Next Edge

“A Trauma Informed Lens Changes What You See”

As we recognize the prevalance of interpersonal violence and trauma in our culture, it is increasingly clear that the learning we’ve gained about what we can do about it needs to be shared across the community. Understanding trauma — what happened — as well as resilience and recovery — what heals — is important knowledge for everyone to hold. In the Trauma Informed Communities movement, we are becoming clear in defining the “Universal Precautions” that every citizen can learn, because their lives will certainly cross with those affected by toxic stress and trauma. Think about teachers, child care providers, medical professionals, friends and neighbors, First Responders, retail personnel, almost anyone who can encounter a vulnerable person.

I recently had the opportunity to think about what librarians experience in their day to day work. You might guess that as people who are homeless seek out the shelter and services of a library, a need would arise for the staff to have a set of skills in addition to their professional expertise — but it’s more than that. Libraries are havens for all kinds and ages of people. I just heard my cousin Annette talk about her libray after school program, where children of working parents come on a regular basis, sometimes with accompanying challenges — a place to read, do homework, access the internet if you do not have it in your home, and a place to encounter caring, safe, and supportive adults. A recent episode of “This American Life”, titled “The Room of Requirement”, tells the story of a young woman with an enduring memory of a librarian who literally changed her life. From the introduction: ” Libraries aren’t just for books. They’re often spaces that transform into what you need them to be: a classroom, a cyber café, a place to find answers, a quiet spot to be alone. It’s actually kind of magical.” Libraries, trusted community institutions, can serve as hubs for mental health education. Not to mention — THEY ARE FULL OF BOOKS! Our literary history, back to its origins, is all about encountering traumatic events, engaging with them, being marked by them, and finding ways to overcome. Think about The Iliad and The Odyssey. How does a person return home from the trauma of war and find a path to re-enter that life? “Achilles went on grieving for his friend  killed in battle                  …all-conquering sleep refused to visit him….as memories crowded in on him, the warm tears poured down his cheeks…”         A true account of post traumatic stress in the language of those times.

I developed two webinars for library professionals to support them in their work with vulnerable patrons. Califa Group is a nonprofit library membership consortium of more than 230 libraries throughout California, and it offers Continuing Education training through the Infopeople project,  As part of a mental health initiative, I was invited to present on issues of trauma. My webinar, ‘A Trauma Informed Lens Changes What You See”, was presented in May of this year. Here is a link to the archived webinar.

In July, I did a similar presentation to University of Tennessee Library Science students, thanks to a connection with my long time friend and colleague, Julie Winkelstein. We go back as far as high school in Livermore, California, and were roommates together during our first year at the University of California at Berkeley.

Being Present with Your Practice

Recharge for Resilience is a conference for professionals working with children and families in their homes, including home visitors, parent coaches, visiting nurses or home healthcare workers, Early Development Network Service Coordinators, early childhood or classroom teachers, Migrant Education Coordinators, Head Start or Early Head Start teachers, family support workers, and early childhood mental health providers. It will be held in Kearney, Nebraska on October 30, 2019, and you can find program and registration information here.

I will be giving a presentation titled “Changing the Intergenerational Pathway of Trauma”, a subject I’ve been drawn to in my work, as we get closer and closer to understanding the roots of the problems we see in children’s lives, and the ultimate in prevention and early intervention.

Professionals who work with young children find that there are enormous challenges to engaging parents and supporting their changes. In this presentation, I will explore the importance of attachment, not only between child and parent, but between parent and helper. The expanded ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) model offers insight into how we can be more effective.