While I have a background in medical libraries, the incident below happened while I was working at an accounting library.
One fine day I was on the reference desk at the library of an accounting professional association. The phone rang, I answered it in the usual way, and was asked by what sounded like an elderly woman “What should I do if I’ve swallowed a dishwasher tablet?”
I’d like to say that I handled this in a cool and collected way, but I think I just said “Excuse me?” The caller proceeded to explain that she had mistakenly swallowed a dishwasher tabled instead of her usual medication, and was asking our advice on what to do.
While I hunted online for the phone number of the Poisons Information Centre, I realised what was going on. Our phone number was very similar to that of Palmolive, a company that makes cosmetics and cleaning products including dishwasher tablets. It wasn’t uncommon for us to get phone calls asking for cleaning advice, but this was the first…urgent enquiry we’d had. Normally I would correct the caller and give them the Palmolive phone number, but this case called for a different approach. I quickly provided the Poisons Information Centre number, urging the caller to call them immediately.
I did not offer her any information on accounting standards. She seemed like she wasn’t very interested. Meanwhile I was left pondering how one could manage to swallow a very large and crumbly dishwasher tablet.
Alyson Dalby, ILN Program Coordinator