Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Friday, April 01, 2005

This is such a good description of what things a medical librarian deals with

so I asked the person who sent the e-mail for permission to post. Thanks, Joy.

We've all had days like this:

Ok, I've got to rant or scream. It started off calmly enough, then I was hit by a request for copies of 24 different articles (most needed to be ordered through ILL) for a major hospital project--no rush, a week will do to get them. Then a couple of tricky Medline searches, helping several nurses navigate their way through CINAHL, a few consumers looking for information, a meeting with my boss, about half dozen phone calls, more interlibrary loans, some subscription problems and then the LAST STRAW.

Picture this, a doctor saunters in and looks around some. He tells me (wrongly) how to correct a printer jam and then casually mentions he's been meaning to ask me to get this for him, I don't happen to have a subscription to OBSCURE EUROPEAN SPECIALTY JOURNAL TO BE NAMELESS, do I? I should get for him a copy of this consensus guideline, several years old, that he somehow missed getting a copy of. No, he didn't want to look online he wanted the ACTUAL COPY. And it was "kind of long" but he really wanted it.

Checking the journal online I found no sign of the guideline as cited but he insisted it was in a supplement, also not online. He had no title, of course, just the acronym of the group that issued it. Oh, and by the way, it was only 244 pages! I explained that no library would copy that much for interlibrary loan. "Just get a copy" he replied, testily, as he leaves, telling me it was a very famous guideline often cited. Given that it was OBSCURE EUROPEAN SPECIALTY JOURNAL I knew my only hope was a university medical center. Before I started a fruitless search for someone who would loan me the whole issue--probably impossible since it was from 2000 and probably bound by now, I thought I'd check again online.

Sure enough I found a website where they offered the entire text in PDF format by sections. I download the whole thing (as allowed by the website) onto two diskettes to give to the doctor and let HIM print out 244 pages if he really wanted a print copy of the whole thing and not the sections as I suggested. AND, it was really 308 pages!

Some days you just ought to have stayed at home but as a solo librarian you know it will just be waiting for you when you get back.

Whew! I feel better already. I know you all have had days like this so only another librarian would REALLY understand (and I've still got a hour and a half when more can happen!)

The thing is, most of us, no matter how much we want to scream, actually enjoy the satisfaction of hunting up these obscure things. Maybe being crazy is a requirement for librarians. :) I probably would have just printed it out and given it to him, as our copier duplexes and so the PDF would approximate the article as written and we'd waste less paper than if the doctor printed it out on a printer. But otherwise, part of the challenge of being a librarian is trying to figure out what you're really looking for, rather than what the patron thinks you should look for. :) ('It's a red book'--when it's really green; it was red three editions ago, that sort of thing.)

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