Posts Tagged ‘domestic violence’

In our Community Relations & Advocacy class, George posed an interesting question: “Is there a way to capture…instances where a library or librarian has made a real difference and corral that into evidence of value that would compel others to use and support the library?”

I have a couple thoughts on ways that libraries can make a real difference, some evidence that may encourage support of the library as a valuable information source.  First, libraries partner with local nonprofits and social service agencies to support the desemination of information about their services.  For instance, I have seen where Tulsa libraries provide information about domestic violence intervention services information in their public restrooms.  The idea behind this is that while victims of abuse are kept under surveillance by their abusers and are thus unable to request information about how to escape abuse, the restroom is a place where victims may have a moment of privacy.  There they can pick up a “DV restroom card” with info on how to get help and slip it in their purse or pocket without their abuser knowing.  The fact that libraries are making an effort to provide information, safely and privately, to a population that desperately needs it—I think the victims that are able to escape because of that information would say the library made a real difference in their lives.  This isn’t a small population either—statistics indicate that 1 in 3 women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

I think the people who learn to read through library literacy programs would say that the library made a real difference in their lives.  I think the people who get free tax assistance at the public library, and the people who find employment after using library resume writing and job searching resources would say the same thing.

What we need is a way to stay in contact with the people who have been helped so they can help us advocate for the value of the library.  Many nonprofits have speakers’ panels, people who volunteer to speak to groups of people about the value of the service they received at Domestic Violence Intervention Services, or at The Salvation Army Homeless Shelter, etc.  They speak to church groups, rotary groups, the elks, the moose, kiwanis clubs, school kids, to educate them about issues like dating violence, homelessness, hunger, child abuse, and how these groups can help.  Maybe libraries need speakers’ panels to talk about literacy, intellectual freedom and how to get help with finding the information they need?

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Okay, I’ve neglected this thing for too long.

In class two weeks ago, we talked about Tulsa’s information infrastructures: the arrival of railroads, churches, radio, television, the Internet, etc.  I’m always drawn to things outside the mainstream, and I started thinking about alternative information infrastructures, information subcultures, the information underground.  Those information infrastructures that aren’t major to the majority, but are significant to some populations.

A couple back-alley information infrastructures occured to me, “hobo symbols” for one.  Individuals who rode the rails and settled temporarily in tent cities across the country used these symbols to leave messages for other wayfarers.  Many of them weren’t literate, or wanted to leave messages that even the uneducated could understand, and so they left pictographs scratched on rocks, fence posts, barns, what-have-you, to help others passing through.  One picture scratched on a fence post might tell other travelers that a scary dog lives in this yard, so watch out.  Another symbol might indicate a nice lady lives in this house who will provide food.  This information infrastructure might be very old and rather crude, but it was significant and widely recognized by the drifters of the time.  I wonder if today’s homeless populations still use those symbols?

Another more current information infrastructure, developed in the last 30 years, I think, is similarly low-tech, but nonetheless effective.  When I worked for Domestic Violence Intervention Services, I learned about the “bathroom cards.”  Women living in abusive relationships are often kept on a short leash by their abusers, not allowed to go anywhere unsupervised in public.  Abuse is about power and control, and this is just one way abusers seek to control their victims.  Somewhere along the way, some advocates developed the idea of the bathroom card.  The ladies’ restroom is one place where men cannot go, where a female victims can temporarily escape the watchful eyes of male abusers.  Advocates leave bathroom cards in ladies’ restrooms as a way to reach women in need.  The cards contain phone numbers to call for help, strategies for escape, and a list of things a woman should bring with her when fleeing an abusive relationship, like identification, birth certificate, social security card, change of clothes, toothbrush, etc.  A woman can slip the card in her purse or pocket, where hopefully her abuser won’t find it.  These cards are very effective for conveying information to those who are cut off.

Granted, this only works for heterosexual couples, and unfortunately, abuse exists in all kinds of relationships.  I’m not sure what methods are available for subtly reaching gay victims.

These are just a couple information infrastructures that lie off the beaten path.  Others include graffiti, gang symbols and colors, and display of name brands to communicate status.  It’s an interesting topic of study.

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