or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


Tattooed Youth Librarians Of Massachusetts Calendar Now Available!

   November 14th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Tattooed Youth Librarians of MassachusettsFor anyone wanting to get a jump on their holiday shopping (or just needing one last stocking stuffer), here's an idea: the Tattooed Youth Librarians Of Massachusetts Calendar.

Now, I am neither tattooed nor a youth librarian, but the photo shoot for this calendar happened in my library. Neat.

The calendar is a fundraiser for the Massachusetts Library Association, and proceeds will benefit youth programming in MA libraries. Coordinated by Sharon Colvin (Chelmsford Library - my coworker), Noelle Boc (Tewksbury Library), Erin Daly (Chicopee Library), and Jessica LaMarre (Pembroke Library), the 18-month calendar features 16 individual tattooed librarians from across Massachusetts.

The calendars are available for $21 on the MLA website, and the project has been getting good press coverage [pdf], with more info on Facebook.

Another goal of the calendar is to dispel the stereotypical image of librarians. Check out their YouTube videos of the models talking about their tattoos and being librarians:

Meet Miss February & March 2013

Meet Miss May & June 2013

Meet Miss July & Mr. August 2013

Remember, the calendars are available for $21 on the MLA website - they might not last long!



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Reference Question of the Week – 9/9/12

   September 16th, 2012 Brian Herzog

This seemed like it was going to be an easy question, but it ended up taking me almost an entire day before I found the answer. A patron asked,

Can you tell me where Lowell, MA, ranks among other Massachusetts towns and cities in teen pregnancy rates?

That seemed straight-forward, but I was pretty sure none of our ready reference books would include that. National statistics books probably wouldn't do in-state rankings, and the state books (at least those we have) don't do social statistics like this.

So, instead of spending too much time myself looking for a resource, I just thought I'd call the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services. On their contact page, I narrowed it down to their Office of Children, Youth and Family Services, Department of Children and Families - but when I explained what I was after, they referred me to the local Lowell office. The person who answered the phone didn't know, so she transferred me to the manager, whose voicemail said she was on vacation this week.

This might be the right place, but I didn't want to wait that long, so I tried again with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services... who transferred me to the statistics office... who transferred me to the budget office.

I think you're getting the picture of how my day went. By the way, the last transfer (to the budget office) was because I had kept web searching while I was waiting on hold, and had found a line item in the Massachusetts budget specifically for Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Services, referencing "funding shall be expended on those communities with the highest teen birth rates according to an annual statistical estimate." When I mentioned this statistical estimate to the person at the statistics office, and mentioned I saw it in the budget, it seemed like she used that as an out to pass the buck to someone else. I was getting frustrated.

I tried again, this time with the Department of Public Health. Again, the first person I talked to didn't know, but gave me the number of someone who he thought might be able to help. But the difference this time is that this new referral was to the Chief Demographer and Epidemiologist in the Center for Health and Information, Statistics, and Evaluation. Impressive title, and totally relevant to my question, so I called him - he was out.

I called back a few hours later and spoke to him, and he couldn't have been nicer or more helpful. When I described what I was looking for, he knew exactly where the data was, looked up the report and gave me the info. He also gave me the report's web address [pdf], so I could print the cover page and data table for the patron's bibliography.

Which I did, and brought it to the patron - about five hours after she initially asked me for it. She was working on a major class paper and was still in the library, and even though the latest data was from 2009, she was delighted I was able to find it.

For the record, Lowell ranked #10 in teen pregnancy rates (and is #4 in overall population) - here's a portion of the table:

MA teen birth rates table


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Night of a Thousand Boyfriends

   October 22nd, 2009 Brian Herzog

Night of a Thousand Boyfriends coverI was sitting next to our Teen Librarian as she was deleting books she'd just weeded from the Young Adult collection. We were kind of joking about the books that didn't circulate, and also lamenting how important cover art is to teens - if the cover of the book looks dorky or dated, they will not take it out.

Among those that didn't make the cut was Night of a Thousand Boyfriends - a choose-your-own-adventure book about dating. Ha. I loved those books when I was growing up, and thought one about dating was a funny idea.

I flipped through it, curious how "far" a YA book would go, and got quite a surprise. Here are some excerpts:

  • If you take the Ecstasy, turn to page 23.
  • If you decline the offer, turn to page 72.

and

  • If you suggest things are moving a little too fast anyway, turn to page 88.
  • If you insist that Brian run to the drug store for protection, turn to page 67.
  • If you throw caution to the wind and unfasten his belt, turn to page 39.

I'm sure teens have to make choices like this, but we both were amazed this made it into the YA collection.

Beyond that, this book was just bizarre - which is to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book is about dating, so many of the paths involved going to clubs or bars, drinking, and going home with strangers. But some of the endings resulted in passing out, lesbian sex, kidnapping, internet porn, marriage, pregnancy - and being the Queen of Neptune.

So if you're looking for a book for a book club, Night of a Thousand Boyfriends by Miranda Clarke will certainly provide plenty topics of discussion.



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