Tales from the reference desk

06 Feb

I don’t really share much about my job here since I try to keep work and play marginally separated, but I’ve had two gems recently that I’m just dying to share. I feel particularly ethically safe sharing them because they’re both really about me and not at all making fun of patrons.

#1. I was helping a student who was doing a paper on whether or not addiction is a disease. She needed scholarly articles on both sides of the debate. She had plenty saying that it was, but wasn’t finding any for the other side. Oooo! I thought. Bill Nye the Science Guy did an Eyes of Nye on addiction (episode 3 – unfortunately I can’t directly link to it)! I told her I was pretty sure Nye said it did end up having a chemical effect on your decision making skills, so it wasn’t all about will power, plus if Nye was saying it he was probably representing the scientific mainstream, but said let’s check out the show site and see what it has. People. Let me tell you. Bill Nye is my hero! On the site for that episode he had a section called the flip side where he mentioned an article from a Yale professor arguing the opposite viewpoint. I was sad that it wasn’t a full citation until I realized it was a link to the actual pdf. Later that night I saw that there was going to be a speaker discussing addiction at the Library of Congress in March. I printed it out in case I ran into the student again since I figured the speaker’s name would be another good search term. Plus the Library of Congress frequently podcasts that kind of thing. She did end up coming back the next day – she was following up the bibliography from the Nye article and had found something online, but it wanted her to pay and she knew she could get it free from the library (be still my little librarian heart!), she just didn’t know how. Turns out the article she was looking for  (which we did find) was written by the guy who was going to speak at the Library of Congress. And, since it’s a semester long paper, if they do podcast it she can use that as a source. She has to do an interview as part of the paper too, so we looked up his contact info. What a satisfying little series of transactions!

#2 – Another repeat customer. She had to do a paper on something that has a current policy dispute. She wanted to do smoking bans and had come back to me to let me know the teacher had approved limiting it to Texas. (It would normally have to be a national issue for that class, but there’s no national smoking ban in current policy dispute.) So we’re in Academic Search Complete and I’m teaching her about keywords and booleans since just "smoking ban and Texas" hadn’t gotten us very much. We’re all set up with (smok* OR tobacco) AND Texas AND (ban OR regulation OR law) and getting pretty good results when she goes, oo, look, this one says Austin. I look to see "An evaluation of the indoor air quality in bars before and after a smoking ban in Austin, Texas" and before I can even think "That sounds familiar," there is my ex’s name staring at me. I had to chuckle, so of course I had to explain myself to the confused student. Thankfully she found it equally amusing.  I told her if she ended up wanting the article I knew that the ban had a huge effect on the air quality. We had gone to six bars before and after the ban and hung around for an hour surreptitiously collecting air quality data out of a backpack loaded with equipment hoping not to get caught. If you know me at all IRL you probably also know my utter hatred both for bars and for breaking rules/lying (I know Morgan can speak for me here) and for smoke for that matter, well then you will also that I am nothing if not ridiculously supportive of all those close to me. I’ll do just about anything for a friend. With the exception of outright lying in a printed document – um… regardless of triviality (again, Morgan can vouch for me here – sorry Morgan!) This was another fun one because then we got to talk about what lines of argument the other side might use since the scientific data on health was going to be pretty conclusive. So we talked about what kind of sources she might go to for studies for effects on businesses and for arguments about personal rights.

Have I mentioned lately that I love being a librarian?

p.s. – I miss you Morgan!


Posted by on February 6, 2008 in library stuff


5 responses to “Tales from the reference desk

  1. Steven

    February 7, 2008 at 8:34 am

    It always give me a little tingle when my real life and reference work feed off each other. I’m glad other feel it, too!

  2. Kasha

    February 7, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Ah, Morgan. Enticing people to the dark side. You are stronger than I.

  3. ellie

    February 7, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    đŸ™‚ I miss you too Kasha! Any plans to visit Austin?

  4. Morgan Fahey

    February 15, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    I believe I mostly used my powers for good, relatively speaking.
    Also, I BELIEVE it was ELDA who introduced me to the concept of “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission,” which, frankly, is just a very sophisticated way of deciding that if you don’t KNOW OFFICIALLY you’re breaking a rule, it doesn’t count.
    I miss you, too, Princess!

  5. ellie

    February 17, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    All true! I did mention it was very trivial. đŸ™‚ xoxo!


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