Waxing Philosophical

17 Sep
Old Friends

(l-r) The Reverend Donna S. Mote, PhD, The Reverend Kelley Milstead Woggon, yours truly, and The Reverend Dina Carroll

I spent last weekend with old friends; old in the sense that we’ve known each other for a long time, not that we’re old. None of us are ready to admit that (though we did laugh a good bit at some of our creakiness and memory loss). The four of us met 29 years ago when we arrived in Louisville, KY to go to seminary. Four+ years of finding one’s way in that environment can make for long-lasting relationships. That said, we’d not seen one another in forever and thus the weekend was filled with catching up and sharing memories and as mentioned previously, lots and lots of laughs.

While I moved on vocationally to a career in libraries, my three friends have all remained working in ministry. One is a hospital chaplain and administrator, another a hospice chaplain, and the third is an Episcopal priest who works for the diocese of Atlanta in, of all places you might say, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The Vicar of ATL, my friend, Donna, calls herself. (And a reminder to all of my readers, should you ever find yourself in need of a friendly face or helping hand in that airport, look her up.)

Throughout the weekend, as we shared about the work that we each do, I couldn’t help but notice some similarities. I also can’t help but notice that this happens to me often. I have a tendency to look for shared experiences and common ground. I prefer it over differences and, personally, think that while we focus an awful lot in our day-to-day world about our differences and uniqueness, we actually have much more alike with one another than we ever have different. Regardless of what we do or what we believe or how we dress or the color of our skin or the languages that we speak or the … the list goes on, of course.

The Vicar had a tendency to say, “Jesus has left the church,” in reference to her ministry at the airport. The same could be said for my friends who provide comfort at the bedside of sick or dying patients, and their families and loved ones. Each time Donna made this statement, I thought to myself, “How often have I heard, ‘Librarians need to get out of the library’ over the past years?” No matter what you may think of god or religion or Jesus or librarians, the point is the same; when you work with something as ubiquitous as either spirituality or information, or even more, the human needs around such, your ability to do your work becomes pretty limited when you confine it to a particular space.

I’ve written before in this blog about how the conversations and discussions within different labs, research teams, committees, and such that I sit in on around campus so often focus on the same topic – communication. Better put, they focus upon issues related to the difficulties around communication and connectedness. “Nobody knows what we do.” “We need a better website so that people can learn about us.” “We offer so much, yet people don’t know it.” “I need help with (fill in the blank), but don’t know where to begin to figure out how to find the person or place to help me with it.”

Growing up, both of my parents taught school; my mom at the elementary school level, my dad, high school. Since I also went to school and I had teachers, I pretty much knew what my parents did. Yet, whenever I watched television and the TV dads went to the office, I didn’t have a clue what that meant. They put on their suits, picked up their briefcases, and headed out to do something all day. But what? What did “going to the office” mean? It was a big mystery.

And I think it remains that way for a lot of us who work and live in a very silo-ed world, be it academia or research or medicine. We live in our small worlds, often unaware of what’s happening down the hall or on the third floor. But the trend that I see over and over, is that the mystery isn’t very mysterious at all. The basic needs that arise in much of our work are the same for everyone. They’re common ground.

I see this because I’ve been a librarian outside of a library for a bunch of years now. Just like church, people used to bring their troubles to the library. Both were quite central places in people’s lives. But it’s less the case today and while both the library and churches, as places, still have a place in our worlds, the needs that they used to fulfill within their walls are now often (not always, but often) found outside of them. And more, those of us who work to serve and/or meet those needs… we often (not always, but often) will find our patrons or our parishioners beyond them, too.

Out we go!

7 Responses to “Waxing Philosophical”

  1. Shawn S. September 17, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    I agree about “leaving the library” – my colleague and I just started a “Mobile Medical Librarian” service for patients and families who visit our outpatient clinics in the building where we work. We have a laptop locked into a mobile cart, and we have bookmarks touting our services. This is Week Two, and nobody has shooed us away yet – we’ve looked up eggless recipes for a family with egg allergies, homework advice on MedlinePlus, and we’ve shown several families how to convert MedlinePlus into Spanish – so far, we feel pretty successful!

    • salgore September 17, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

      I love the mobile library idea! Love it!

    • Angela September 18, 2015 at 10:21 am #

      I love this idea. How did you get your administrators on board? Would love to hear what others are doing. I round in the ICU at least once a week, but looking for other ideas, especially for offsite locations.

      • ssteidin September 18, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

        Oh! Sorry for double posting on this page – I just noticed.

        We report to our hospital’s Education Services department, and our boss was very much behind us. We then contacted the administrative manager over all of the outpatient clinics, and when she spoke to clinic docs, they immediately brought up the idea that this might help satisfy Meaningful Use criteria and get our patients and families more engaged in their health – a win-win situation. There is a preliminary write-up about this project in the MCMLA Express v36, no3 – we hope to report more about this as time marches on…

  2. ssteidin September 17, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

    I agree about “leaving the library” – my colleague and I just started a “Mobile Medical Librarian” service for patients and families who visit our outpatient clinics in the building where we work. We have a laptop locked into a mobile cart, and we have bookmarks touting our services. This is Week Two, and nobody has shooed us away yet – we’ve looked up eggless recipes for a family with egg allergies, homework advice on MedlinePlus, and we’ve shown several families how to convert MedlinePlus into Spanish – so far, we feel pretty successful!

  3. Ed Donnald September 18, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

    At my hospital, we are just beginning to “roll out” (mobile reference hee hee) our FISH Cart. The “Finding Information Starts Here” rig has a laptop and mounted monitor that can rotate for group viewing. We met with senior nursing leadership and have asked to be invited to individual units. This way we’re not making cold calls but rather collaborating with them. And we’ve pimped out the cart with a fish bowl with small packages of goldfish crackers, a hanging mobile of stuffed fish and side panel laminated images with someone fishing and the “fish” below are identified as literature searches, document delivery, research, etc.

    • salgore September 23, 2015 at 9:16 am #

      The FISH Cart!! You know I love that. 🙂

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