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On the Job with: Judy Davies

There is nothing quite like a book, says Judy Davies, Patient/Staff Library coordinator, to ease a hospital stay.

The mother of a young woman in a coma once contacted the Patient/Staff Library asking for a book on tape. She believed that the sound of someone speaking even when she, the mother, was not in the room could help her daughter recover. The library loaned her James Herriot’s All Things Bright and Beautiful, along with a tape player. Eventually, the daughter emerged from her coma.

Judy Davies, for 15 years coordinator of the Patient/Staff Library at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, knows that the tape may not have been responsible for this patient’s recovery. But the story, she says, illustrates an important point: Books can play a significant role in helping hospitalized patients get through the days.

The Patient/Staff Library houses approximately 6,000 books, most donated by staff and patients. There are also 220 books on tape, most purchased with proceeds from used-book sales, and hundreds of current magazines, donated each week by the U.S. Postal Service—everything from Boy’s Life to Vogue.

The library’s book collection is equally eclectic and capable of matching the wide array of requests Davies receives. “We do get the gamut,” she says. “People ask for everything—from esoteric philosophy to the latest joke book—and they’re totally surprised when we have it.” The collection includes large-print books, Braille texts, as well as works in Spanish, French, German and a smattering of other languages.

“I really enjoy interacting with patients and staff and being able to provide them with something they may not expect,” says Davies. “Most hospitals have a little cart that goes around with books or magazines, but they don’t have a physical library. When patients learn about us, they really appreciate what we have to offer.”

In the library on the first floor of Carnegie, hardback books line the shelves. Pasted inside the back of each is a card for borrowers to sign and date. The collection is contained in an old-fashioned, oak card catalog. Two computers, tucked away in a small, separate room, are available to patients and families for checking e-mail or Internet research on medical matters.

Along with its stationary stacks, the library has a book cart chockablock with hardbacks, paperbacks and magazines. On Mondays and Tuesdays, Davies rolls the cart up to Meyer 4 or Meyer 5 and leaves it there so patients can browse its contents.

On Fridays, veteran volunteer Jean Simpkins pushes the cart around to all the main inpatient units. Many physicians appreciate the library’s services as much as the patients do, the roving librarian says. “Once I went into a patient’s room and the doctor came in right behind me,” Simpkins recalls. “I said, ‘Oh, I will leave and come back when you’re finished.’ But he turned around said firmly, ‘No, I will leave. You’re far more important right now than I am.’”

—Neil A. Grauer

The Patient/Staff Library, Carnegie 173, is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. It is available to inpatients, outpatients, families and staff. With requests, call 410-955-6742.



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