahad Ha’am. Winer does not deal with the ideological struggle between the Zionist streams of thought.
I went back a few years to Alex Bein’s 1940 biography of Herzl. Chapter 12 is titled, “Altneuland” and describes in detail the saga. However, Bein had no footnotes. Bein describes how Herzl decided on the title. Herzl describes in his diary the thought process occurred to him on August 30, 1899. It was connected to the concept of an old and new land and the Altneuschul  of Prague. The chapter talks about the cultural questions that Ahad Ha’am raises, but got me no closer to a citation.
Thirty-five years later Amos Elon writes another biography of Herzl. His retelling of the saga is in chapter 15 starting on page 347. Elon mentions on page 350 Ahad Ha’am’s criticism and his attack in HaShiloah, which Ahad Ha’am edited. Elon has no footnotes or citations. Shlomo Avineri in The Making of Modern Zionism,  talked about the utopian concepts in Altneuland such as social structure of co-operations and mutual benefit. All young men and women are required to give two years of national service, not for military purposes because there will be peace with the non-Jews. Avineri makes no comment about the controversy surrounding the novel and have no footnotes.
Since library books and searches were not helping I turned to Google Scholar. I searched for articles with “herzl” and “ahad ha’am” in them. Eventually I found an article by Yossi Goldstein in the journal, Jewish History.  This is a whole article about the Ahad Ha’am Herzl dispute and the second footnote had the citation that I needed, “Ahad Ha’am, “Yalkut Katan”, Ha-shiloach 10 (1902) [Hebrew], pp. 566–578.” Footnote three had Max Nordau response to Ahad Ha’am Max Nordau, ““Achad Ha’am über Altneuland”, Die Welt, 13.3.1903” With this citation I returned to
library searching for a copy that I could read.
The University of Illinois Chicago is a co-operating member of the Hathi Trust. After many searching I found an electronic copy of the December 1902 article that contained Ahad Ha’am criticism. I immediately saw why a search of authors and titles was fruitless. Ahad Ha’am was the editor of the publication and he wrote a monthly editorial without a byline. The title was always, “Yalkut Katan” meaning “A small collection.” The December column did not even start out with the criticism of Herzl. An indexer could easily misinterpret the article and record the incorrect bibliographic information. I was also led to the German translation of the article which appears in the April 1903 issue of Ost und West starting on column 227.
The UIC collection did not have the 1903 volume of Ost und West in paper or electronic format. They had other volumes, but this one was not in the collection scanned by Hathi Trust. I searched WorldCat and found that an electronic copy existed. Searching “Ost und West” got too many hits and none were correct. After many searches I found the full title of the publication was: Neue jüdische Monatshefte : Zeitschrift für Politik, Wirtschaft und Literatur in Ost und West . I used iShare (a group of Illinois libraries with a shared catalog) and found an electronic copy in the Morris Library of Southern Illinois University. It was in a system called Compact Memory, which has many German Jewish publications available in electronic format. The searching is only in German. I was able to find both Die Welt for the Nordau article and the issue of Ost und West with the Ahad Ha’am article.
With the German article in hand and the Hebrew original I could better understand what Ahad Ha’am wrote. Some of his Hebrew words were borrowed from German and not in the Hebrew dictionaries. For example he used the word, “Tscharter” in Hebrew. It means “charter.”
The article also appears page 412 in Kol Kitve (Collected Works) Ahad Ha'am.
Last Thursday I attended a webinar on library discovery tools. This search is an example of how discovery tools could help. Had I been able to enter what I thought were keywords and the discovery tool could work across all language, perhaps I could have found the article faster? But this is still a case when one has to understand the subject of a search before getting the answer. In the course of the search I had to learn more about the personalities involved and their ideology. I learned about how periodicals and how they were the mass media of the time. Arguments were expressed in publications. Today these exchanges would take place using electronic media and speed of exchange would be hours, not months. I also learned the road to finding answers contains many paths and requires many kinds of search tools.
This was all an interesting exercise and knowing all this I returned to Olson's footnote and then I understood it. Had I understood his note in the beginning I would not have needed all the searching.