or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 2/11

   February 17th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Sometimes you get reference questions that scare you.

A woman comes to the desk, asking for information on childbirth and what midwifes do. I took her to the childbirth section (618.45's), but she said those books were too basic for her. She started talking about a class she took, and how they left too much out. She wanted to find out, she said, about episiotomy and cesarean section, and needed pictures and instructions.

It sounded to me like she was looking for medical textbooks, which we do not have. While I was saying that, an alarm in her pocket went off, and she said, "I have to go pick her up, but I'll be back later."

I didn't notice when she returned a few hours later, and a coworker of mine helped her. They went through the same process as me, looking at the same books, until the woman began talking again about needing pictures and instructions.  My coworker brought her back to the desk, to show her how to search databases (Gale's Health Reference Center Academic and PubMed) to find more current and in-depth information.

In the course of that instruction, my coworker casually asked if the patron was in nursing school. The patron said, "no, my daugther's pregnant. She could go at any time, and I want to be ready to delivery that baby."

I know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but I think that a trip to the hospital is worth something, too.

childbirth, libraries, library, midwifery, public libraries, public library, reference question

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