Friday, 13 May 2016

On the Reference Desk

I keep a log of things that happen ORD (on the reference desk).  Some of them are funny, some sweet, and some scary.  Here are a couple of my most recent:

[Phone call]

Patron:  I'm writing a report and don't have my slang dictionary handy.  How do you spell cattywampus?
Me: c-a-t-t-y-w-a-m-p-u-s
Patron:  Wow, did you know that off the top of your head?  That's awesome.
Me: I did know it but I double checked with the computer just in case.

(hang up)

30 seconds later, the phone rings again.

Patron: Is that one word or two?
Me: One.

[Same day at the Desk]

Patron 2: How do you spell "inconveniences"?  All the I's and E's mess me up.
Me: Let me write it down for you.

[ILL Demands]

Problem Patron (this person is a regular and a regular problem): I put a title in the catalog and two unrelated titles came up.
Me: Sir, that's because we don't have it and the catalog was offering suggestions with those search terms.
Problem Patron: Oh.  Can you check and see if any other library in the state has it?"
Me: Sir, there is no catalog for the entire state.
Problem Patron: Can you Inter-library Loan it for me?  New Mexico does do inter-library loan, right?
Me: Yes, sir (gritting my teeth because we're not that backwater).  It's a $5 fee.
Problem Patron: How do I find out if it's available without paying the fee?
Me: You can look at other library catalogs online.  I did just check (even though I'm not really supposed to because that's part of the process) and it's available in El Paso.  If you would like to fill out this form, you can turn it in with your $5 fee and we'll call you when it comes in."
Problem Patron: But if I pay and they can't get it, do I get my $5 back?
Me: No, sir, it's a processing fee.
Problem Patron: Never mind, I'll check Cloudcroft, I don't think they charge a fee.
Me: Very good, sir.

Relating this to my boss she mused, "Hmmm, I don't know if he drives a Prius or not but it takes at least $5 in gas to get to Cloudcroft."

[Phone call]

Hard-to-hear-and-understand-patron: I have COPD and a lady at the health food store told me to look at the internet and there would be a website to give me instructions on how to inject myself with hydrogen peroxide to help my health.
Me (trying not to sound horrified): I'm sorry, that's out of my purview.  The information on that is varied and controversial; you'll need to contact a medical professional.

[On the Reference Desk]
Patron: I'm (cough) uh (throat clearing) looking (cough cough grunt, throat clearing)... I'm going to cough.  (pulls out a Visine bottle and dribbles some into the back of her throat).  I would like the address of Bill Bryson.
Me: I can only get you his publisher's information... (please, please tell me that you re-used that bottle for something else and you didn't just squirt a known poison* into your mouth).

Stay tuned for future installments of ORD--On the Reference Desk...

*Ingesting eye drops doesn't actually give you diarrhea as is usually assumed--it is instead very dangerous and potentially deadly.  Check out Snopes for some extra information.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Book Review--Dr. Mütter's Marvels

There's no other way to put it.  I'm not a history buff.  I'm definitely not a fan of history books.  I don't really want to get into too much self-reflection on all the whys and wherefores but I will say that one of the reasons is that dry textbooks in school did nothing to make the past appealing or real in any way.

I am, however, a huge fan of science!  And taking a look at scientific developments over the years is VERY appealing to me... so I willingly delve through bygone days learning about history through the lens of science.*

My most recent foray was into the medical field.  While I do have a background education in biology, I never was interested in going on to practice medicine because the only live-specimen dissection I've ever done resulted in dizziness and tunnel vision.  However, my awesome sister and half of her family (eldest son and daughter) are all EMT's and are frequently on call for any kind of medical emergency.  So combining a family interest in medicine and my own wacky curiosity, I was excited to read Dr. Mütter's Marvel's: a True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz.

I was not disappointed!  This was a well-researched, well-presented look at a fascinating mover-and-shaker in the advancement of modern medicine.  The book also was able to place the man and his mission in the wider context of the time period, internationally and within the civil constructs of the day.

I am sometimes leery to read about "medicine" back in the olden days (except those days are not so long ago!) because I tend to get a little too empathetic and can really get bogged down in imagining scenarios in graphic detail (the main reason I don't read accurate historical fiction--there were real people that suffered in horrible ways and there's not always a happy ending for them).  Aptowicz, however, had a knack for describing the scenes in a detailed but not gory way.  She describes the surgical procedures and evidences of disease in a calmly analytical way that didn't invite me to wallow in despair.  That's not to say she shied away from the obvious, just that she did it in a way that wasn't haunting and was very much approachable. The pictures and sketches served to illustrate the point but were not designed to look like a horror film (even though some of the conditions were pretty horrifying).

I came to admire Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter and many of his colleagues for their perseverance in advancing medicine even in the face of social hierarchies, stubborn disbelief in the unseen, and through war.  The humanity shown by Dr. Mutter to his patients was humbling as well as encouraging--he changed the face of patient care and many have reaped the benefit over the years. Patients are people was the thought that underscored his career.

Reading about the now unthinkable conditions of even the best hospitals makes me more and more thankful for living in this modern era.  While new discoveries are always being made, the basic concepts of hygiene, germs, and immunizations lay the groundwork for a life that is healthier and longer than people in Mutter's time--the simple things in life are far less likely to kill us.

If you've ever complained about a doctor, wait time or treatment, maybe take a gander at this book to realize how far we've come in medicine in a relatively short amount of time.

p.s. now I need to schedule a trip to Philadelphia to check out Dr. Mütter's museum!  Anybody want to buy my tickets?
College of Physicians 1.JPG

*Some of my favorite science books recently have been: The Thing Explainer by Randal Munroe, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, and The Information by James Gleik.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

CosPlay Fun... and it's work?

I love it when I get to do something totally fun that counts as work.  That happened this past weekend when the library hosted a booth at Alamogordo's Aeon Adventures.  Why would the library have a booth at a cosplay event? (for you noobs, cosplay is short for costume play.  Dressing up as favored characters or character types)

Why because we love Harry Potter!  So much so, that the library staff unanimously decided we should have a release party to celebrate the 8th book (written as a play) when it comes out in July.  In preparation, we are selling raffle tickets for some cool stuff (funded by Alamogordo Friends of the Library) so we'll have some money to make the celebration really rock!

Here are are a couple of pictures of the booth (I did minimal work setting up, our Youth Services librarian really did the lion's share of the work but she does such a phenomenal job I'm really superfluous sometimes).  But we had such fun!  I got to dress as Hermione (or a random Gryffindor student--but I had Hermione's wand ;) ) and we got to talk up the library, sell tickets and generally enjoy the fun atmosphere of the congenial company of the rest of the Adventure goers.  As you know, I'm not great at pictures but here are a few:
Our super-cool collection of items to raffle. (If you're in town, we'll be selling tickets all summer at the library!)

We had a fun craft of bookmarks to color and some t-shirts. 
And here I am conducting one of our helpers in a kazoo performance.

More pictures can be found at Bellatrix Lestrange's blog (a.k.a. Youth librarian) and she's much better with pictures than I am!

I also got to talk up my first try at an Adult Summer Reading program (they've had them at the library before but this is the first one I'm organizing) and I'm getting really excited about it!  It's great when you love what you do and this weekend was a great example of it!