Tuesday, July 19th, 2022

TinyCat’s July Library of the Month: The Maurice Ritz Resource Center

TinyCat’s Library of the Month is a rather timely one: Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s Community Library, the Maurice Ritz Resource Center. I interviewed the Center’s Resource and Training Specialist Anne Brosowsky-Roth who was kind enough to field my questions this month:

Who are you, and what is your mission—your “raison d’être”?

The Maurice Ritz Resource Center is the Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin Community Library. It was founded in 1972 with seed money donated by a board member. It is Wisconsin’s only library dedicated to human sexuality and sex education. Housed in the Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin Milwaukee headquarters, it provides materials and resources for parents, educators, health care providers, social workers, case managers, youth workers, and others working to improve their capacity when addressing sexuality with their own children, students, patients, clients, and participants. 

The collection includes over 3,000 books, curricula, and audiovisuals. The resource center also houses a non-circulating research collection of historical materials relating to human sexuality dating from the 19th century onward.

Tell us some interesting things about how your library supports the community.

We are the only library in Wisconsin that specializes in human sexuality. We have a variety of unique holdings, including a section dedicated to sex education for people with disabilities. Our library offers resources and support for families who need to have conversations they might never have expected to need to have for their children with unique needs, like supporting kids with sensory differences coping with puberty, or people with cognitive disabilities navigating relationships.

What are some of your favorite items in your collection?

My personal favorite items are historical sex guides and manuals that live in our archival collection. They really open a window to the ways sex, sexuality, and gender have evolved in the United States over the last 100 years or so. One of my favorites was a book written for newlywed young husbands in the late 1800s, which includes “everything” he needs to know about marriage—except for intercourse. (Though it does contain “scientific” evidence about the importance of having separate beds lest couples become too overcome with passion.)

Another is a script for a radio program from the 1950s, which role-modeled ways parents could incorporate instruction about sex using everyday teachable moments. A mother tells her daughter about menstruation as they bake together. A father explains the facts of life when a neighbor’s dog has puppies. And there is this conversational lead in to a conversation about wet dreams…

FATHER: (THE CAREFUL LEAD-IN) You know, Bob, you’re getting to be a pretty big fellow! Yes sir – maybe this is a good idea. Chance for us to have a little talk.

BOB: Why sure, Dad. What’s cookin’?

FATHER: Mind if I smoke in your room?

BOB: (PLEASED AT BEING ASKED) Why, no, Dad. Go ahead!

FATHER: Thanks. Your mother will probably have a fit. She just had the curtains washed. (PUFFS AS HE LIGHTS PIPE…BOB CHUCKLES THROUGH PUFFS) Remember the last time we talked about this old body of ours, Bob?…

Sex, stereotypes, and smoking, all in one tiny piece of dialogue. It doesn’t get much better than that.

What’s a particular challenge your library experiences?

As a library within a larger organization, we have bounced around through different departments over the years. When we began, we were housed within community education, as we supported our staff educators who would provide programming to the public. When our organization experienced budget cuts that eliminated educational programming, we were moved into patient services, to support a program that supported nurse practitioners (NPs) working on their certification. When our state required NPs to get a degree through an accredited university, we were moved into development. It’s been a constant struggle to explain the reasons for continuing to support and value the maintenance of a library.

That seems to be a constant struggle for too many small libraries! 

Switching gears a bit: as a supporter of small libraries, ourselves, can you tell us your favorite thing about TinyCat, and also something you’d love to see implemented/developed?

TinyCat was revolutionary for us. We are very small, in terms of the size of our collection and our budget. One staff person oversees the library, and that is not their primary role. Until a few years ago, everything was done on paper—acquisitions records, materials processing, I even hand-typed cards and book labels. This made access difficult for all but a few dedicated users. Since the library serves staff at 23 different sites, and most of the public that uses our library doesn’t live in our region, there was no way for them to browse or access the collection. 

While we knew an OPAC was always the gold standard, there was no way we could afford access with our tiny budget. TinyCat was a game changer. The low cost combined with an easy-to-use interface for the first time meant that people could access our materials in the same way they might look things up at their local library. Even for people unfamiliar with doing searches, I can just send them a link to search results. It has made acquisitions easier as well. We have a very niche collection—it’s easy to see what other similar collections contain and add that might be of interest to our users.

I would love to see a robust circulation option built in—that could be used to solicit and track patrons.

Great suggestion. While we don’t (yet) have a way for you to message patrons within TinyCat en masse, you can add/import/track your patrons and their circulation data, and we will continue to make improvements to the system as we grow. Thanks for your feedback!

Want to learn more about the Maurice Ritz Resource Center? Explore their full TinyCat collection here.

To read up on TinyCat’s previous Libraries of the Month, visit the TinyCat Post archive here.

Want to be considered for TinyCat’s Library of the Month? Send us a Tweet @TinyCat_lib or email Kristi at kristi@librarything.com.

Labels: libraries, Library of the Month, TinyCat


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