There are two elements to this story I need to establish up front:
We have a PDF teen volunteer application on our website, which interested kids can download, print, and then bring in or mail to the library to apply
As I've mentioned before, people in Chelmsford, UK, occasionally contact us by mistake, thinking we're the library in England
So, the crux of this story is that these two elements collided recently. A teen, apparently in the Chelmsford in England, wanted to volunteer at the library, but downloaded our volunteer application by mistake. The teen dutifully filled it out, and mailed the envelope to the address on the application - which arrived to us like this:
Judging by the postmark (with the European date style being YYYY-MM-DD DD-MM-YY [thanks Emily!]), it took over a month to reach us - and seems to have bounced around quite a bit in England first.
But since the Royal Mail apparently (repeatedly?) tried to deliver this letter to somewhere in England, I suppose the teen can't be entirely blamed for mistaking the address as local. However, I am impressed that the Royal Mail (and the USPS) ultimately did deliver the letter to the right place - despite the insufficient postage:
However, when the letter arrived, our Teen Librarian emailed the applicant to let him know of his mistake. Too bad, but I hope he's able to get in touch with the other Chelmsford Library - just not to volunteer with any geography-related projects.
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.
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:
I 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.
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.