Archive for July, 2007

Building a better Library for Teens:
Books and resources on Health.

Assignment: Spend $800 on new non fiction Young Adult health resources at the Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, Massachusetts.

  • Provide a list of existing titles, with publication dates and circulation statistics, along with reasons for keeping, replacing, or weeding title
  • Provide a list of new titles, along with purchase price, and rationale and review(s) that support acquisition
  • Explain why you chose this classification of YA non fiction for collection development, and give detailed information about the YA population and YA collection at the Thomas Crane Library. Place library and target audience within the demographic context of the City of Quincy.

List of books before $800.

List of books after $800.


I love health. I’m serious. Fitness? Sexuality? Nutrition? Drugs? Mental illness? Divorce? Diseases? Disabilities? Memoirs about cutting, anorexia, bulimia, depression, mania, addiction, rehabilitation, NON-rehabilitation!? Sexual abuse, alcohol, smoking, coming out of the closet, cross dressing, transgendering?—there isn’t a subject in the 612s through the 618s of the Dewey decimal classification that I don’t like. Plus—I know a lot about my target population here in Quincy. I’ve looked at census figures. I’ve read library reports and plans. I’ve written proposals for grants for teens—and for health programming!

So when Professor Linda Braun gave me 800 make believe dollars and a 25-30% library/educators’ discount and told me to go buy health resources for the teens at the public library right where I work—I thought, “Piece of cake! Walk in the park! The assignment I’ve been training for all my life!” I got a print out from our acquisitions librarian of all the holdings in 612-618, along with circulation figures, shelf location, and when each title was added to the library collection.

I told my children: “THIS will be easy! I might even have enough time this week to cook!”

NOT! I looked over the 60 titles that comprise the Library’s existing collection. I dragged out the newest (not yet even cataloged!) supplement to Best books for High School Readers. I pored through The Real Story: A guide to non fiction reading interests. I had high hopes (immediately dashed) for Anita Silvey’s collection of 500 best books for Teens. I went on TeenInk.com and read all 726 teen book reviews, looking for clues about what teens like and what they are interested in. I googled every variation of “teens on health”, and “health issues for immigrants.” I looked up videos and DVDs. I went to Amazon.com and the Boston Public Library. I found a wonderful resource called the Health Information Project out of the Mid Hudson Library System that pulls together resources based on the actual concerns of and reviews by teens. I looked at my own Library’s adult NF collection to see what teens might have access to there. I even took pictures of the shelves of YA health books. So Linda could see what I had to work with, and what teens themselves saw when they come to the Thomas Crane Public Library hoping to find answers to everything from unplanned pregnancy to whether that weird looking freckle on their back might be cancer.Adult books teens can use

But all those books and papers and notes on my desk, bed, and floor?—a thousand random pictures uploaded to my computer?–and it dawned on me:
I had no idea what I was doing.

The challenge of this assignment is not so much finding good material; it’s choosing how you’re going to select from all the material you do find.

So I told the kids– forget dinner—ever!—and I went back to my library. I pulled out a chair in the empty YA room, sat down, closed my notebook, put down my pen, set aside the circulation reports–and looked around. I asked myself these questions:

  • When have I seen teens actually use this collection? What do they actually take off the shelves? (Graphic novels and manga!)
  • How did my 14 year old daughter react years ago when I presented her with Our Bodies Ourselves? (Omigod!! this is so embarrassing and these women have hairy armpits!)
  • What are the most popular street drugs in Quincy?
  • If my son’s best friend routinely has sex without using a condom, and neither of these (then) seniors in high school knew there even such a thing as the “morning after pill”—what else don’t they know about safe sex—and why?
  • And why aren’t there any books on that shelf about steroids, meth, ecstascy, oxycontin, smack, cutting, date rape, and teen parenting?
  • Where are the books on body piercing and tattoos?
  • Where is the guide to prescription medicine?
  • In a city where many kids are uninsured, where is the basic reference book on health that walks you through how to recognize common illnesses or injuries?
  • Where are the books with Asian, Indian, black, and Latino teens on the cover?
  • Where are the books that might appeal to reluctant readers? To kids with ADD or a learning disability?
  • Where are the books about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender identity?
  • Why is that biography Dibbs In search of self, on the shelf, and not Only a mother could love him, or Go ask Ogre:Letters from a deathrock cutter?
  • Where were the books that looked interesting and funny and fascinating?
  • Where were the books written by teens?
  • Where, for crying out loud! are the books with a 2006 copyright?

It was one of those ah-ha! moments.

In my quest for the “best” titles, reviews, and deals—many of which will be in the dustbin of history by this time next year– I’d been looking at the trees, not the forest. What this collection really needed—in broad terms–were the kinds of things we all want access to as teenagers: a couple good “backbone references” on health, prescription and “recreational” drugs, fitness, sexuality, pregnancy, and GLBTQ-related issues. Some current books on topical issues like (today) cosmetic surgery, club drugs and steroid abuse. Books in non-traditional formats that might appeal to reluctant readers. Books alive with teen voices. Books with great pictures and photographs. A few fascinating and gruesome accounts of plagues and viruses and modern day Typhoid Marys. Books to browse, books to steal, books to stick in your pocket and read all by yourself.

This health collection also needs DVDs, and probably a teen friendly database, but until I know more about teen DVD viewing habits and database use, I decided my $800 dollars is better spent on print resources. This collection certainly needs a section of books in other languages, and books aimed at the particular health needs of different ethnic populations– but that is a development project beyond the time or scope for this assignment.

When I left the library this time—I had a plan. I went back through my notes from TeenInk, the web, the print compilations of best books for teens, Amazon.com, and most useful—the Mid-Hudson Library System Health Information Project—and looked for the books and materials in the categories I just described–that seemed to be favorably and widely reviewed in most of those sources. My final lists, which follow the description below of the Thomas Crane Public Library, the City of Quincy, and my rationale for choosing Teen Health—reflect what I think is a solid approach to YA collection development.

I. Introduction: Why health?
The Library, the collection, and the target audience.

Thomas Crane Public Library: Main Building

• Monday through Thursday 9-9
• Friday and Saturday 9-5
• Sunday 1-5


• Outreach on wheels
• Adult Literacy Volunteers
• InterLibrary Loan
• Museum passes
• Reference Department
• Children’s Department
• Readers Advisory
• Reference 24/7
• 12 online public access catalog
• Home and in-library access to a variety of databases including Rosetta Stone and PubMed.
• 43 state of the art and unfiltered public Internet access computer terminals that offer patrons 13 years and older one hour of computer use time daily

Welcome to the YA Department. (WHAT YA department?)

When the Thomas Crane Public Library opened the doors of its 16 million dollar addition in 2001, administrators pointed with pride to the new Young Adult Department—a sunlit, open space located on the second floor, three steps up from the Readers’ Advisory Desk, within eyeshot of the Main Circulation Desk, and home to four YA-dedicated Internet access computers. In this city of 90,000 located 8 miles south of Boston, where the Asian population has grown by 143% over the last five years and where teens of all backgrounds comprise 14% of the population, this was going to be THE place where young people from every background and every neighborhood would gather to read, do homework, surf the Web, and “hang out” in the comfortable chairs scattered at the end of the bookshelves that house the YA print collection.

Five years later, the YA department is a ghost-town. The public access computers have been moved upstairs to the Reference Area. Program offerings have dwindled to a sparsely attended monthly screening of feature length anime films held downstairs in the Library’s community meeting room. Not only have Large Print books replaced the YA collection—which has been moved to a smaller space in a smaller room where a sign propped on a single wooden desk reads: Young Adult Books—the YA collection itself has been largely ignored. The Children’s Program Director has added a few graphic novels and anime on DVD, but these stranded bright spots serve only to highlight the general despondency that has taken root, particularly in the non fiction section. If anyone uses the tables and chairs in the original YA department, it’s senior citizens, not teenagers—a group that has warmed up even less to the makeshift space now enclosed on three sides by the small and outdated YA collection.

All that is about to change. Since 2001, the Main Library, which has served the city of Quincy Massachusetts for 225 years, has built its collection to over half a million print and non print items, and eBooks. The Thomas Crane is one of only two regional reference centers serving the South Shore and the 25 member Old Colony Library Network. The Children’s Room, bright and busy, has become host to storytellers, Mad Science demonstrations, book groups, and lap-sit story hours. At the Circulation Desk, adult patrons wait in line to reserve passes to Boston area museums and zoos, and while they wait, they browse postings of the many lectures, book groups, exhibits or workshops designed for “Lifelong Learners”.

Now, the Library is ready to turn its attention to its most under-served and least understood population: teenagers. In addition to hiring a full time YA librarian, one of the three top objectives in the Library’s 2006 Mission Statement and Long Term Plan, approved by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, is to increase teens’ circulation of library materials and participation in Library programs by 10% a year over the next four years, and to create a focus group of teenagers who will help staff develop the YA collection, and design and implement programs and policies for Teens.. To help make that happen, the Library also has $4000 in grant monies earmarked for improving services to Teens.

The first priority for collection development is to improve teens’ access to reliable health information. This is part of a nationwide effort underwritten by the MetLife Foundation and Libraries for the Future that hopes to use this population “to access the entire family including grandparents, brothers and sisters, and caregivers”, and make urban libraries a center for community health and wellness.

For this collection development assignment, I will look at the books and material that now comprise the non fiction section on Heath, diet/nutrition, and sexuality in the YA department at the main (downtown) branch of the Thomas Crane Public Library. This includes a total of 54 titles in classifications 612-618. Using a starting budget of $800, I’ll propose a list of titles we should add to the collection, and existing titles we should get rid of or replace. fitnessIn particular, I will be focusing on the subject matter with the highest circulation figures: puberty and sexuality; fitness/weight training; eating disorders; and depression/mental illness. I will be looking at the circulation figures, publication dates, condition, and reviews of the Library’s books and non print items, and explain my recommendations for new or replacement materials .

Not only will this collection development assignment fulfill the final course requirement for LIS 483, I hope it will serve as a blueprint for the actual “weeding and seeding” of the Thomas Crane Library’s YA non fiction section on Health, and offer a practical and philosophical approach to developing the rest of the YA non-fiction collection.

II. Collection Development Philosophy:
“A real teen collection has to be a collection for Young Adults, not a collection of young adult books or a collection in the YA area. It is not just a matter of semantics, but a shift in thinking about who drives collection development and the role, especially in the public library, of the Library School Teacher (or YA Librarian). Developing a collection is customer focused; it does not matter to the teen where the book is located.” (Jones, 2004)

$800 only represents a start towards collection development. The size of the budget is less important than the philosophy behind the book selections I’ll be making, since it is this philosophy that will inform additions and changes throughout the YA collection.

The Library already has a collections development policy posted on its website, stating a commitment to providing a broad range of high quality non fiction materials for a general audience that meets the needs of ethnically diverse users ranging in age from the very young to the very old. As Jones points out, the YA collection is not just defined by designated space on the shelves, but as a considered and important subset of the Library collection as a whole.

The Thomas Crane’s list of specific selection criteria for non fiction is contained in a brief summary at the end of this section, but of particular importance when purchasing potentially controversial materials about teen health and sexuality, the Library offers this disclaimer:
“It must be remembered that since any item probably has something in it that is objectionable to somebody, there would be few materials in the library if selectors tried to choose only items to which there could be no possible objections.”

Given Jones’ description of the YA collection potentially comprising all the material in the library, the YA librarian should know the collection policies and objectives not just for books labeled YA, but for all the resources in the Library. Those policies and objectives should include An Interpretation (excerpted below) of the Library Bill of Rights pertaining to Free Access to Libraries for Minors:
“Library policies and procedures that effectively deny minors equal and equitable access to all library resources available to other users violate the Library Bill of Rights. The American Library Association opposes all attempts to restrict access to library services, materials, and facilities based on the age of library users.

Children and young adults unquestionably possess First Amendment rights, including the right to receive information in the library. Constitutionally protected speech cannot be suppressed solely to protect children or young adults from ideas or images a legislative body believes to be unsuitable for them.1 Librarians and library governing bodies should not resort to age restrictions in an effort to avoid actual or anticipated objections, because only a court of law can determine whether material is not constitutionally protected.

Parents who do not want their children to have access to certain library services, materials, or facilities should so advise their children. Librarians and library governing bodies cannot assume the role of parents or the functions of parental authority in the private relationship between parent and child.”

Statement of Collection Development Objectives

The collection development plan centers around three levels of service: the main Library, branch libraries, the bookmobile and some outreach services. Materials are purchased to meet the objectives of good library service to the whole spectrum of the community’s population, young and old. The library aims to provide the fundamental, significant, and standard works in most subject areas. Aiming at ready access rather than occasional availability, the library attempts to supply materials in sufficient quantity to make the library a dependable source for most general users most of the time. No special attempt can be made to provide material for specialist or research students, except through interlibrary loan.

Inclusion of an item in the collection does not indicate library endorsement of its contents. The library aims to offer the broadest available selection of materials to mature users who, by experience and education, are presumed to exercise the privileges of choice.Richardon room


  • The Thomas Crane Library attempts to acquire materials of both permanent and current interest in all subject areas.
  • Among the criteria used in the selection of non-fiction materials are:
  • Levels of materials funding
  • Current interest and usefulness
  • Authoritativeness, comprehensiveness, and accuracy
  • Reputation, authority, and significance of author, publisher, performer or filmmaker, etc.
  • Permanent value and durability of author, performer, filmmaker, etc.
  • Literary quality, clarity and readability
  • Reputation and standards of publisher or producer
  • Effectiveness of presentation
  • Importance as a record of the times
  • Relevance to community needs
  • Political and social significance
  • Balance and objectivity
  • Importance of the subject and relevance to the existing collection
  • Relative importance in comparison with other works on subject
  • Provides information or presentation that is unique to or only available in a particular format
  • Physical format and price in relation to the individual title and its importance to the collection
  • Accessibility to the title through indexes and bibliographies
  • Availability of materials elsewhere in the region

III. Demographics and Library Services:
One of the guiding principles of collection development is know the books AND “Know your audience,” Ideally, the YA librarian should know her audience not just through the kind of demographics listed here, but through conversations with teens, surveys, polls, and focus groups. But the important thing about these demographics is that they show how fast your audience can change. Between 2001 for example, when the new addition to the Library opened, and 2006, the Asian population in Quincy grew by 143%.

The following compilation of facts gives the YA librarian at the Thomas Crane Library a working picture of this city’s schools and neighborhoods, based on the 2000 census and on data provided by the Quincy Public School district and the State and Federal Departments of Education. The YA Librarian should regularly check these sources along with her own data from surveys and circulation figures, to keep up to date with any significant changes in her target population.

Facts about the Library are available in the Library’s annual report; the Library’s long range planning statement, the library website, the Library’s budget, and departmental data collected for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.Welcome to Quincy!

Demographic Summary:
Quincy has twelve public elementary schools, four middle schools, and two public high schools. There is one private college, and one two-year college in the city. There are 41 houses of worship in the city. Quincy also has 6 museums or historic houses and many historic sites, mostly relating to the Adams family.
Quincy Schools:
About 15% of the total population in Quincy is between the ages of 5 and 19.
Quincy has 1 public school district

  • 12 elementary schools
  • 5 middle schools
  • 2 high schools
  • 0 charter schools
  • 10 private schools
    • 6 Pre-school through Kindergarten
    • 3 Parochial schools K-8
    • 1 Girls school 6-12
  • As of 2006, median home price throughout the city is $360,000

Quincy Public School Department of Library and Media Services 2007
From the city website @ http://www.quincypublicschools.com/district/departments/library_media_mainpage.shtml

  • The Department of Library and Media Services provides certified library teachers (librarians) in all of the city’s nineteen school library media centers.
  • Each media center is equipped with an automated circulation and card catalog system.
  • The high school catalogs are available on-line throughout the school system.
  • A city-wide department head supervises the personnel and oversees each facility.
  • Library teachers are responsible for the selection of new materials and maintenance of their own library’s collections.
  • Each librarian has a budget for the purchase of books and periodicals. These budgets are developed by the library teacher and reviewed by the Library and Media Services Department Head.
  • All of our school libraries are warm and friendly facilities with modern collections that encourage independent reading and support the curriculum of the Quincy Public School

IV. Book Lists! Honestly? This still feels like a work in progress. But please find here a list of existing YA non fiction titles on health–and a list of titles I think the library should add.

I’ve never weeded before. I think I should have been tougher on older titles, but if I was in doubt and the title had been circulating–I left it on the shelf. As far as new book titles? I tried to add some graphic novel formats and I tried to strengthen the core collection, while picking up some shorter interesting titles and keeping an eye out for works with strong teen voices.

This was much much harder than I thought it would be.

Existing books: Ttile, author, last ch’d out, #of uses, date added, publication date, notes. Click here to see this list in excel spreadsheet.

Cells, tissues and skin Light, D. 10/23/2005 1 4/12/2005 2004, part of Your Body : how it works series. Keep.

The circulatory system Whittemore, S. 2/8/2007 2 4/12/2005 2004, part of Your Body : how it works series. Keep.

The respiratory system Whittemore, S. 10/19/2006 1 4/12/2005 2004, part of Your Body : how it works series. Keep.

Digestion and nutrition Sullivan, R. 12/5/2005 1 4/12/2005 2004, part of Your Body : how it works series. Keep.

The endocrine system Rushton, L. 2/8/2007 1 4/12/2005 2004, part of Your Body : how it works series. Keep.

What’s happening to me? Mayle, P. 3/13/2006 26 12/1/1994 1994, copyright 1975. Dated. Weed . Young teens, girls & boys

Human development Zerucha, T. 11/5/2006 1 4/12/2005 2004, part of Your Body : how it works series. Keep.

What’s going on down there?Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask Gravelle, K. 3/15/2007 11 2/19/2003 1998. Ages 9-12. Cartoon art is easy on the eyes. Recent check out and decent reviews. Keep it for now.

Period Gardner-Loulan, J. 1/3/2000 11 5/17/1991 1979. Dated. No recent check outs. Weed.

Everything you need to know about getting your period Rue, N. 1/7/2006 6 4/28/1998 1995. Tweens. Weed

The skeletal and muscular system Stewart, G. 4/12/2005 0 4/12/2005 2004, part of Your Body : how it works series. Keep.

The nervous system Evans-Martin, F. 2/23/2007 2 4/12/2005 2005, part of Your Body: how it works series. Keep

The senses Light, D. 2/26/2007 4 4/12/2005 2005, part of Your Body: how it works series. Keep

It’s a girl thing: how to stay healthy, safe, and in charge Jukes, M. 3/15/2007 15 9/3/1996 1996. Tweens. Newberry Honor author. Still in print, good reviews on Amazon. Keep
Boy’s guide to becoming a teen American Medical Association 3/15/2007 1 8/28/2006 2006. Good reviews on Amazon. Keep

My body, my self for boys Madaras, L. 5/29/2007 5 9/11/2006 2000. Recent check-out. Keep

Girls guide to becoming a teen American Medical Association 2/18/2007 2 8/28/2006 2006. Companion to boys guide. Keep.

My body, my self for girls Madaras, L. 5/29/2007 5 9/11/2006 2000. Recent check-out. Keep

Everythying you need to know about becoming a vegetarian Serafin, K. 3/23/2005 10 8/14/2000 1999. Looks old and dated. Replace with newer book on same topic. Weed

Strength training for young athletes Kraemer, W. 2/9/2007 9 10/5/2001 1999. Looks old and dated. Replace with newer book on same topic. Weed

Teenage fitness: get fit, look healthy Kaehler, K. 1/10/2007 21 12/19/2001 2001. Looks old and dated. Replace with newer book on same topic. Weed

Toning for teens: the 20-minute Vedral, J. 5/17/2007 2 3/30/2006 2006. Good reviews on Amazon and Health Project. Looks hip. Keep

Weight training Bright, W. 6/26/2006 26 10/24/1991 1990. Looks old and dated. Replace with newer book on same topic. Weed

A teen’s guide to living drug-free Youngs, B. 10/21/2003 1 8/6/2003 Scary. Makes me want to use drugs. Weed.

Safe sex 101: an overview for teens Hyde, M. 5/2/2007 2 9/5/2006 2006. Good reviews on Amazon and Health Project. Looks hip. Keep

Birth control and protection Peacock, J. 5/2/2007 5 8/13/2001 Go find that poor child who just checked out this book! Weed

Sex, puberty and all that stuff Bailey, J. 7/1/2007 7 8/26/2005 2004. LSJ good review. For ‘tweens. Keep

The what’s happening to my body (for boys) Madaras, L. 12/19/2004 10 11/29/2000 2000. Seems to be interest in this topic. Books may appeal to slightly different audiences. Keep

The what’s happening to my body (for girls) Madaras, L. 1/20/2007 10 11/20/2000 2000. Seems to be interest in this topic. Books may appeal to slightly different audiences. Keep

Malaria, west nile, and other Day, N. 3/3/2003 5 12/27/2001 2001. Remember west Nile? Keep. Basic reference for mosquito borne virus.

When plague strikes Giblin, J. 3/17/2007 13 11/17/1995 1995. SLJ liked it. Parallels with AIDS. Keep

Drugs and dieting Roberts, J. 8/1/2005 3 1/28/2002 2001. Looks old and dated. Calista Flockhart is the celeb draw. Calista WHO? Weed

Guinea pig scientists: bold se Dendy, L. 8/15/2006 1 5/22/2005 2005. Scientists who experimented on themselves. Put it out on display. Keep.

The immune system Stewart, G. 4/7/2006 1 4/12/2005 Lost? No where to be found. Trace, then replace.

Cystic fibrosis Monroe, J. 1/9/2007 6 1/28/2002 2002. Went out this year. Keep.

Karen Killilea, M. 1/17/2006 8 7/29/1988 1985. How about the Family Nobody wanted instead? Hmm. But it still went out last year. Should i weed this?

Coping with multiple sclerosis Burnett, B. 2/21/2007 4 1/25/2002 2001. Went out this year. Part of Coping series. Should I be weeding this??

Anorexia Balkin, K. 5/11/2006 1 4/12/2005 2004. Not circulating. Weed

Eating disorder survivors tell Chiu, C. 7/8/2007 16 8/8/2001 1998. Look around for more current survivor stories. Keep for the meantime.

Exercise addiction: when Kaminker, L. 9/21/2006 0 9/21/2006 1998. Must be something better out there. Weed.

Over it: a teen’s guide to getting beyong obsession about food and weight Normandi, C. 9/13/2006 0 9/13/2006 2001. Not circulating. Weed.

Everything you need to know about depression Ayer, E. 11/6/2006 14 1/25/2002 2001. Looks dated. Pre-new SSRIs. Weed.

When nothing matters anymore: survival guide for depressed teens. Cobain, B. 5/17/2004 16 9/22/2000 1999. Try to replace with 2007 edition which got good SLJ reviews.

Teen depression Martin, M. 4/28/2007 3 12/3/2004 2004. Keep

Coping when a parent is mentally ill Ross, A. 8/16/2005 4 1/25/2002 2001. This cover is horrifying. In a cheesy way. Weed.

Mononucleosis Silverstein, A. 5/22/2000 7 6/15/1995 1994. Check out The kissing disease! Cover. Weed.

Sexually transmitted diseases Kolesnikow, T. 8/2/2006 2 9/15/2005 2004. Keep

Risky times: how to be AIDS-free Blake, J. 11/20/2006 17 4/5/1993 1990. Looks old and dated. Replace with newer book on same topic. Weed

100 questions and answers about Aids Ford, M. 10/20/2006 6 3/28/1996 1993. No longer available on Amazon. Good cover and good reviews. Keep.

100 questions and answers Ford, M. 11/20/2006 9 11/16/1995 discarded

Coping with cancer Cefrey, H. 1/9/2005 3 8/20/2001 2000. This looks institutional and depressing. Not much circulation Weed.

Coping when someone in your family has cancer Rocha, T. 7/6/2004 6 8/21/2001 2001. This looks institutional and depressing. Not much circulation Weed.

The other side of the mountain Valens, E. 5/30/2006 9 7/6/1990 1975. It’s too old, right? But it went out last year. Should I weed this?.

Dibs: in search of self Axline, V. 6/23/2007 13 11/9/1994 1964. And still going strong?? Wht do I DO with this book? It went out a month ago. Keep.

Teens, health, and obesity Owens, P. 1/10/2007 4 4/13/2005 2005. Gallup poll survey. Keep.

Getting a grip on diabetes Loy, S. 6/28/2007 14 8/13/2001 Checked out. Keep.

New Books: Ttile, author, publication date, notes, (full price) price with 25% discount. Click here to see this list in excel spreadsheet.

The Guy Book: An Owner’s Manual Mavis Jukes 2002

Jukes is the Newbury Honor author of It’s a Girl Thing. Good cover, accessible: Amazon: friendly, accurate, and up-to-date advice for prepubescent and adolescent boys. (10.36) 7.77

Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: Expanded Third Edition: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships Ruth Bell 2001

SEXUALITY: SLJ on Amazon: Dozens of teenagers themselves were interviewed and are quoted in this book. This comprehensive book includes discussion of sexual technique, STDs and the danger of promiscuous sex, gay sex and sexual identity, and teenage pregnancy and its alternatives. (35) 26.25

Pregnancy Information for Teens (Teen Health) Sandra Augustyn Lawton 2007

Recommended by Health Information Project. Looks like a good backbone reference book. Part of a series by Omnigraphics on information for Teens. (65) 48.75

The Unplanned Pregnancy Book for Teens and College Students Dorrie Williams-Wheeler 2005

Health information project: Voya on Amazon: VOYA, April 2005.The frank stories offered by young women who have faced unplanned pregnancies lend stark reality to a daunting situation” (9.31) 6.99

Invisible Invaders: Dangerous Infectious Diseases Connie Goldsmith 2006

Amazon: Goldsmith does a fine job of presenting a subject that is constantly in the news: infectious disease. She offers clearly written, succinct discussions of viral diseases, such as Ebola, SARS, and influenza; bacterial infections, such as E. coli and tuberculosis; and parasitic and prion diseases, such as mad cow disease. (29.27) 22.50

Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food Eric Schlosser 2007

Health Information project: SLJ on Amazon: An important addition to most libraries. Useful for health classes and nutrition units, it will also be an eye-opener for general readers who regularly indulge at the Golden Arches. (8.95) 6.72

Vegetarianism for Teens (Nutrition and Fitness for Teens) Jane Duden 2001

SLJ: Duden offers useful information on planning a healthy diet and handling dining situations away from home. Food covers a broad spectrum of topics from the effect of food on brain chemistry to blood sugar, cravings, and eating disorders. The importance of a balanced diet, sufficient water, and plenty of sleep is stressed. (25.26) 18.95

Learning Disabilities Information for Teens: Health Tips About Academic Skills Disorders And Other Disabilities That Affect Learning (Teen Health Series) Sandra Augustyn Lawton 2005

BACKBONE REFERENCE: Barnes and Noble: Coverage includes the different kinds, common signs, and causes of learning disabilities; how they are diagnosed; co-occurring disorders; chronic conditions that affect learning; coping strategies; and legal rights. (65) 48.75

A Bird’s-Eye View of Life with ADD and ADHD: Advice from Young Survivors Chris A. Zeigler Dendy 2003

ADHD: Teen voices. SLJ on Amazon: The book introduces 12 young people (ranging in age from 12 to 18) and describes their struggles with ADD/ADHD issues. Chapter two deals with 13 common challenges of these disorders (e.g., disorganization, impulsivity, inattention, procrastination) and includes advice from the teens. (13.57) 10.18

Physical Disabilities: The Ultimate Teen Guide (It Happened to Me)” Denise Thornton 2007

BACKBONE REFERENCE: Amazon.com: This book addresses the special issues that teens who have physical disabilities must tackle, such as school, relationships, sports and recreation, assistive technology, driving, preparing for life after high school, and more. (42) 31.50

Alcohol Information For Teens: Health Tips About Alcohol And Alcoholism, Joyce Brennfleck 2004

BACKBONE REFERENCE:Health information Project. SLJ on Amazon: Shaded boxes add visual interest and include quizzes, statistics, quick tips, “weird words” that define technical terms, and other tidbits to catch teens’ attention. (65) 48.75

Skin Health Information for Teens: Health Tips About Dermatological Concerns and Skin Cancer Risks (Teen Health Series) Robert Aquinas McNally 2003

BACKBONE REFERENCE: SLJ on Amazon:Sidebars enhance the text, defining “Weird Words” and pointing out “Quick Tips” and key facts to “Remember!” Of particular interest are the extensive sections on piercing and tattooing. While pointing up the risks of both, the articles also provide in-depth information on post-procedure care and choosing a tattooist or piercing artist. (65) 48.75

Body TypeBody Type: Intimate Messages Etched in Flesh Ina Saltz 2006

My son: Totally cool. Amazon: Here are truly unique social commentaries, expressions of love, hilarious examples of biting satire, plus some mottoes, intricate logotypes, deeply personal song lyrics, and, of course, those tattoos that exist for one reason only: to shock the hell out of you. (13.57) 10.18

Ancient Marks: The Sacred Art of Tattooing and Body Marking/ Wade Davis 2004,

BODY PIERCING/TATTOO:Tattoos,scarification, and other bodily modifications of many cultures are showcased here without calling unnecessary attention to these adornments as bizarre/freakish as in some other books which are designed to shock/titillate. (29.7) 22.28

Can I Change the Way I Look?: A Teen’s Guide to the Health Implications of Cosmetic Surgery, Makeovers, and Beyond (The Science of Health) (The Science of Health) Autumn Libal 2005

Health information project. SLJ on Amazon: In addition to being a great introduction to the topic, this book can also be used to spark discussions about self-esteem and media literacy. (24.95) 18.67

Am I Fat?: The Obesity Issue for Teens (Issues in Focus Today) Kathlyn Gay 2006

OBESITY: SLJ on Amazon: lays a solid foundation on which to tackle the topic of unhealthy weight-loss strategies. Different types of eating disorders and unhealthy diets are discussed, showing teens the dangers of such drastic methods. The pros and cons of weight-loss surgery are described. (31.93) 24.65

No Body’s Perfect: Stories by Teens about Body Image, Self-Acceptance, and the Search for Identity Kimberly Kirberger 2003

WEIGHT: TEEN VOICES SLJ on Amazon: Gently, and at times not so gently, Kirberger’s collection coaxes readers to find answers for themselves through the experiences of other teenagers. (11) 8.25

The Facts About Steroids (Drugs) Suzanne Levert 2004

Best Books for high school readers, 2006 supplement to the first edition: examines effects of steroids on users, health risks, and laws governing use. (39.93) 29.99

Drug Information for Teens: Health Tips About the Physical And Mental Effects of Substance Abuse Sandra Augustyn Lawton 2006

BACKBONE REFERENCE: SLJ on Amazon:addresses substances such as marijuana, inhalants, hallucinogens, opiates, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, sports and herbal supplements, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs and chemicals. Solid, thoughtful advice is given about how to handle peer pressure, drug-related health concerns, and treatment strategies. (65) 48.75

Mental Health Information for Teens: Health Tips About Mental Wellness and Mental Illness : Including Facts About Mental and Emotional Health, Depression … Mood Disorders, Self-injury Karen Bellenir (Editor) 2006

BACKBONE REFERENCE: SLJ on Amazon: due to the book’s valuable content, it is an excellent resource, especially for collections that do not have the earlier edition (65) 48.75

Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa Joan Jacobs Brumberg 1999

ANOREXIA: My daughter loved this book. I read it too. Fascinating. Amazon: Winner of four major awards, this updated edition of Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s Fasting Girls, presents a history of women’s food-refusal dating back as far as the sixteenth century. (11.25) 8.44

Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia (P.S.) Marya Hornbacher 2003

SLJ on Amazon: Hornbacher talks about possible causes for the illnesses and describes feeling isolated, being in complete denial, and not wanting to change or fearing change, until she nearly died. Young people will connect with this compelling and authentic story. (11.16) 8.37

Go Ask Ogre: Letters From A Deathrock Cutter Jolene Siana 2005

Health Information project. SLJ on Amazon: Like most cutters, those who injure themselves as a physical manifestation of their inner pain, Siana felt powerless as her life spun out of control. Rereading the letters years later, she realized that expressing herself through this way had saved her life. (14.78) 11.07

I Don’t Want To Be Crazy Samantha Schutz 2006

ANXIETY DISORDER: SLJ on Amazon: : In this “memoir in verse,” Schutz comes to terms with an anxiety disorder that surfaced and plagued her throughout and after her college years. (7.99) 6.00

The Truth About Fear And Depression (Truth About) Richelle, Ph.D. Rennegarbe 2004

DEPRESSION/ANXIETY: Recommended by SLJ. Barnes and Noble: presents facts and information for teens about depression and anxiety in a reader-friendly format featuring accessible language, questions and answers, boxes on facts and tips, and stories of teens combating depression and anxiety. Picked by Health Information Project (35) 26.25

Beast Within

Conquering the Beast Within: How I Fought Depression and Won…and How You Can, Too Cait Irwin 2000 graphic novel

Picked by Health information project. SLJ on Amazon. : It is written like a child’s storybook, complete with scary beasts and drawings by the author, yet is deadly serious. Its strength is that Irwin portrays depression as an illness, not a sign of weakness. (23.45) 17.59

Pedro and Me Judd Winick 2001 graphic novel fomat

AIDS/LOSS: “Health Information project pick. Pub.Wkly on Amazon: In this powerful and captivating graphic novel, Winick, a professional cartoonist and cast member of MTV’s The Real World 3: San Francisco, pays tribute to Pedro Zamora, an AIDS activist and educator who died of the disease in 1994. sure to attract a broad cross section of teens…” (24.60) 18.45

Help Yourself for Teens: Real-Life Advice for Real-Life Challenges Dave Pelzer 2005

EMPOWERMENT: Best Books for high school readers. Teens love Pelzer. Amazon: He offers teenagers practical solutions for overcoming their own hardships, focusing on three areas: facing current and past problems; realizing the importance of decisions; and finally, never giving up on oneself. (11) 8.25

In Love and In Danger: A Teen’s Guide to Breaking Free of Abusive Relationships Barrie Levy 2006

Amazon: According to author Barrie Levy, as many as one out of three high school and college-age youth experiences violence in his or her intimate or dating relationships. (11) 8.25

Bullying: How To Deal With Taunting, Teasing, And Tormenting (Issues in Focus Today) Kathleen Winkler 2005

BULLYING: Health Information Project. Also SLJ on Amazon: In straightforward and clear language, she uses conversations with teens, quotes from magazine and newspaper articles, interviews with professional therapists and school officials, to provide a readable discussion of what bullying is, why bullies do what they do, and why victims take it. (30.33) 22.75

Teen Ink: What Matters (Teen Ink Series) Stephanie H. Meyer 2003

ON HEALTH (among other things) Health Information Project. Teen Ink. Some selections are better written than others, but all adhere to the purpose of the book, which is to allow teens to express their values, priorities, goals, and fears. (11) 8.25

The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities David Levithan 2006

Health Information Project. SLJ on Amazon: 40 essays, mini-autobiographies, poems, and photographs that chronicle the lives of 21st-century young people, ages 13 to 23. The handsomely dense package includes real-life stories about coming out, falling in and out of love, mistaken identities, families and friends, misplaced affection, confronting homophobia, and more. (17.99) 13.50

GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens Kelly Huegel 2003

Class presenation. Health Information Project. SLJ on Amazon: A great choice for teens who are gay or questioning their sexuality, or even those who would like to know more about what it’s like to be queer (Huegel says it’s “a great word because it frees you from using a more specific label if you don’t want to”). (25.7) 19.28

The Sibling Slam Book: What It’s Really Like To Have A Brother Or Sister With Special Needs Don Meyer 2005

SLJ on Amazon: Comments by 81 young people display the recurring theme of optimism, complicated by hard work, dedication, resentment, and fierce protection, all as by-products of love. (10.85) 7.67

Stepliving for Teens: Getting Along with Stepparents, Parents, and Siblings(Plugged In) Joel D. Block 2001

MENTAL HEALTH: SLJ on Amazon: authors address pressing issues from a can-do perspective, using the voices of several teens and parents who have gone through it all. Providing more than just scenarios and outcomes, the authors go through the decision-making process showing how to face problems or fears and overcome them. (13.40) 10.00

100 DemonsOne Hundred Demons (Alex Awards Lynda Berry 2005, Graphic novel format

MENTAL HEALTH: Amazon: “Barry uses an Asian painting exercise called “One Hundred Demons” to organize and connect 17 “autobifictionalographic” stories in which she meditates on a variety of demons that include pretentious boyfriends, lost childhood friends, family relationships, and even the 2000 presidential election” (18.96) 14.22

Complementary And Alternative Medicine Information for Teens: Health Tips About Non-Traditional And Non-Western Medical Practices Sandra Augustyn Lawton (Editor) 2006

Health information project. SLJ on Amazon: due to the book’s valuable content, this is a useful resource, especially for collections that do not have other titles on the topic. (65) 48.75

Grand total: $802.82.

V. Resources elsewhere:
The adult nonfiction section has family medical guides and a few good titles on viruses like the Hot Zone by Richard Preston. There are diet books galore over there too, along with books on weight training and fitness that would suit the physical dimensions of most high schoolers. Also books about grieving and loss. Other parts of the YA non fiction section include some titles on teen parenting and alcoholism, as well as physical and sexual abuse in the context of relationships. Elsewhere are two good books on make up and beauty, one by Bobbi Brown. Except for a couple memoirs, none of the books I put on my to-buy list duplicate other titles in either the YA or adult non-fiction stacks. I think it’s worth getting extra copies of the memoirs for YA health, because the books are topical as well as literary–and this might be the only place in the library teens are likely to pick them off the shelves.

Computer LabPrint versus the Web: As you’ll see in my list of references, I spent a fair amount of time looking through books about books. But for every one minute I spent with print reference sources, I spent 30 minutes on the Web–browsing browsing browsing.
I have a feeling that ratio may also describe how teens go about looking for health information. In the long run, maybe all this health information will be served up on an incredible easy to use database. And kids won’t need their library barcodes to browse the database, which of course will also be filled with great pictures and every teen in Quincy will HAVE a computer which is not the case right now.

But what these print sources give teens in Quincy is quality and accuracy, and the chance to look through a book that might attract their attention just because of the title: Sex! Pregnancy! Drugs! Cosmetic Surgery! and perhaps pick up some information around the particular topic they are interested in. I think books on health may be more appealing to teens than other reference and Non fiction materials. Like a magazine or website, they are often intended to be good for browsing and the content is often just amazing–because the human body and the human mind are amazing.

I’m not ready to write off books yet, even big reference-style books. As long as teachers are requiring print resources, we should have those resources. And they should be up to date, with even more up to date copies of medical guides available as non circulating reference items–and the YA section should be well stocked enough and well weeded enough that kids can look around and find a lot of this information without asking a librarian or adult for help.

Final thought: That was the hardest 800 bucks I ever spent. This may have cured me of my fascination for All Things Health.

VI. References
Cords, S. (2006) The real story:A guide to non-fiction reading interests. (R. Burgin, Ed.) Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Gillespie, J.T. & Barr, C. (2006) Best books for high school readers: supplement to the first edition. Westport, CT:Libraries Unlimited.

Gillespie, J.T. & Barr, C. (2006) Best books for middle school and junior high school readers: supplement to the first edition. Westport, CT:Libraries Unlimited.

Jones, P., Gorman, M., & Suellentrop, T. (2004) Connecting Young Adults and Libraries (3rd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Silvey, A. (2006) 500 great books for teens. New York: Houghton Mifflin

In addition to these print resources, I spent a lot of time on Amazon.com; the Health Information Project: Non fiction titles, hosted by the Mid-Hudson Library systems @http://hip.midhudson.org/hip_nonfictiontitles.htm; Voya, yalsa, the Boston Public Library website, and TeenInk.

VII. FEEDBACK: Simmons Professor Linda Braun
Your list of questions related to teens and what they know, don’t know, read, don’t read hits on key issues of collection development in general and non-fiction collection development specifically. The questions demonstrate the need to know about the teens in the community and the need not to generalize about teens in the world. That’s what makes collection development so difficult and also such a good challenge. What are the right materials to buy for the teens that we serve in a particular community? The way to find that out is to ask questions and of course whenever possible to talk to teens.

You mention that titles you might purchase today could end up in the dustbin in a year. That’s something that librarians have a really hard time with but is incredibly important, particularly in the topic are you focused on and with the teen age group. Once a health collection is developed it has to be developed on a regular basis. Throw stuff out after a year – and sometimes less – buy new stuff all the time in order to fill in gaps, update, and replace.

This sentence, “The size of the budget is less important than the philosophy behind the book selections…” really struck me as a key point. It’s the first domino that has to fall in order to make everything else happen. If the mindset is right then no matter what the budget starts at, teen collections and services can grow and improve.

That phrase “hi-quality” gives me pause when I think about it in terms of collection development for teens. (Or anyone else I suppose.) Of course we want hi-quality materials on the shelf but hi-quality might not mean the same thing to everyone. If someone is thinking about hi-quality in terms of writing quality there are things you might want to buy that wouldn’t fit. It would be great if that phrase was actually left off and then the criteria simply defined the way materials were selected. Does that make sense?

You mention that maybe you could have been more ruthless in the weeding of the titles on the shelf currently. Definitely true! It takes a little practice but it can be done. Remember, that you don’t have to be afraid of getting rid of something that someone some day might want. In most cases it doesn’t happen and when it does you can get it somewhere else.

Be careful about series titles on health topics. The Chelsea House series is probably good for school reports, but if teens aren’t needing that kind of thing for school then go without. The series tend to look very school-y and that gives the whole collection a feel you might not want to have.

  • Something that has gone out once in 3 years can definitely go!
  • This is a title – What’s going on down there?Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask – you can weed and replace with something newer easily. At almost 10 years old it a little dated and it’s also a little young.
  • For the Mavis Jukes titles which are still good, buy new copies so they shine and stand out like the rest of the items you are going to add to the collection.
  • The Lynn Madaras titles are on the edge in terms of age. You could weed and replace with newer titles. Even if you buy more than one copy of something on a similar theme.
  • You’re right, “Go find that poor child who just checked out this book” This is exactly why we can’t let collections sit to be reviewed every five years or so. The collection is a living breathing thing.
  • West Nile might be of interest to you and me but it’s not worth storing/warehousing on the shelf. Delete and get it from ILL if someone wants.
  • I have little knowledge about Cystic Fibrosis but it makes me nervous that this title is over 5 years old. It may have simply gone out because that’s all there was/is. Weed and look for something newer. Talk with someone in the community who knows the topic and get recommendations from that person.
  • Yes weed multiple sclerosis too. Talk to people who know and find something more current.
  • I worry too about a book on depression from 1999. Newer stuff probably has more current info. on drugs, web sites, support groups, etc. Definitely replace with newer edition.
  • Keeping an AIDs book from 1993. Really? That should definitely be weeded no matter what the reviews said.
  • Yes, weed The Other Side of the Mountain
  • Dibs is a precursor to A Child Called It – get some new paperback copies and ditch the 1960s version.

In terms of replacements be careful about buying titles that are more than a couple of years old. In this topic area anything that is already 3 or 4 years old definitely has a very short shelf life. It’s better to buy a couple of copies of one newer title than one copy of something published 4 years ago – at least in this topic area. Remember it’s the currency of the info. and the currency of the resources – web sites, etc. go out of date as does the basic content of the volume.

Of course the above doesn’t hold true for everything. Something like Fasting Girls and Dibs lives for a long time. So too does something like Teen Ink that focuses on stories as opposed to facts.

Pedro and Me should probably be shelved with graphic novels but it definitely fits the topic. Ditto for the other graphic novels that you added to the list.

I sure hope they update Changing Bodies Changing Selves very soon.

You have good ideas here. With some more ruthless weeding and some more updating this collection could really be quite something for teens. It will make a splash and show that the library is interested in a topic teens are interested in. It can help start discussions and bring in some new teens to the library.


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Graphic novels

I thought Runaways would be my first graphic novel. The pictures are gorgeous; the storyline seemed interesting; it reminded me of a not unpleasant two weeks I spent reading comic books in my sister’s sunny corner bedroom when I was 16 years old and recovering from whooping cough. But every time I opened that hardcover compilation of volumes 1-18, and felt the giant weight of 300? (unnumbered) pages of conversations in white bubbles, I gave up, and instead selected a plain old text narrative from our reading list of Young Adult novels.

In fact it was Dramacon, not the Runaways, that got me over the “story in pictures” hump. Dramacon, with its ever-so-slight but ever-so-easy-to-scan storyline, and dropping jaws and repartee dripping icicles or flames–depending on the characters’ shifting emotional barometers. I started reading it on the RedLine, from Quincy to Park Street. Then on the Green Line, from Park to The Museum of Fine Arts. Then walking, from the Museum to Simmons. And when I had to put it away? I immediately looked forward to my commute home so I could finish it. The perfect fast read for summer…or winter…or spring…or fall! Yes. Even for a 50 year old dyed in the wool English major–Dramacon exerted a strange and soothing fascination: who hasn’t had a head full of all the things we’d wished we’d said? Or an image of ourselves that is a world apart from what other people see.

I liked the low-techiness of manga. I liked how I got into a rhythm reading/scanning the pages. I liked that I read it better and enjoyed it more the less I worried about catching every word, and going instead for picking up the storyline and out-sized characters and, oh yeah!–the drama! the pulp paper equivalent to an afternoon soap opera for teens with a sense of humor as well as angst. Even now, writing this entry, I’m thinking–I can’t believe I read–and liked!–manga. I don’t know whether to feel like I’m just a little bit hip–or like I’m “chasing it”– a middle aged librarian dressing in in too-short, too-tight Abercrombie and Fitch. I kept the cover covered on the subway.

After Dramacon, American Born Chinese seemed easy. The pictures were easy to follow, and the various story lines and text–while complicated–were both fresh and interesting. I liked the lay out too–not so many pictures that I couldn’t take in the frames with ease, and not stumble on my way from page to page. It wasn’t until our class discussion of ABC that it occurred to me that the book might be little too much to my taste–that of an adult reader rather than a teen reader. More an award winner than a teen crowd pleaser. A point I have found myself coming back to again and again, because it makes me realize I tend to be a slave to award lists–not a quality you necessarily want when it comes to recommending books for reluctant readers.

Overall though, our class discussion of American Born Chinese was most useful as a starting point not for examining the values of personal identity, but for discussing a book with this format. How the lay out and pictures and visual cues and visual “tone” contribute to the meaning and experience of the story. I can (unfortunately it sometimes seems to me) talk about identity until hell freezes over–but i have a limited vocabulary and background when it comes to manga and graphic novels.

After both Dramcon and American Born Chinese and our visit with Robin over at Brookline Library, I thought Runaways would finally be the lush walk in the park I had expected when I first cracked the cover. Not so! Isn’t that strange? Mostly it was the size and design: the pictures were more dynamic than the ones in ABC and Dramacon–and without page numbers and white space borders, I had trouble orienting myself to the page. I felt like the story was getting ahead of me; that I couldn’t organize it as well in my mind as I can a narrative or a graphic novel with fewer and smaller frames per page.

This is not a criticism of the book or the storyline, which are both good examples of teen empowerment. I think my own experience would make my recommendation of this title to teen readers more informed and genuine–especially if the reader were new to graphic novels. I’d be more sympathetic to a reader who shied away from the picture format, and more apt to encourage them to stick with it, or to try some other selections that might “feel” more inviting and easier to eyeball.

Finally–Cathy’s Book. Teens–especially and perhaps exclusively!–girls, might be charmed and intrigued by the doodling in the margins, the important bits of paper stuck in the cover, the sketches of the main characters, and the cross outs that suggest a work endlessly in revision. In some ways, this felt like the equivalent of spending a long afternoon with your best friend dressing up paper dolls and fabricating a fantastic life story to go with each new outfit.

I liked the mystery part of the novel. I generally liked the characters. I liked the ethnic diversity. I liked the humor. I liked the girls’ independence and close friendship. I liked having bad guys in there who seem genuinely threatening. I didn’t take it too seriously, but seriously enough to want to know how everything turned out. I mostly liked the format, because at the same time it seemed a little precious and cliched–it wasn’t a format I’d seen before, and I did think it is one that might have at least browsing appeal to teens.

Put all that stuff together though, and I had the sense of a book that was trying to serve too many masters. I became too aware of the process and design of the book to lose myself fully in the story.

Would I recommend it? Yes. Would girls like it? Is it for tweens or teens? Is the age difference between Cathy and Victor problematic? Is the dialog a little too cute? I’m not sure. I also don’t know whether to marvel at the fact that borrowers had not lost any of the “parts” of the book–or whether to assume that maybe they had not actually opened the envelope and explored all those bits and pieces.

I tried to interest my 13 year old in this book, but after a dutiful glance she put it aside and within a day it was buried under napkins and magazines and volumes 1-6 of Harry Potter.

I do know that I might never have given these books a chance if they had not been on our reading list. That would have been a loss–not just for me, but more importantly, for teens who might come to the library–and to me– looking for a suggestion on what to read.

I don’t know how you put together your reading list for LIS 483, but from my perspective, this syllabus is valuable less for the absolute quality of each book; more for the fact that the list as a whole and the themes around which each week is organized, made me think outside the box and get in touch with my own personal biases as a reader, as an adult, and as Jessie Thuma. If I can take that awareness with me into the workplace, LIS 483 will have exceeded its promised outcomes.

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Discord Over Dewey
A New Library in Arizona Fans a Heated Debate
Over What Some Call the ‘Googlization’ of Libraries
July 20, 2007

By all accounts, patrons of the Perry Branch Library in Gilbert, Ariz., are happy with the new digs.

Since the doors opened last month, visitors have checked out about 900 items a day, far more than the 100 to 150 that typically circulate daily in nearby branches, said Harry Courtright, director of the Maricopa County library district. Part of the branch’s appeal has come from the addition of bookstore-like features, including lower shelves, lounge furniture and displays of popular titles.

But it’s what’s missing from the library that has drawn the most attention: Perry abandoned the Dewey Decimal Classification System for its books, whose spines instead carry labels with plain-English subjects such as “history” and “weddings.” Instead of locating books by the traditional numerical system, patrons use a computerized catalog to find out which subject a book has been filed under, and then follow signs posted throughout the library. Many visitors skip the catalog altogether, and just head for the aisles that interest them.

The opening of a Dewey-free facility has sparked heated debate in the library world. “The day that the Maricopa news hit, I just had to steel myself,” said Karen Schneider, a moderator for PubLib, an online discussion list where comments blasting the move have been running about even with those praising the new library.

In defending Dewey, some have decried what they call the “Barnes & Nobling” and “Googlization” of libraries. On blogs and newsgroups, more than one commenter fumed “Have you ever tried finding something at a bookstore?” Some pointed out that Dewey is already essentially a list of subject headings, whose call numbers specify exactly where each book should be placed on the shelves. Many libraries print those subject headings on shelves under books.

Others, however, praised Perry’s decision, saying doing away with the inscrutable codes makes libraries easier to browse and more approachable.

A Broader Debate

But the debate, say many librarians, is about more than one branch’s organizational system. It feeds into a broader, increasingly urgent discussion about libraries, where a growing number of patrons, used to Google and Yahoo, simply don’t look for books and information the way they used to. Some are drawing on cues from the Internet in proposals for overhauls of cataloging systems, but others are more hesitant, saying that the Web’s tendency to provide thousands of somewhat-relevant results flies in the face of the carefully tailored research libraries pride themselves on.

Although the divide isn’t as simple as young versus old, both have passionate adherents. “It’s a religious war at this point,” said Ross Singer, an application developer at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s library. He has been frustrated by some computerized library catalogs that aren’t as “smart” as Internet search engines, where a query for “Ernest Hemingway” may not yield results when “Hemingway, Ernest” does.

Putting the Dewey debate aside, there is broad agreement among librarians that more can be done in the way of spiffing up catalogs. Such databases often include only three or four subject headings for each book — a throwback to physical card catalogs, which had limited space — making more complex subject searches, which users are accustomed to trying in search engines, fruitless. “We’re not addressing the fact that the world is changing around us,” he said. “Some people just want to find things, without doing a whole lot of work.”

“We may want people to spend hours learning our arcane systems, but the reality is they’re going to default to the path of least resistance,” PubLib’s Ms. Schneider said. “We need to be in that path.”

Developed by Melvil Dewey in the 1870s, the Dewey Decimal Classification is used by more than 200,000 libraries world-wide. Translations have been completed or are in progress in more than 30 languages, including Arabic, Icelandic and Vietnamese, and it is regularly updated. Since 1988, the system has been owned by the Online Computer Library Center, a Dublin, Ohio, cataloging and research nonprofit group, and editors are based around the world, including within the Library of Congress, to discuss additions and changes. It remains very much the law of the land: Some 95% of U.S. public libraries use Dewey, and nearly all of the others, the OCLC says, use a closely related Library of Congress system.

Dewey has come under attack before. Its critics are quick to point out, for example, that the religion section (200-299) overrepresents Christianity, spanning 220 (Bible) to 289 (Other denominations & sects). Other faiths, such as Judaism (296), get just one division, while Islam is lumped with Babism and Bahai Faith at 297. The 600s, which are classified as technology, include everything from hydraulic engineering (627) to leather and fur processing (675), but not topics related to computer science (004-006).

Finding Your Way to France

But Dewey loyalists are far from extinct, even among younger librarians, who worry that simple subject headings aren’t specific enough to keep a collection organized. For example, looking for books about traveling in France leads right to 914.4 in any library using Dewey, while those books might be scattered throughout a travel or European section in a less-specific system, said Sarah Houghton-Jan, a San Mateo, Calif., librarian.

Dewey’s consistency across language and regional barriers is another advantage, said Joan Mitchell, the OCLC’s editor in chief for the system (and in case there’s any question about where her loyalties lie, a link off the official Dewey blog1 lists her interests as 641.5; 746.432; 782; 787.87; 796.935; 800 and 914-919). A German librarian launched that country’s translation, she noted, after visiting U.S. libraries in metropolitan areas and an Indian reservation and finding the books were organized the same way in both.

The outcry over the Perry library didn’t surprise the district’s Mr. Courtright, who also introduced self-service checkout and check-in at the district branches. “We’ve done a number of ‘innovations,’ and every time we do something, there are those that think it’s heresy,” he said. The fast-growing area southeast of Phoenix is projected to open a new branch each year for the next 10 to 15 years, he said, and they will all use the Dewey-less system.

Last month, Michael Gorman, a past president of the American Library Association who recently retired as dean of library services at California State University, Fresno, penned an penned an essay2 on Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc.’s blog that, among other things, criticized the Internet as a research tool. Search engines return too many irrelevant and disreputable sources, he said, and students have become dismissive of the idea that libraries provide information beyond what’s online. “I honestly thought that these were not controversial ideas,” he said.

Mr. Gorman, whose writing has provoked technophiles before, was roundly criticized in librarian blogs and other online communities. The responses he’s read, including ones disagreeing with him, were “very solid,” he said, adding that even raising these concerns can get a person marked as a Luddite.

But even tech-savvy librarians often have a complicated relationship with Google. “Google’s great. Find me a librarian that doesn’t use Google,” said Jessamyn West, a Bethel, Vt., librarian who runs the blog Librarian.net3. What bothers those in the profession, she said, is that increasingly, patrons only know about keyword searching, when catalogs provide several other ways of looking up entries. “There are other ways of slicing information that aren’t the way Google decided to slice it,” she said.

“I think older patrons, they believe you have to kind of rassle with the online catalog a little bit, and it’s OK to spend a little bit of time to get exactly what you want,” she added. Young people are more likely to stop after a “good-enough” search. “It’s the difference between scholarship and ‘I just wanna kinda know about something,'” she said.

Millions of Results

Anthony McMullen, a librarian at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Penn., said he’s heard colleagues scoff at searches that result in millions of pages, which they think bewilder users, as well as searches that direct users to illegitimate sources of information.

But Mr. McMullen encourages keeping an open mind, noting that most users focus on the first 10 to 20 results and don’t get overwhelmed. And the Internet doesn’t have exclusive rights on inaccuracy, he added. “I could compile a lengthy bibliography of published books that support the notion that the Holocaust never occurred. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use books.”

The discussions over Dewey and Google are similar, said Michael Casey, in that they both relate to serving people who don’t want to learn a complicated system. Mr. Casey, a librarian and information-technology director in Gwinnett, Ga., who writes a blog called LibraryCrunch4, said that during a new branch’s recent construction, he began asking plumbers, inspectors and other construction workers whether they used libraries. Most said they couldn’t figure out how to find a book, he said. Although it didn’t give up Dewey classifications, the branch incorporated more subject signs as a result.

“Librarians like to think that we’re indispensable,” he said. “While I think that is true to a point, I don’t think we should continue to propagate the idea that we’re indispensable by keeping a complicated cataloging system.”

Write to Andrew LaVallee at andrew.lavallee@wsj.com5
URL for this article:

Hyperlinks in this Article:
(1) http://ddc.typepad.com/
(2) http://blogs.britannica.com/blog/main/2007/06/the-siren-song-of-the-internet-part-i/
(3) http://www.librarian.net/
(4) http://www.librarycrunch.com/
(5) mailto:andrew.lavallee@wsj.com

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Sometimes, we don’t get the choice.

I don’t want to be crazy is as much a memoir of a disorder as it is a memoir of the person who suffers this disorder. The story is absorbing enough that this distinction is not necessarily one the reader will make on a conscious level, but it is nonetheless a distinction that drives the action and pulls the reader into Schutz’s world. The anxiety attacks that come out of nowhere on an otherwise fine day–that send Schultz packing whether she’s in a classroom at college or in France for her Junior Year Abroad–simply don’t care. They come and go with the indifference and weird majesty of any other Act of Nature–or God. And they leave destruction in their wake. We feel for the author–we also feel for the family. And what we feel–or at least what I feel–is not always sympathy. This, to me, is the beauty of I don’t want to be crazy: the reader is right there hyper-ventilating with Schutz–and the reader is also wondering (like a traitor!)–how can that be? She has so much! Can’t she just GET BETTER?? I mean–for crying out loud–the girl is at a restaurant in PARIS!

And in that moment–whether we know it or not, we have come face to face with the main character: uncontrollable panic. But it could also be anything else uncontrollable: paranoia; manic depression; anorexia; severe depression. Anything that lays claim to us, to our families, our friends–and, in a story well told–to the reader. At least for the hours we spend between the pages of books like this one.

By using blank verse rather than conventional narrative, Schutz telescopes her perspective without making us feel that we have lost important detail or context. When we see what looks like “poetry”–we are instantly prepared for a story that is pared down to its essentials. In this case, the chronology of events or the larger canvas of Schultz’s life play second fiddle to the effect on both of her anxiety disorder.

My 21 year old daughter is bi-polar. My father, my aunt, and my grandmother were also manic depressive. By the time I was in college, my father was making regular trips to the state hospital, and later, when age had put him beyond the embrace of a straitjacket–he spent time in private psychiatric hospitals. Some nicer than others. To the outside world, I think there is something persistently fascinating and even romantic about “madness”. But up close and personal? It’s like a 100 headed hydra: lop off any one head and two grow in its place. More exhausting and hopeless than it is creative, noble, or even just plain unfortunate.

But Schutz spares us too much commentary. Instead, she just takes us with her on her wild ride through one anxiety attack after another. In between, she is a college student like any other: she’s got boy problems, she’s got family problems, she’s got job problems, she has good shrinks and bad shrinks. She’s also got money and resources, and no matter how tempted we might be to pin the blame for the pressure she feels on her parents–the bottom line is that mental illness and mental disorders can create a hell even out of Eden. It happens that Schutz has a family and community that care for and about her; that she has the benefits of education, money, health insurance, and a roof over her head whether she works or not–and that she is articulate enough to tell us her story.

By pointing her reader to a list of mental health resources in the back of the book, Schutz is generous in reminding us that for every person like her, who has a face, and a name, and story we want to hear–there are thousands of other people whose lives are also dominated by a disorder or mental illness, and for whom there may be far less sympathy or understanding–or relief.

Yes–Linda–you are exactly right. It was reading this book that made me decide to blog about my daughter. Evan’s story is fragmented and haphazard. But I don’t want to be crazy made me think that’s OK. That stories can be told all different ways–and still be interesting and helpful. Evan’s story is written in all the journals she kept starting in the 5th grade. It’s written in my journals too. And it’s written in the fabulous and fearful collages Evan used to make, and in the hundreds of bracelets and necklaces she strung, using alphabet beads to spell out not-so-profound truths like “peas they judge me” and “hysterical mother”.

Maybe there IS a book in there. I keep thinking that’s the case. But the problem for me had always been–how to tell it so it isn’t a story about something that happened–it’s the thing itself. What it looked and felt and smelled like to be those people–in that situation.

I don’t want to be crazy is not just a good read. It’s Help with a capital H for any teen or any parent who has felt the trapdoor of sanity give way under their feet. It’s about friends and family and personal boundaries–and the absence of any boundaries at all. And it feels truthful. If you’re going to write about this stuff–you need to keep it close to the bone.

I’m really glad we read this book. Thank you.

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Los Angeles Times
Schools today require students to log countless hours of community service. It’s gotten out of hand.
By Cary Bickley

Los Angeles

Call me old-fashioned, but community service used to mean something. Charitable work, an important tradition in American culture, once grew out of a family’s genuine concern for a cause or from long-standing relationships to houses of worship. And it was based on a shared belief in the value of good deeds. Sadly, it seems we baby boomers took this good and pure idea of service and turned it into its own unique kind of monster.

Welcome to the newest rat race, the race for community service hours. Ask students walking for a “cure” or tutoring underprivileged children why they are there and they’ll tell you, “I need the hours.” Schools, particularly private schools, have taken it on themselves to legislate the good deeds of our children and by inference, we parents as well. I no longer have the time to discuss my own family’s religious and moral duties with my children – we’re all too busy racing from project to project putting in required hours.

As a mother of three who has spent some 12-odd years in the private school system, the demands of community service have changed dramatically. Students used to be encouraged, without mandate, to do a few hours of community service each year. It could range from work in the school (like helping at a school function) to the more serious community activities such as covering graffiti with a coat of paint or raising funds for communities in need. Now, not only are the serious hours demanded as part of the curriculum, but they differentiate between community and school service. And students, of course, are required to do both.

Kids are further led to believe that no college will take them without these hours of service. Good grades, athletic achievement, or musical prowess mean nothing if you didn’t hand out bread at a soup kitchen. Today, even high school admissions offices look for a strong record of service by junior high and elementary schoolers, which really means their parents better get busy lining up projects.

The real audacity of the situation lies in the underlying assumption that students would do nothing without their schools’ guiding hand. Why else must kids document their hours? Schools clearly feel obliged to teach our children to care, implying we don’t teach them ourselves. America is the most charitable country on earth, so it’s an odd assumption. But more important, the schools’ mandated volunteerism has slowly turned a noble tradition of philanthropic service into another competition, another thing our kids check off

their to-do lists as they plot their college applications.

To do: Study for the SAT, take 200 AP classes, do charity. Because their schools have reduced charitable giving to a numbers game, I’m not even sure today’s students feel the genuine satisfaction that comes from caring deeply about a cause and becoming involved in it.

This trend in philanthropy also fails those who serve in ways that are impossible to document in hours. Should Bill Gates and his children stop cutting those billion-dollar checks and put more time into freeway trash removal? Ask the heads of charitable organizations and they’ll tell you they are as grateful for the check cutters as they are for the foot soldiers.

There are kids out there in every type of school, private and public, who simply can’t give up a Saturday to clean the trash on a beach because their moms work two jobs and they have to watch their young siblings. They do this without pay and without credit. They are doing a noble service to their families and to their communities. Yet Harvard will never know about it. They’ll only read about the millionaire who pays thousands of dollars so his kid can serve food to an African village over spring break. That’s a lot of good hours.

That kid clearly cares the most. He wins. It is, after all, a competition, right?

All philanthropy is good, but, ideally, I’d like my family to follow a model that operates on the principle that charity begins at home. In this model, family members take care of one another first and then the people around them, financially and physically if needed. But there are no organizations involved, no plaques in their names, and no one to sign their kid’s blue sheets when they spend evenings entertaining the children of sick parents. It’s just the right thing to do. I would love my children to give and serve, not because

they’re getting credit for it, but because it’s right.

Carly Bickley is a screenwriter and mother of three.


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I thought this book was great. After poring over the pictures of tattoos and the terse stories behind the ink–I left it out on the kitchen table and watched with interest as each of my three children browsed through it over breakfast bowls of Cheerios and Honey Smacks.

My 12 year old daughter took one look and decided tattoos were boring. “Why would somebody just want a bunch of words, and no pictures?”

My 18 year old son was enchanted–and inspired. “I want a tattoo,” he said. The next day he wrote his own body type up on the dri-erase board: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Even so, my soul shall rise.” He’s still working out what font to use. Meanwhile his girlfriend, the Beautiful Rachel Dill, wants to know just where Johnny plans on packing all that text.

M y 21 year old daughter Evan already has tattoos. Sort of. She was a cutter, and over the course of her Junior and Senior years in high school, she etched her own intimate messages into her flesh. She did it with great deliberation and in some moments artistry–but she did it without ink. So her tattoos are a silvery lattice of lines and cross hatchings and stars and astericks.

I wondered what she would think of this book, and whether she would see her own compulsion to cut in these pictures of people and their glyphs.

But that is the wonder of youth. Evan looked through Body Type the same way she looks through Glamor Magazine: with an unerring eye for what looks good, and what looks bad. Then she snapped the cover shut. Which struck me as an entirely unsentimental and overly critical approach to a practice that for me at least, brought back dreaded images of Evan’s personal fascination with razor blades. Or maybe Evan has just had enough of intimate messages etched in her own flesh. “I’m too old for a tattoo,” she said. End of conversation.

For a teen, reading and looking at this book is certainly a constructive use of time. It’s like a collection of the flash memoirs–each super-short personal history illustrated with an image that is worth way more than a thousand words. It is also a cattle prod to the imagination of the YA librarians: as we mentioned in class, the spin-offs for teens are endless, from imagining what kind of tattoo a particular literary character might have, to writing about the kind of tattoo that would best express their own personal visions.

But this book is also all about boundaries, and self identity, and self expression. To the mother who committed suicide, no message of pain and loss could be more graphic than her son’s response, burned into the skin of his forearm: “Hatred”. And later–“Forgiveness”.

We all need reminding. To stay balanced. To withstand temptation. To love. To heal. To hope. To stand out in a crowd. In a culture of labels and brand names, these tattoos are a way to name and declare our selves.

Finally–this book found its most enthusiastic and attentive audience in me–the 50 year old single mom who had to think about it for 35 years before she could get her ears pierced. I loved the fact these images were of text tattoos, and I loved that instead of seeing the airbrushed and perfect bodies that people popular magazines, I was seeing something genuine: real bodies, real skin, and raw emotion.

When it came to tattoos and my own children–I always reacted like any fearful and defensive parent: “Over my dead body! I MADE that skin! You are not going to wreck it with some picture you’ll hate in 20 years!”

That is still my basic take on tattoos, and that is my public line to the kids–but since spending a week with this book? I see tattoos in a new and more positive light. After I met with a lawyer yesterday to figure out how to answer my ex-husband’s latest demand that I get my degree and a 50,000 dollar a year job by last month–I thought about having 346.7 etched in MY arm. Something topical –and oh so Dewey!–about personal bankruptcy and repaying your debts.

Not only would I have Body Type in my YA collection –I’d have to restrain myself from insisting that every teen who walked into the library had to look at it.

Thanks! A fun choice for our reading list.

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Why Parka?

evan today

evan today

The Story of Evan

After three nights of no sleep–my daughter is radiant. Luminous. Her eyes sparkle. Her glossed lips shine. Her legs–with fresh red cuts on the thighs–go on and on. Her fingers are cold. Her belly is bare. Her arms have stars scraped into the skin–and this exhortation penned in permanent magic marker just above the elbow:


Evan is 16 years old.
Evan Goes Back to the Psych Ward

3/2003 I worry. I worry that Evan is doing the school thing for me—that for everyone in the family she is trying to be happy–but in fact she’s running out of steam.

We came home from therapy last night and Evan–who had curled up in the car and gone to sleep–headed straight for the bedroom and–dressed in her red wool pea coat and my red parka–because she is ALWAYS cold–dressed in her Doc Martens and her black scarf and her favorite jeans–dressed in her crusty bed head hair gel–collapsed on top of her bed and fell into this deep sleep.

It’s hard to wake her up–impossible to get her undressed and re-dressed in PJs. And if there had been a hospital bed available last night? Or last Saturday? I’d have put her in it.

So I let her sleep while I fed Jess and helped her get dressed for the elementary school dance over at Merrymount–hashed out Johnny’s plans for “going out”–delivered Jess to Kerry’s–gave Johnny a ride out to the Wollaston School–issuing several death threats regarding what happens to teenage boys who drink and smoke and swear. And listened to his concerns about his social life–

When I get back–I did wake Evan up–somewhat–and I asked her if she’d go to the hospital if I could arrange it.

“Oh Parka,” she murmured–“the hospital is like a bad relationship–part of you wants to go back, but you know it isn’t good for you.”


Blue Room- by evan

there is a paperweight on my heart.
my mother called this my blue room, and said maybe
id visit all my life, the body remembers. i said no,
my body sits on my heart,

i am bent old and used like a tree,
wrapped as a trunk, wrapped in anniversaries, my rings,
anniversaries, your days. there are no clocks here,
the photo albums are rusted
in the way that only paper can–cracked, brown, old.
old every day, trees upon trees.

there are open doors here,
where all the breath is caught and fast,
years and years in a blue room,
where every root pours back to you, you are the leaves,
and you grey and drop from me like fruit, autumn always.
i usher you in and carry you out on lungs-full of leaving.
its windy with you, fists of wind around my trees,
through and through until i choke.

choke on a hole in my blue room, sandy, hourglass,
wicked witch of the west — dorothy’s trapped inside. all there is–
the only sound–
is the slide of sand through the hole in my blue room.
the trees bend, bend, bend, bend, bend.

Truth in Advertising

Evan is curled up in a ball on the floor of her bedroom. The windows are like three black boxes against the wall. All around her are notebooks and textbooks and homework study sheets and crumpled gum wrappers and damp towels and clothes that never seem to make it all the way to the laundry pile in the hallway.

But Evan isn’t doing any of her homework. She’s on her side and her eyes are closed and her long hair half covers her face. Her fists are pressed against her chin.

“Why don’t you move into my room,” I tell her, stepping around the mess. I’m annoyed that her room is always so chaotic—but really I’m scared and worried because Evan herself is so chaotic and difficult and untidy. She crude and rude—she snaps at Jessie and me and Johnny—ask her where something is and she’ll ride down the question with her stock response—“up my butt.”

Three of the four walls are plastered with pictures that Evan has torn out of magazines—pictures of faces and underwear models and pictures with slogans and brand names:

Got Milk
dr. Raven


When I woke Evan up the other morning she said I interrupted a dream
she had that she was sledding down a mountain. Oh I said–you were
having a dream about LIFE! Oh Parka she said–your love of symbols
kills me–it really does. I just had a dream about sledding.

see–that’s what I want. I want dreams about sledding back. I’m tired
of dreams about Life.


The Best Cut is the Deepest

4/13/2003 I wrote this after finding Evan in the bathroom cutting her wrists. It’s nothing! she said. It’s just a scratch mom! Are you angry with me?”

We went straight to Westwood where Evan stayed a week and was diagnosed with bi-polar II. She was taken off the Prozac and put on Lamictal and Abilify. She was heavily medicated during that hospital stay. Without all the agitation and irritation that had surrounded her like a nimbus– Evan seemed small and even frail– I remember how cloudy her eyes looked and how dilated her pupils were.

“I feel like if I could cut myself deep enough just once, I’d be able to stop.”

The Last Cut

Only a scratch! Only a scratch! she cries out–
as the blood wells in bright drops along the four new razor cuts
in her left arm–the arm of choice for this cutter–
the arm that tells her in lines that run from north to south,
from east to west, from faint to fresh– the story of her days,
how it was cold the night her father left, but clear,
and how the stars were out, and she saw them, such a bitter winter!
but she didn’t remember the stars until weeks later–how the night
passed through her mind a hundred times and a hundred times
it was different, until she cut it in place on her arm, along with a ladder,
etched in the Spring, of 79 scratches climbing from the milky white inside of her wrist
to the blue vein below the bend in her elbow–the asterisks
she made that evening in her father’s first apartment
where the radiator leaked and the carpet was wet and smelled bad–
the cuts that she made in the smoky bathrooms, the after school cuts–
the rainy day cuts–the cuts she could hardly wait to make!
until she began to plan them with fond and fevered anticipation—
this excoriation of her flesh–trading her broken CD case for a razor blade,
and then her razor blade for a box cutter–How she drifted like smoke
through the drugstore assortment of band-aids and gauze pads,
a connoisseur of tagaderm and steri-strips–of long sleeves and deception–
ready to vanish with one sure, deep stroke–Oh she could feel it!
how the blood that thundered through her heart, how the thoughts! endless!
that raced through her head, how the breath that never quite found its way
out of her lungs, that felt as solid and heavy as stones, how it would all
just let her go–not for a moment, not for the cheap thrill of a three inch
strike along the surface of her skin, but for good. Which is how she thought of it–
how she thought of it that morning when she pressed the tip of the blade
into her arm–for good, she thought, closing her eyes, imagining the cut.
For good.


Evan at Westwood April ’02

“Parka! You didn’t bring me any flowers!” “Parka! I can’t see out of my glasses!” “Parka! I’m agitated!” “Parka! There is nothing wrong with me!” “Parka! They made me eat raisin bran!” “Parka! That’s a secret and I’m not going to tell you!”

Teenagers just keep being teenagers. There is simply no stopping them. Mary–Evan’s roommate, is at Westwood because she overdosed on just about every drug–prescription or otherwise–in her house– but she is a vegan! She agonizes over her food choices–she is ecstatic when her parents arrive with soy mac and cheese and tofu pups! In every way except for her tendency to want to KILL herself! she is fully committed to this life!

Same with Evan. Why invest in 89 dollar jeans unless you actually hope to wear them? Why worry about the physics test unless you plan–or at least you DREAM of the day– you will take it?

“Tell Sue Kim to send me her rough draft–I will edit it. Tell her to stop killing the English Language or I will have to bite her toes off one by one. Did Amanda call?
Parka–tell Jody she is your BITCH! Tell her you look ripped in your monster blue dress. Don’t go to work Parka! Stay here with me. Because it’s loneeeeeelllllyyyyy
here Parka and I miss you.”

Frankly–I could relax at Westwood Lodge. The beds are comfortable–the lights are dimmed–there is very little to do except sit on your bed or sit in the common room/dining room under the dirty skylight and watch the rain fall or the clouds clear or the sun shine.

Certainly cooking is far too dangerous for any patient there to attempt–and let’s face it–those kids aren’t in charge of anything except maybe their toothbrushes. Yes–the soporific effect is overwhelming and I go there and all I want to do is lie down on the bed and close my eyes.
Short Story: Seventeenth Summer
I Want Somebody to Love

An 18 year old girl named Evan goes down to the boulevard by the ocean late at night to smoke cigarettes and meet guys. She’s a beauty. Red hair, Hollywood Tan. Looks like a model and then some.

She meets a boy named Gramos that she knew in high school. Not well, but enough to think he’s an OK guy.

Next to the sea wall–under hot heavy clouds–Gramos kisses her. It’s exciting–because he tangles his hand in her hair and pulls her head back hard and I mean–he really kisses her. Well–it’s exciting–and it’s something else too–but for all her skimpy shirts and low slung jeans–Evan is pretty new to the hooking up scene–and she doesn’t know that the something else–the way–well, the way it HURT– is a bad sign.

So a few nights later Gramos calls Evan and says get on a goddamn train and come out to fuckin’ Malden Circle! I’ll meet you and we can hang out.

It’s pouring–a skank of a night. Evan’s mother argues against the plan–Who is Gramos? she wants to know. What kind of a plan is that? That’s NO plan–that’s meet some guy in Boston and get into his car.

GOD mom, says Evan–her legs practically bucking in agitation and impatience–it’s GRAMOS! You know–he helped with the Science Project–I KNOW him. He’s OK. He’s not going to DO anything.

But Gramos DOES do something. Gramos sits with Evan in the back seat of his 30 year old cousins car on a dead end street and while the cousin goes to get shots–Gramos is drinking–Gramos begins to kiss Evan–

and he doesn’t just kiss Evan–he pulls her shirt and bra off and tells her he wants to have sex with her. He licks her breasts. He tangles his hand in her hair and this time he pulls it hard, and he undoes her belt.

No Gramos, she says. What are doing? You’re being an asshole–let me go. I have my period anyway.

To herself she’s thinking–he’ll stop when his cousin comes back.

But when the cousin comes back–Gramos doesn’t stop–and the cousin just turns the radio up and swivels around so he can watch.

Can I join in too? he says. She’s hot, that one.

Gramos sticks his hand down Evan’s pants and finds the string of her tampon.

Bitch he says. At least you could give me a blow job.

Evan says No Gramos–I don’t want to do this–I want to go home–I want you to drive me back to the train station–or let me out and I’ll call a cab.

She starts to fight–but not too much–because there are two drunk men in the car and she thinks What if I make them angry? what will they do?

How about we just kiss gramos, she says. Then you take me back–cause I’m feeling sick. I don’t feel good. I have cramps.

An hour they are in the car.

Then they take her back to the train. Gramos gets on the train with her. She gets off at Wollaston–and Gramos grabs her and says suck it!–and he pulls her into the shadows behind a scrubby bush–

Evan sees a taxi. Get the hell off me Gramos! she says–and she runs for the cab.

Fifteen minutes later, Evan walks into her house. It’s midnight, maybe quarter past. Her mother is sitting at the kitchen table with her sweetie Thom.

How was Gramos? Evan’s mother asks. Evan slings her hair back. Her face is flushed. She looks pissed. Gramos is an idiot she says.

What did he do?

He’s just an idiot–we sat in his cousins freaking car for an hour and half listening to Jammin 94.9. I’m going to bed.

Her mom looks at Thom and shrugs. No more Gramos, she says, smiling. Mom of course, has no clue.

But when Evan’s mom goes upstairs for the night–she sees that Evan has forgotten to take her medication. Evan, she says, shaking her daughter awake. Honey–you have to take your pills.

So what was the deal with Gramos? Evan’s mom asks, hooking a tendril of hair behind her daughter’s ear.

Evan shakes her head. I hate that radio station–is all she says. I hope I never hear it again in my life.

Well, her mother thinks, relieved. Then it couldn’t have been that bad.

Ten days later, Evan tells me what happened. She wrote it down in an email to her friend Dawn–to Sue Kim–am I making too big a deal about this? she asks them.

Tell someone, they say. Urgently. Tell your mother.

But it goes badly. I’m scared. I tell her father–something Evan had said NOT to do–but when your daughter describes a sexual assault?–you WANT to tell her father. You want protection. You want her dad to say to his daughter–you’re OK. I love you. Now let’s go kill Gramos.

Now Evan is furious. Furious that I was so angry and freaked out–more furious still that I told her father–

You don’t get it mom, she says. I DON’T think of him as my DAD. He’s a dick. And when he talks to me–I want to throw up. And I can’t believe you told him.

You can hear the words in the air–like a smoke ring from her cigarettes:

I hate both of you.

Besides, she says, defiant lift to her chin–arms crossed across her chest. Megan already called Gramos. She told him if he ever touches or calls me again she will personally kick his ass.

Megan, I think. Oh Megan. Both these girls have Moxie–and maybe it’s
true!–maybe Megan can kick Gramos around the block. But honey, I say–i
wouldn’t bet on it–

and suddenly, Evan’s security detail seems tragically inadequate. Two girls out bombing around in Megan’s junker of a car–smoking, laughing, radio blaring–painting their nails, getting double bacon cheeseburgers at Wendy’s, picking up two dozen Krispy Creme donuts at midnight, hitting IHOP at 1 am.

Megan with her razor blade cuts and tattoos–Evan armed for self injury with her handy dandy box cutter.

My daughter leans toward me from her place on the living room sofa. It’s late. We are tired. She’s angry.

Just so you know, she says. I’m done talking about this, OK? No last names. No phone numbers. It would be his word and his cousins word against mine. I got into the car. No one made me.

Guys are fuckers anyway.

She turns her eyes in that way she has, and looks at the television. Channel 248. ESPN Sports highlights. Like she’s really interested. She clicks the volume up loud with the remote–click click click.

She stares at the screen. Something about baseball.

I’m sorry Evan, I tell her.
She nods.

Turn out the lights when you’re done.
She nods.

There’s a guy throwing a fastball 92 miles an hour reflected in her glasses.

Her face is completely still.

I love you Evan.
She nods.
A Mother’s Hope: Evan turns 19

—for Evan turning 19, on the occasion—one of many—when a
dear friend of Evan’s mother comes over with flowers for
the Birthday Girl

Someone is always bringing you flowers. Roses
when you were born. From the women I swam with
who lined up every winter on a cold clear day–
topless you understand!–in front of a camera
on a timer–for the picture that would go on that years’
Christmas card–Roses. I was the first to break ranks
get married, get pregnant, start a family. All those swimmers
arms, holding you, that morning in May, roses in a vase,
a hundred hopes that you would be faster
than all the rest of us, that you would swim far,
and–here’s a wish! that you would keep your elbows high.
19 years later, with pink tulips not red roses on the kitchen table,
and this card in your hand, you look up at me and smile,
and ask “what does THAT mean?” You who only swam if
compelled, you who never kept anything anywhere,
at least not that your father and I could tell and we’ve had
plenty of time to watch you. What it means is that you
roll through the water, and if you hold your elbows just right,
if you let each one in turn lift your shoulder, your arm;
let each one in turn draw your wrist and then your hand
so your fingers almost skim the surface of the pool–but
not quite–your course is effortless; elegant; a stroke
that takes you wherever you want to go–
at least that’s how it seemed, to those women who gave you roses
and that’s how it seemed to me, your mother, the 28 year old
new-to-all this–who took you swimming every day
for nine months–who couldn’t put together a layette
to save her life, but who was certain of this one thing:
that the baby who filled out my Speedo would never be afraid
of deep water, of shifty currents, of the cold, the wet–
or the shock of those near drowning experiences
without which–you cannot grow up. I should have saved you
one of those cards, a picture of us laughing, half naked,
strong and ordinary women, long since scattered to other pools,
the clothes pins like birds on the line behind us, our hair wet,
our skin cold, and hopes for each other–and for you!
that only swimmers—with flowers– could understand.

Shorter story still: Evan turns 20

That Blue Linen Dress

Twenty years ago today–big day. My swimming friends were stopping by the hospital to give me roses. None of us had a clue. I look back on twenty years of being a mom and I have been everything from a great mom to a bad mom–but along the way I learned to cook and keep house and grow basil and make simple repairs.

I found out I can be a bitch. I found out I can be a delight. I found out I can be patient. I found out I can be stubborn and inflexible and cranky. I found out I can be very funny, and i found out I can be resentful and angry. I found out I can read a book anytime, anywhere, anyplace– except in the two years following my separation. I also found out i cannot follow directions but I can always find a swimming pool. I found out I love dancing. And that I’m a bad dancer. The lord giveth and the lord taketh away. For the first time in my life, I have an all over tan. I don’t care too much about traveling, but I’m glad i had a chance to travel when i was in college.

The day Evan cut her arms so badly I had to take her right in to Westwood–we stopped at Caryn’s Corner and i bought a dress for 52 dollars.

It was like a terrible party–Evan manic and laughing and her legs bumping up and down like a drumroll, blood soaking through the bandage on her arm. me shopping on the way to a psychiatric treatment facility–where they say–your daughter should have gotten stitches.

Too late now. Had to shop.

That was the place where the high muckety muck doctor told me: She isn’t cutting herself–she’s cutting you.

I still don’t know what to make of that. I don’t tell people, because it seems like I must be some kind of monster mother if that–literally–is true. Or at least as
literally true as a metaphor can be.

I cried on my way home, and I never wore that dress.


One year later: We’re good for now

May 13, 2007
Happy Mother’s Day!

It’s a beautiful day, and you looked superfly going to work (to make everyone your bitch no less). You’re going to be finished school soon — a hard summer in front of you, maybe, but you’ve certainly had harder, and you’ve got three smashing kids and five very driven cats to help you out. I think Mother’s Day this year falls right on the cusp of great things — scholastic and professional and feline achievements in sight.

How wonderful! I think that we live in a house full of people who are making it, and it’s so exciting. I’m so happy. Seriously — the big complaint about Johnny has gone from run ins with the police to the fact that he mows the lawn every day, which seems like too much and is maybe not good for the grass. Jessie has transitioned into middle school with more grace than I could imagine having, at that age or this, and is looking more and more like a teenager whose boyfriends Johnny will beat badly. We’ll keep tellng her she’s not a real person yet, but secretly we all know she’s growing up in a suddenly noticeable way.

And I love living here. I love the company and the goofiness of Johnny and Jessie together, I love the cats, even when you rant about Fenway (What kind of a cat throws up while running?! She is SO RUDE). I love your FutureShoes and the collection of horse themed vests you have. You are the only person on the planet who can wear equestrian print clothing and rock it, so it’s good you’re getting it all off the internet, and out of the hands of those who cannot similarly make it shine.

So look at that. Mother’s Day coincides with the blooming of the three people you’ve mothered so fabulously, with patience and humor and more patience. You’ve given us strength and empathy, and you’re the person I try to imagine in my situation when I don’t know what to do. Because I bet if you asked any of your patients at the library, they’d tell you they feel mothered by you too, protected and safe and important when they’re with you, which is a wonderful gift. It is a gift you’ve given me every day, and it is a gift that I try to give everyone else in turn.

If only you could really get through to Fenway.

I love you, mom, and this Mother’s Day is special. I’m finally not writing about hardship making us stronger– instead I’m writing about just being stronger. Which we all are. Here’s the other side, we’ve all come out, it’s spring and it’s a beautiful life.

Love Evan


8/1/2007 Life goes on:

Your ‘stache is so big you could go live in Texas and be an oil baron. You’d sit in a big leather chair and thoughtfully twirl the ends with your right hand. You’d smoke a cigar and pet a menacing cat. Your hat would be 20 gallons.
Love veeve

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