Monday, May 18, 2009

IMDB to the Rescue!

The Internet Movie Database (IMDB for short) has been on most reference librarians' go-to lists of resources for film- and TV-related questions for quite awhile now. With just a few snippets of information and a couple of clicks of the mouse, we're able to find everything from memorable Godfather quotes (it was Peter Clemenza who uttered "Leave the gun, take the cannoli") to actor trivia (did you know Bea Arthur was a qualified medical technician?). And today, we discovered yet another use for this fantastic Internet resource, thanks to one of our daily reference questions!

A patron called our Reference Desk today inquiring about some audiovisual materials devoted to Boone Hall Plantation, Brookgreen Gardens, and the Jefferson Davis Plantation -- all long-standing Southern landmarks. She requested that we find DVDs or videos that would give her a better mental image of these places than simple pictures could provide, noting that even if we weren't able to track down items that were specifically devoted to these structures, a Hollywood film including one of these landmarks as a backdrop would suffice.


When we were unable to produce any location-specific DVDs within our own collection at the MPL, we turned to IMDB for some help in finding movies that were set within these locations. Using their advanced search function limit for location, we found that the North and South miniseries, along with The Notebook and Queen, used the Boone Hall Plantation as one of their filming locations. We also discovered that Vicksburg, Mississippi, which is a city near the Jefferson Davis Plantation, was used as a backdrop for O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Mississippi Burning. In all, we were able to locate five movies with the settings our patron requested using the Internet Movie Database.

IMDB: it's not just for (wannabe) movie buffs anymore!

Friday, May 8, 2009

When All Else Fails...YouTube!

Every once in awhile, our Reference Desk comes face to face with a question that resists even our most resolute research efforts. After trying a handful of trustworthy sources and repeatedly coming up empty, we like to take a step back and put a fresh spin on our usual reference M.O. And you know what? Sometimes a new approach makes all the difference when it comes to solving the tricky requests that are part of our day's work.

Case in point: our Head of Reference Services, Sherie, was asked to supply a patron with the lines to a poem that a patron recalled as having a title similar to "Beauty Is What Beauty Does." The poem was showcased, the patron vaguely remembered, during an old Mickey Mouse Club episode.

After doing a little detective work, Sherie found out that the poem was actually an old song that was once sung on the original Mickey Mouse Club back in the mid-1950s. "Beauty Is As Beauty Does" was a unique MMC tune that was part of a "Words to Grow By" segment in which each female cast member was asked to participate at some point during her tenure. Since the Mickey Mouse Club was (and is!) such a pop culture icon, one would assume that tracking down the lyrics to one of its recurring songs wouldn't be very difficult.

Not so!

It turns out that the lyrics to "Beauty Is As Beauty Does" are harder to track down than Waldo and Carmen San Diego combined! Sherie checked a wide variety of both electronic and print sources and kept running into that frustrating Wall of Unanswer that every librarian encounters from time to time. Taking a step back from the question, she cleared her thoughts and settled on a new plan of attack: YouTube.

It turns out that YouTube isn't just handy for looking up videos of dramatic chipmunks and montages of LeBron James' greatest plays; it's also quite the go-to resource for reference questions involving obscure song lyrics! With just a few clicks, Sherie found a 41-second Mickey Mouse Club episode clip in which cast members Jimmie Dodd and Doreen Tracey offer a charming rendition of "Beauty Is As Beauty Does." Sherie simply listened carefully to the lyrics and transcribed them by hand.

Sometimes a fresh approach is really all you need!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A New Way to Go Green!

Is there a Doogie-Howser-era computer lurking in the corners of your office? Reluctant to pitch it in the trash, have you resorted to using its clunky monitor as a makeshift coat rack/Post-It Note depository/glorified beverage coaster?

Why not recycle it?

This wonderful idea was posed to our Reference Desk a few weeks ago when one of our patrons asked us to point him in the right direction to recycle an old PC. It turns out that the state of Ohio has its own computer recycling program (who knew?) appropriately titled Ohio Computer Recycling. Formed in 2004, it's a service that allows Ohioans to safely and properly dispose of their electronic equipment at various unloading centers across the state. More information about the service, including drop-off locations and information about the disposal process, is available at

Enjoy that extra office space -- we're sure you'll find another spot for all of those Post-Its!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Workin' at the Car Wash...

It's no secret that as a modern society, we take many of our luxuries for granted. We don't think twice before picking up the phone, turning on the TV, or powering up our wireless laptop that allows us to surf the Internet from any location we wish. That's why we we found the following reference question so refreshing!

A patron recently asked us if we could provide her with an explanation as to how car washes work. She didn't need the information for a school project or a research paper; she simply found herself marveling at the complex automation involved in the process of the car wash and was driven to find an answer simply for the sake of learning!

Fortunately, we were able to scrounge up a pretty comprehensive overview from a handy site called How Stuff Works, a resource that explains the science behind hundreds of subjects, from car engines to CD drives to even marriage (yes, seriously!). The overview explains different types of car washes, the science behind the automation of the system, and the step-by-step process (drive in, soap up, scrub, blast, and rinse). It was exactly what our patron was looking for!

Happy learning!