Origin Story II

Welcome back to the Independent Ideas Summer Series, Origin Stories.

Today we meet Kate Hammond from The Perkiomen School in Pennsylvania.

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My Origin Story

“I wish I could take her to the library and hand her over to the librarians. Please teach her about everything, I’d say” (A.S. King, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, p.44).

At this point in the novel, Glory’s friend Ellie is being manipulated by her boyfriend into unsafe sex. Glory’s wished-for solution? The magical, trustworthy power of the library and librarians.

In the early 2000’s I was a volunteer for Planned Parenthood. I talked to students in Baltimore about preventing STI’s and pregnancy, answering questions that often revealed an appalling lack of knowledge about the human body and reproduction. I demonstrated how to use male and female condoms. I handed out brochures. I left these sessions feeling uneasy. How many students weren’t asking questions who needed to? How many were blowing off my extremely didactic presentation, who might need that information that very afternoon?

Later, while working as a research assistant in the school of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale on a study with pregnant and parenting teens I met many young women who had not had access to information they needed to stay safe, healthy, and avoid pregnancy. If there had been any attempts to deliver information, they hadn’t stuck well.

If teens weren’t getting the information they needed from home, school, or friends, they needed to be empowered to get it themselves. Where? Who makes sure the resources they need are there, as well as the skills to access, evaluate, and use information? Protects their privacy? We all know the answers to those questions, but when I first figured it out, it was a calling – and a relief!

One day my brain clicked and I Googled “teen librarian” to see if there was such a thing. I discovered YALSA and the book For Sex Education, See Librarian by Cornog and Perper (Greenwood, 1996). Perfect. Did I mention I also love YA fiction?

I came to a school library by circumstance; my husband took a job teaching at a boarding school, and I finished grad school that first year. I would gaze longingly at the school library across the street. After our second year (and first baby), the librarian retired and I was in the right place at the right time, more than ready to get to work. I discovered that school is the place – I know all of my patrons and get to see them grow as learners and people. However, my original inspiration has fallen by the wayside as I’ve become happily immersed in this multi-faceted profession. I’ve been hoping for some help or signs to get me back on track in some way. I have been lucky enough recently to have been given a few:

  • A conversation with a friend about the state of sex education here and everywhere
  • Another conversation with some aware students about the disappointing presentation they heard. Someone was yammering at them about STI’s.
  • My suggestion of an Unconference session on Sex Ed. and the Library was thwarted by an unknown person scared of or against the conversation
  • An invitation from AISL to share my origin story
  • The quotation from my author hero, A.S. King, which reaffirmed that yes this is, can be, and should be an important role to play. Thank you!

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We are still collecting Origin Stories and would love to hear from you.  If you would like to share yours (500 words or less) please send it to Allison Peters Jensen at allison.peters@coloradoacademy.org

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