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

Reference Question of the Week – 1/11/09

   January 17th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Eustachian TubeThis reference question started off normal enough. A patron called and asked if I could email her a picture of the Eustachian tube (a part of the inner ear).

While I took down her email address and got the correct spelling of "eustachian," she explained that she had an Eustachian tube infection, which was causing an echoing in her head. This was a bit more information than I needed to know (and you as well, probably), but she made light of it saying "it's like hearing voices when I speak, but there's nobody else in there."

Finding an answer was easy enough, too. I first checked our subscription database, Magill's Medical Guide. It had an informative entry and a diagram, but as I described it to her, she said it wasn't what she wanted.

She said she really wanted an image that showed where the tube was located in the ear. I switched to a Google image search for Eustachian Tube site:.gov. I described to her a couple images that I found, and she became positively jubilant.

This is where it got a bit unusual. She explained that she wanted the picture to hang on the wall, so every morning and night she could concentrate on clearing the infection through focused attention. She confessed it might sound odd, but said it worked before for a herniated disk.

Patrons never need to justify to me why they're looking for some particular piece of information, but the back story is usually worth listening to. I emailed her the image, and she replied saying that if it worked then I deserved "xoxoxo." As it happens, staff at my library is not allowed to receive tips or gifts, so I'll just be happy to hear she makes out.

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