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Flossmoor librarian’s ‘Asking for a Friend’ brochures share topical information with teens

“Asking for a Friend” pamphlets were created by Anna Pauls, Flossmoor Public Library’s youth services manager. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)


As the Flossmoor Public Library’s youth services manager, Anna Pauls had an idea on how to assist young patrons needing information “for a friend.”

Pauls started recognizing the important topics and decided she’d find a way to help get information to the young people in a discreet way through pamphlets on topics as varied as mental health, healthy sexual relationships, incarceration and LGBTQ issues.

“Unfortunately, some kids are struggling with (these issues), and they’re not likely to walk up to me and ask if I have information on being bullied, or a situation in your house of domestic abuse,” Pauls said. 

“Asking for a Friend” pamphlets were created by Anna Pauls, Flossmoor Public Library’s youth services manager. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

She needed to find a way to give them “information they could take with them and visit websites in the privacy of their own home; not necessarily asking questions in town where everybody can hear them. Some of these things are super touchy,” Pauls said.

Pauls and youth services assistant Krystal Webb began investigating topics, gathering websites for information and going through Flossmoor’s collection for pertinent materials. 

They started the project in September. Today the Flossmoor library has brochures covering 15 topics. The list includes bullying, cancer, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, eating disorders and body image, grief, gun violence, healthy relationships and sexual assault, homelessness and runaway situations, incarceration, LGBT+ issues, mental health, sexual health and teen pregnancy, substance abuse and suicide prevention.

Pauls says she is planning several more.

On Feb. 27, Pauls will share her “Asking for a Friend” project at the Public Library Association’s 2020 National Conference in Nashville. Hers was one of 16 projects, selected from 85 submissions, for the “Spark Talks” section of the conference.

Pauls is calling hers “Creating a Tough Topics Research Center @ Your Library.” She got the idea from a California library webinar presentation on addressing mental health issues. 

Each brochure is designed with the same look: “Asking for a Friend” title, a graphic and the topic. The brochure has four panels of information, including a definition of the topic, links to national, state and local resources and websites, ways to “help a friend” and library resources. The brochures are geared toward junior high and high school students.

“It’s really important to me that everybody feels like they have privacy because you don’t want everyone to know, but also keeping it visible, especially for teens; that they know they have access, that we’re providing it for them,” Pauls stressed.

“Balancing that was part of the reason I chose (to display them) by the elevator, because a lot of kids are by the elevator,” she explained.

Pauls keeps the displays filled, “so no one notices that someone picked one up.”

“I wanted it to be there for them so they knew this was a place people care enough to create these materials for them,” she added.

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