Monthly Archives: November 2005


There are certain types of questions I dread. I do the best I can to answer them, but I have to be honest, when a query gets me deep in the murky waters of business or legal resources, it gets hard for me to hide my panic beneath my neutral face. On the other hand, I imagine there are librarians who have similar reactions to questions about the health sciences… At least with resources outside of my experience, I can either muddle my through (after all a database is a database is a database) or I can contact someone who does know how to finesse their way through Hoover or LegalTrac.

And then there are the tech questions. Now I can change margins, fonts, a page from portrait to landscape, manipulate columns and rows with the best of them, but when I see a patron coming at me with a laptop and a worried look, I start to sweat. Even when the patron is not technically challenged, it’s next to impossible to get an answer from the tech people. Apparently, I am not alone.

Instant gratification

Lost is probably a good third through the second season by now. My initial misgivings and fears appear to have been misplaced. I feel a little guilty for my lack of trust because the past two episodes have been excellent.

I notice that on a lot of the message boards these days most of us are very impatient with TV programs. A show has one bad or poorly written scene and that’s it, we declare, it’s jumped the shark. I’m not sure if it’s because now you don’t even have to wait till the next time you’re around the proverbial water cooler to talk about a film or television show you saw. It could be very easy to find your opinion swaying after reading oh, 25 pages worth of comments saying that a program was awful. Or even if it holds true, you might not want to venture posting that you disagree.

I haven’t done as much writing as I would like to, but from my brief experiences with fiction (nothing published–I just have a stack of legal pads on the bottom of a closet), I do know that sometimes there has to be set-up. You need exposition. Characters need to develop. And yet, knowing that full well and having been critical of media where this does not happen, here I’ve been griping when I don’t get what I want immediately. Perhaps patience is in order…

Black Friday

There is something very eerie about the library on the day after Thanksgiving. I’ve often joked that we could get in some skeet shooting on the reference floor and no one would notice. It’s funny how you can go from reference burnout a week before to drag patrons to the reference desk the next (not that I’ve ever done that). I sometimes have to remind myself that the random patron just wants to know how to print off that full text article in InfoTrac, and probably would rather I didn’t go into a 20-minute BI on the databases ins and outs.

On the other hand, I won’t get flooded with 100 listserv e-mails, which means I can actually get some work done. I’m actually looking forward to working today. I’d rather die than hit the mall (are the bargains really that good? enough to warrant having to negotiate mall parking lots with 20,000 crazed drivers? I didn’t think so) and it’ll be a nice calm before the storm next week.

That was HER?

The first of hopefully several seasons of Rome finished up with a bang. Aside from a few gripes with the historical accuracy (where for instance is Marcellus?) I loved this show. In particular, I loved Lindsay Duncan. As Servilia she is almost as clinically cold as Sian Philips‘ Livia, and gives an amazing performance.

I’ve seen Duncan in a few things, most recently in Under the Tuscan Sun. Curious to see what else she’s done, I looked her up in IMDB. To my complete and total shock, I just discovered she played the ingenue in On Approval–the version with Penelope Keith and the late Jeremy Brett. I have a tape of it somewhere. I would never have realized that she was the same actress.

Wow. Talk about range.

Sometimes it’s good to be a reference librarian

My life turned upside down and inside out last month when I had a death in the family. While thee emotional trauma was, and is, significant, that’s not what I want to write about today. What really amazed me was how much of the minutiae of death there is to deal with and how much of it bears on information-seeking capability.

  1. Obtaining contact information of family and friends
  2. Finding phone numbers of retirement/pension funds that want their retirees to do everything online (yeah, I don’t get it either–according to a 2004 Pew report, only 22% of seniors over 65 are using the Internet; you would think that a business dealing with a target population of seniors would have a clue).
  3. Getting financial information on stocks and funds. I was dreading this one as I didn’t too well on the business reference part of the class when I was in library school, but Yahoo Finance is quite the handy dandy little tool.
  4. Information on probate
  5. And a hundred other little things

More than ever I’ve learned the value of knowing that people can be a resource. A lot of this was beyond my skills, but colleagues were able to help out or point me in the right direction, very quickly and very efficiently. I’m sure my family members would be able to find this information eventually, but you’re already struggling when you’re dealing with a death–who wants to be trying to figure out who you’re supposed to call and what you’re supposed to ask and where you need to go to find all of that out?

I’ve never been happier to be a reference librarian.

Sandra Lee redux

Because I’m a masochist or something, I will keep watching the horror that is Semi-homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee. I just don’t get this woman or why she’s still on television. Of course, I don’t get why I keep tuning in either.

Last episode I saw involved the use of a slow cooker. Now I will admit that risotto is something I have not yet mastered, but last time I checked it took about 30 to 40 minutes and not 3 hours. Chicken noodle soup is one of the easiest things to make–even if you want to cheat.

Cut up some onions, celery, and carrots (or if you’re really cheating, buy them already cut up), saute in a pot with the teensiest amount of vegetable oil. Add chicken broth. They make really good organic low-sodium kinds these day. If you don’t have cooked chicken lying around, you get a supermarket rotisserie chicken for about $4 and cut up part of that. Add in. Season with salt and pepper. Add your noodles about a half an hour later for ten more minutes and you’re good to go.

What does this stupid woman do?

She throws it all into a slow cooker with cream of mushroom soup and cooked noodles for 3 hours. Then she suggests serving it cold. Oooookay.

The pot roast fiasco was truly scary. Yeah, a 1/4 cup of steak sauce. Go figure.

What makes it all worse is that she’s possibly one of the more clueless and inefficient cooks I’ve ever seen. She measures wrong. She contradicts what she’s doing verbally. She dirties every dish and spoon possible. She’ll spend hours doctoring up cool whip when she could make homemade whip cream in half the time to better effect.

Why is she still on the air? Anyone?

It’s a green book

I got a call from a faculty member trying to track down the full citation to an article the person wrote. Turns out the professor wrote this back in the fifties, or sixties. I started asking the questions I would have asked anyone.

Do you have the title?
–Well, I know Something-something was in the title.
Was the professor the sole author?
–Oh, no.
Who were the other authors?
–Well, possibly Dr. So-and-So or Dr. Other-So-and-So.
Can you spell those names for me?
–Well, I don’t really know. It was a long time ago.
Any idea what journal this was in?
–Hmmm, I think it was Proceedings of Such-and-Such. In 1952 or maybe it was 1954. Wait, it was in 1962.
What was the article about?
–It was about Topic X. [Very definitively] Yes, it was about Topic X.

This is what I like to call an offshoot of “The Green Book Phenomena.” Quite possibly I heard that somewhere else or this has a real name. If so, let me know. Anyone who has ever worked in a bookstore or library has experienced this. The person cannot provide you with any real solid info. They don’t know the name of the book; have no clue as to author; can’t even tell you what it’s about–but they do know the book had a green cover (or red or pink or whatever).

Not usually a searchable field in a catalog or database.

And then somehow, miracle of miracles, you find it.

Since working in academia, I’ve encountered this little offshoot a bit more often. It astonishes me how frequently faculty have forgotten what they’ve published.

Several dusty print indexes, a couple of database searches for the heck of it, Google, Google Scholar, more print indexes (print is not dead), a call to another librarian, and a database I almost never use, we came up with one remote and doubtful possibility.

Journal name was different, title did not have the words the faculty had said were there. Authors were partly right. He mixed up first names and initials. His date possibilities were way off and the subject of the piece was not what he’d told us it was.

So it was with trepidation that I presented this to the professor, who subsequently was overjoyed. It was, in fact, exactly what the professor was looking for.

Go figure.