Monday, July 30, 2007

Catching up on the basics

On Friday, I was out of the office and in the lovely woods of the central Willamette Valley at Silver Falls, OR, to attend a training session on Anatomy and Physiology for Medical Librarians. Presented by the Medical Library Association, the class was designed for librarians in a medical setting who need a little brushing-up on the basics. Yes, believe it or not, many of us medical librarians don't come from science backgrounds: I have a degree in medieval studies, and my colleague's area of expertise is Cuban folklore and spirituality. And while that knowledge does come in handy more times than you might imagine in a medical-historical setting, it's really no substitute for the nitty-gritty facts about human structure and function.

The class, taught ably by University of Oregon doctoral researcher Britta Torgrimson (whose background includes anthropology and primate studies) was truly targeted for beginners. While much of the information was not new to me, one thing I did learn was how, exactly, stress can lead to heart attacks and other "cardiovascular incidents," if you will. As it turns out, the body produces adrenaline during stress (as anyone who's confronted a work crisis with pounding heart knows), and this adrenaline stimulates the heart to respond with increased activity. That increase in heart function acts on the cardiac and vascular muscles just like bench presses act on your pecs: the muscle gets bigger. Only in the blood vessels, the new muscle starts lining the interior walls of the vessel itself, making it smaller and smaller and constricting the blood flow until your blood pressure starts climbing through the roof. The good news is that, as with any exercise, if you stop working the muscle it will atrophy: so, all we need to do is calm down and let those muscle cells shrink back down to normal size. Whew! I feel more relaxed already.

As this class, and its popularity, make very clear, librarians (and archivists) need to be life-long learners. As we move from job to job, from academic settings to public ones, from general collections to specialized repositories, we need to adapt to serve our patrons, curate our materials, and stay abreast of new data. Lifelong learning is the bane and the boon of our profession; sometimes it seems tiring, but it keeps every day fresh and interesting! And at least I didn't have to eviscerate a dead frog!

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