Friday, June 30, 2006

The Terror of the Reference Desk

Today was my first day alone on the reference desk. While Hannah was only about twenty feet away, answering the phone, email, and walk-in questions was all up to me. And, unlike many reference desks, when an individual comes in asking for a particular item here they need it immediately because they are under strict deadline to put things on the air. First question of the day: Do you have the theme songs to the Cosby Show and Fat Albert? Easy one - plus, I got to just hand it off to Jacob, the music library intern (who is wonderful, by the way). Second question of the day: Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first ever television commercial, a Bulova watch ad, which premiered in 1941. Can we get that? Today - so that it can go on air tomorrow morning? Not so easy. After checking our catalog and the Library of Congress catalog, I called the National Watch and Clock Museum in Pennsylvania, the Museum of Television & Radio, and the Bulova US headquarters. And people respond, and so nicely, when they hear who I am working for. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to track down any sound but I felt satisfied with the effort I had put into it. Happily, there were other questions I was able to answer and there are actually clips you will hear on the radio because of me. I love cataloging, but reference is starting to look more and more fun.

My other project for the day, in between helping patrons, was to begin cataloging a collection of audio clips from films of the 80's. This is much more challenging than one would think, as the only information I am provided with is the title of the movie; then I just have to go from there. It started easy with "The Breakfast Club". Within the first few words I knew exactly who was talking. I'd recognize Anthony Michael Hall's teenage voice anywhere. Things got a little more challenging when I tried to determine who was the actor who picked up a hitch hiking John Cusak in "The Sure Thing". Larry Hankin - success. Then there was "The Slugger's Wife". And who the hell knows. Luckily no one will ever look for that clip. Ever.

Today was good practice for July 15th where I will be THE ONLY librarian in the broadcast library for the entire day. I could single handedly bring down Weekend Edition. Scary.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Spirit Catches you and You Fall Down

I finished Anne Fadiman's book with the above title about two weeks ago, and have been meaning to write about it ever since as it was so effective. I worried, however, that I wouldn't be able to articulate what I wanted to say about it. I have decided that that is ok.

This incredible book details the clash of two cultures -- that of Western medicine, American doctors, and social workers with that of a traditional Hmong immigrant family with an epileptic child. The book is tragic and beautiful, and to me, inspiring. I have always been a huge proponent of the importance for a patient to be an active participant in their own health and their own advocate. Which is probably why I am drawn to the field of consumer health librarianship. I thought that this book just emphasized what an important role information plays in health care, and how challenging the dissemination and interpretation of information can be for health care providers and patients/families, thus the importance of an interceder. This challenge becomes exponentially more difficult when one considers the communication problems between cultures, notwithstanding language barriers. What sort of difference could it make in a place like Merced, and for a child like Lia, for health information professionals to be able to provide culturally relevant information to the Hmong community while providing vital information to health care providers in order to allow them to best serve that community. Just a thought.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

old-fashioned librarian



When I decided to become a librarian I had fantasies of wearing tweed, dusty books, flipping through card catalogs, and getting to stamp things. I was a little disheartened when I finally allowed myself to realize that unless I travel back in time, I will never be that kind of librarian. However, I get to come a little bit close at the broadcast library. Yesterday my duties included typing out the lending cards on...a typewriter! Granted, it was a fairly modern electric tyepwriter, but still. It definately made me realize that while my typing is fast it is not very accurate and I have become a slave to the backspace button and auto-correct functions of modern word processing. But, I slowed down, got the hang of it and felt a little bit like that stereotype of a librarian that I secretly, rather not-so-secretly, long for.

On top of that, I have learned how to use reel-to-reel tape, which is pretty exciting. On Friday I got to bake a bunch of these tapes of old programming in the oven to cure them from the syptoms of sticky-shed syndrome. I never really considered getting involved in preservation, but I am definately going to take an archives class next year because it seems as though it is something I could really get interested in.

I have taken on the role of Reference Librarian for the Summer Intern Edition show. I was worried that no one would take me up on my offer to help with research, fact-checking, etc., being that most people don't seem to consider librarians to do much more than stamping and reshelving books. However, by the first day I already had one reference request. It was a really challenging question, that I still have not found a satisfying answer and I am slightly uncomfortable with the pressure. There isn't really immidiate pressure or consequences with cataloging. I understand that if I do a poor job of choosing subject headings an item could be essentially 'lost' forever to all those who hope to seek it. I definately feel the power of that, but it is very different and less frightening than just failing to be able to help someone who needs help right then and there. It's good for me to do this, though; I definately need the practice, and I know from the little bit of reference work I have done at Princess Margaret Hospital that the end result is very rewarding.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I guess I am just not a blog person

My first diary was pink, with a puffy fabric cover and a tiny gold lock. It is still in my childhood bedroom and if you went and found it you would see careful penciled D'Nealian printing on the first few pages. The rest is empty. I have journaling ambition but it never gets much farther than intention. I'm really going to try with this blog though. But I feel as though I maybe need to set the bar a little lower. My posts will not always be long and they will definately not always be thoughtful. I will try to be ok with that.

Here are some of the titles I cataloged today:

1. On the composition of the milk of forty-two cows. 1881
2. Renal Tenesmus
3. Vesico-vaginal fistule: comparative analysis of different surgical methods -- results, American and European. 1856.
4. A contribution to the anatomy of the elephant’s ear. 1888.

And I'm going to hold off talking about my experiences with MARC for another day. Bet you're excited. See -- not long, not thoughtful.

Monday, June 12, 2006

National Library of Medicine



So, today was my first day as an intern in the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine over in Bethesda, Maryland. The security to even get onto the NIH campus was quite impressive: hand over your ID, metal detector, x-ray machine, no knife for your lunch. Welcome to the federal government.
I got to hold a book today that was printed in 1493, the year after Columbus 'discovered' the New World. It was so exciting-- like going to a museum, but actually getting to interact with it. The book, the name of which I can't remember, had plates demonstrating blood letting points as well as really interesting depictions of 'wound man' and 'zodiac man'. 'Zodiac man' showed the areas of the body and the sign they were governed by, warning that physicians should not try to treat an illness when the stars were in that sign. Fast forward fifty years and the medical books were markedly different and amazingly advanced comparatively. And I got to turn their pages. Can you, who know me, think of a collection I could be more interested in working with? I am very much looking forward to the rest of my summer. More details on what I am actually going to be doing to come. I have to pace these things to keep you interested, right?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Karloff and Lugosi

Horror flicks all day today. All day. And yes I was being paid for it. Granted, not much...but still. I really intended this to be an informative, thought provoking, witty post that fully expressed how much I am enjoying this internship. However, I am just too tired for that tonight. Sorry.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I love my job...

Let me detail what I do. Or at least what I do so far (it was only my second day). So, essentially what I am doing is indexing/cataloging the spoken word collection. And, before you groan, that does not mean that it is just one giant collection of spoken word poetry by lonely boys and girls who 'perform' in smoky bars; the collection includes tv, film, and audio recordings and is basically anything in the broadcast library that is not music or the organization's original programming. To continue, I listen/watch the recordings and then create metadata for it, including subject headings, dewey numbers, and name/role indexes. Today I processed a biography of Jimi Hendrix, a conversation between a journalist and Jerry Garcia, and began work on Lynne Truss' "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" radio show. How fun is that? Let me tell you - fun.
It's so different from the monograph cataloging I have done in the past. There is no obvious chief source of information. You can't just read the back cover and the table of contents. And the user's access and needs are entirely different from anything I have done before. But, that's what makes it so exciting. I do have to admit a tiny bit of frustration (maybe not frustration...how about discomfort?) in the fact that the system there does not follow a strict code. There's no AACR2 or Dewey sitting right next to me to consult on every little question I have, knowing that it will be answered with a simple rule. Or at most, a rule cross-referenced by another rule or two. But, I guess the same has gone for the Botanical Gardens library and CATIE as well. Is it possible that perfect adherence to a classification system works only in the classroom? Heaven forbid.

I had lunch on the roof of the building today with a couple of the other interns. Look, I'm even trying to be social!

Monday, June 05, 2006

welcome interns


So, today was my first day as the broadcast library intern. I got up at 5:15am to leave the house by 6:10, catch two buses and the metro to get to the building on time for intern orientation. I got my photo ID badge (I feel so professional) and a tour of the building incuding the news desks, studios, and satellite rooms. I am totally intimidated and excited by what lays ahead of me in the little audio room that will be my home for the next three months. More to come on what I will actually be doing -- but let me tell you, it's going to be crazy cataloging fun...

Friday, June 02, 2006

patience, please.

So, I am keeping this blog for the following reasons:
1) When I got the job at the un-named news library I was hoping that I would be able to find online documentation of past library interns' experiences in order to get a better idea of what to expect. Alas, there were none. So, I figured I would document my experiences for posterity and so that if next year some library student Googles 'NPR library intern blog' they just might find mine.
2) In order to tiptoe into the vibrant online librarian subculture.
3) With the farfetched dream of learning a little more about HTML/CSS...if only to learn how to change colours. Be patient with me on this one.

I arrived in Virginia yesterday and the humidity hit me like a truck as I left the airport. I was so emotionally unprepared for it. My internship starts on Monday. Nervousness and excitement are battling each other in my head and I'm definately experiencing some mourning over the end of my vacation and time in Santa Cruz. I still need to figure out the logistics of my communte from here to DC/Bethesda...and what outfit to wear for my first day on the job. I'll keep you posted, whether you want me to or not.