About Andrew

I'm a health librarian in Sydney, Australia, who also happens to be a geocacher.

I’ve got nuthin’

Today is my “I can’t think of anything to write about so my post is about the fact that I won’t be doing a post” post. Tomorrow will be the last in my Friday series of posts looking at pop culture icons in the medical literature, and the subject will be Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I wonder how many references I’ll find.

Done and dusted

I’ve just submitted the final assignment for the Health Librarianship Essentials course that I’ve been studying for the last couple of months. I’ve done OK on the first two, so hopefully I’ll do the same for this one. It was nice to cross that off the to-do list. I think that’s got the study bug out of my system for a while. I found it a bit hard to find the time to study, so I don’t think I’m ready for any further study at the moment. Maybe in a few months I’ll be looking for something to do.

I also renewed my ALIA membership today, so it’s a been a day for getting things done.

Patrons in the driving seat

I mentioned in yesterday’s very brief post that my library has made a decision to go ahead with purchasing some e-books using a patron-driven acquisition (PDA) model. This model is a fairly recent innovation in the e-book market, and it’s one that I really like. Each vendor may have slight variations on it, but the basic concept is this:

1. The library decides on the e-book titles that it wants to offer to its patrons

2. The e-book vendor supplies catalogue records to the library for no charge

3. Patrons can access the e-books via the catalogue

4. After a book has been accessed a certain number of times, the library purchases the e-book

I think this model provides great flexibility for libraries to offer e-books to their patrons. When e-books were first sold to libraries they were usually in packages, so libraries were purchasing a whole bunch of titles which might never get used – we had to guess which titles our patrons would find useful. With the PDA model, however, it is usage which drives the purchase of the books. Some vendors allow the books to be issued on a short-term loan a set number of times (with each loan costing a percentage of the purchase price), with subsequent usage triggering a purchase. It is usually possible to place a price cap on titles which are purchased automatically, with expensive titles having to be approved by library staff. Libraries can also allocate a set amount of money to be used for purchases e.g. $3,000; this can be automatically topped up when funds start to run low (a bit like an e-tag for road tolls or the Opal card in Sydney).

We’re still in the early stages of working with our e-book vendor on setting this up, but I think it’s going to be something that our patrons will appreciate.

A blast from the past at bedtime

Tonight was a night of nostalgia during the boys’ bedtime. We read them two stories – one from the Noddy series, and another from the Mr Men series (Mr Bump, in case you were wondering). The Noddy books were mine when I was younger, and it’s nice seeing them enjoy listening to them. I had a few Mr Men books too as a kid, but the ones we’ve got are recent purchases.

We’ve onto book 20 out of 24 of the Noddy series. I’m not sure what we’ll move onto after that – maybe some of the Choose Your Own Adventure books that I used to read. We might need to choose them carefully, though – the last time I read one of those to the boys, Thomas had a nightmare about it. It was about green slime which swallows up everything in its path, so I suppose it was a bit scary for a kid. In my defence, though, I think Thomas chose it.

Both boys enjoy books and reading (although Blake memorises and recites, rather than reads). I think they’ll be ready for my Famous Five and Secret Seven hand-me-downs soon.

More Friday fun – Harry Potter in the medical literature

Following on from last Friday’s post about Monty Python references in medical articles, I thought I’d have a look to see if other pop culture phenomena have been discussed in the literature. Today I found a few articles in PubMed Central (which means everyone should be able to access the full text) which discuss Harry Potter.

One study in Germany used functional MRI to compare brain activity when reading “supra-natural” passages in Harry Potter to passages which didn’t deal with supra-natural content. It turns out that there was a difference, with the supra-natural passages evoking greater response in the areas of the brain responsible for feelings of surprise and reading pleasure. These passages also required more cognitive processing due to the “world knowledge violations” which occur in supra-natural content.

A study by staff working in a British hospital found that there was a significant decrease in the number of children attending the emergency department for musculoskeletal injuries on the weekends when two of the Harry Potter books were released. They conclude that “Harry Potter books seem to protect children from traumatic injuries”, and hypothesise that “there is a place for a committee of safety conscious, talented writers who could produce high quality books for the purpose of injury prevention.”

On a slightly difference tack, one study conducted social network analysis of the seven Harry Potter novels (as well as other fantasy series) to see if the authors had managed to recreate the features of real-life social networks. The authors argue that the social networks within novels needs to be similar to those in real life in order for readers to feel engaged with the story. They found that indeed there were similarities between the fictional and real-life social networks.

There were 183 articles retrieved by my simple search, so there is some interest in Harry Potter in the medical literature. Are there any requests for books/films/characters that I should search for next Friday?

A geocaching roadtrip

Well, it’s not actually a real roadtrip. The company which runs the geocaching.com website have come up with the idea of a “Geocaching Roadtrip“, which will run for the next few months. The idea is to find a cache in the various categories that they’ve nominated to earn a “souvenir“. There are six different quests that they’ve created, and I think I’m going to try to complete them all. The trickiest one will be the quest to find a cache with either a difficulty rating of 5 or a terrain rating of 5. Difficulty 5 geocaches are usually very hard puzzle caches, which can take quite a bit of time to solve. I’m working on one at the moment, and I think I’ve nearly cracked it. The terrain 5 geocaches usually require special equipment e.g. scuba diving, abseiling, and seeing that I don’t have any of that sort of equipment I don’t think I’ll be tackling one of those. However there are some caches with this rating that don’t actually need any special equipment (such as this one, which I’ve found which more like a 3), so if I don’t solve the difficulty 5 puzzle I might try and find one of these mis-categorised caches.

We managed to complete the “7 Souvenirs of August” challenge last year, so hopefully we can add to our souvenir collection by finishing the roadtrip.

Cupcakes, cupcakes and more cupcakes!

One of the things that I’ve noticed about working in a hospital is that there are plenty of opportunities to purchase a cupcake (or two) to assist with raising funds for a department or ward. Yesterday a staff member from another department brought us some yellow cupcakes which she’d purchased, and this morning there was a cupcake stall set up downstairs. Morning tea – sorted.


I’m sure the cupcakes are healthier if they’re for a good cause, right?

Scientists in the making

Our eldest son was quite excited last week, as the science kit he’d ordered through his school Book Club had arrived. The kit has instructions for 12 simple experiments which use basic household ingredients, most of which end as some sort of slime/gloop/goo. We’d promised him that we’d do a couple of the experiments on the weekend, so we cleared the kitchen bench and got to it.

The first experiment involved creating a “goo” by adding water to the “diaper dust” provided in the kit. This is the stuff in nappies that absorbs fluid, and it swells up quite a bit. It was interesting stuff once it had absorbed the water – it looked wet but didn’t feel wet at all. The second experiment involved reversing the absorption by sprinkling salt over the goo. This bit didn’t work as drastically as the instructions showed. After leaving it for 10 minutes as instructed, there was a little bit of water visible and the goo felt wetter than before, but there was no puddle as shown in the instructions. This was a good lesson for the boys to learn – that sometimes experiments don’t work out as planned.


Just add water!

Just add water!

We have goo

We have goo

The third and final experiment we carried out was to make “sticky slime” out of cornflour and water. This was another experiment which didn’t really turn out as I expected. I had to keep adding cornflour to try and get the mixture to be sticky, and even then it was still pretty runny. Another lesson learnt.

Sticky slime

Sticky slime

I’m glad that the boys have an interest in science. When they learned that I’m a scientist (due to my undergraduate degree in chemistry) they were very impressed. At the moment their interest is wide-ranging, taking in astronomy, palaeontology, zoology, and botany, as well as being generally creative and inventive. Thomas wants to be an inventor when he grows up, and will come up with very detailed description of the amazing inventions that he’ll come up with. Hopefully we can nurture that inquiring, creative, and inventive spirit as they grow up.