Carnegie Library introduces new bookmarks to help find books on sensitive topics without having to ask a librarian | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Carnegie Library introduces new bookmarks to help find books on sensitive topics without having to ask a librarian

The primary goal of any library is to provide access to information, and to make that information easy to find for patrons. A new feature being tested at the Carnegie Library Main branch hopes to reduce a barrier people might face when researching sensitive topics.

A few weeks ago, the library introduced bookmarks that list an array of personal subjects, from abusive relationships, to bankruptcy, to puberty, along with the call numbers for the non-fiction section containing materials on the topic. Patrons can find the collection of books on a topic without having to ask someone directly where to find it.

The initiative was spearheaded by Janie Messina, a library assistant in the teen department of CLP-Main. She says the library team was mulling over how to implement the idea of a tool like this for years because they know not everyone wants to mention such personal topics to a librarian. She also notes that the library is not trying to label these topics as embarrassing but acknowledge that some people are private.

"Our goal is to provide access to information in whatever way we can, and that includes introverted people who don't wanna talk to their librarians," says Messina.

She compiled a list of topics for her fellow library staff to edit, comment on, and add topics to before settling on the current list of 23 topics and call numbers on a bookmark. The bookmarks are currently piloting at CLP-Main to gouge interest and receive feedback before launching them to more branches. 

While the library does have computers where patrons can search topics in the library's catalog, Messina says that not all patrons can use a computer or know how to optimize a search engine. 

"Not everybody knows how to use the catalog, not everybody is comfortable coming up with the search term themselves," she says, "and I feel like being able to use a search function effectively is not something that everyone can do and it's something we take for granted a lot of times."

Of course, if patrons don't want to talk to their librarians about a sensitive topic, than they likely don't want talk to them about a tool that makes it easier for them to find books on a sensitive topic, so the library will set up a comment box to get anonymous feedback.