Medical library a 1-woman operation

November 12, 1997

Medical library a 1-woman operation


Staff Writer

When a doctor needs the latest medical studies or a patient wants to know more about a recent diagnosis, they talk to Myra Binau.

She's not a doctor, but as Washington County Hospital's librarian, she has a wealth of medical information at her fingertips - approximately 5,000 texts and 175 medical journals.

She has done the job so well that she recently became the first recipient of the one-person library award given by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Medical Library Association.


More often, libraries are being run by one person.

Binau used to have a staff, but now relies on hospital auxiliary volunteers to stamp, catalog and shelve the volumes of mail she gets every day.

"I love being a librarian. Around here you never can tell what's going to happen. I never know when the phone rings what it will be," she said.

Parents have called to ask for help in deterring their children from using chewing tobacco. She gives them a picture showing the ugly effects of mouth cancer.

When a former co-worker's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she called Binau for information about treatment.

"More and more it's the patient themselves or a family member," she said. It is good that people are getting more information for themselves, she added.

Binau also scans the medical journals and if she sees something she thinks one of the 200 hospital doctors would be interested in, she copies it for them.

When a hospital patient had an unusual infection, Binau located an article from a Baltimore hospital and had it faxed to the emergency room.

Binau was nominated for the award by a group of librarians in Cumberland, Md., who often rely on her because she has the largest medical library west of Baltimore.

At Binau's library, you won't find silence and hushed voices.

You're more apt to hear her helpful voice, which has been known to break out in a high-pitched giggle from time to time.

Binau, 50, has known since eighth grade that she wanted to be a librarian. Her teacher at St. Mary's in Hagerstown found out and promptly gave her a stack of books to put in order.

She went on to get a bachelor's degree in history from Marywood College in Scranton, Pa., and a master's degree in library science from the University of Maryland.

Her first library job was as a catalog librarian at Misericordia College in Dallas, Pa. Later, she was the librarian at Maryland Correctional Training Center.

On Dec. 7, 1981, she came to Washington County Hospital's Wroth Memorial Library, named for Dr. Peregrine Wroth, who died in 1956.

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