Robon photo by Alex

Responsibilities at the Trauma Foundation

I joined fellow librarian Bill Holland in the amphitheatre which housed the Injury & Violence Prevention Library in 1992 right after I got my MLIS in Library & Information Science at UC Berkeley, and never looked back. There was so much going on at that time that it is hard to pick out specific tasks. I directed the library, but it wasn’t a usual library, and we learned by reading, asking, and doing. Together, we built the collection and created a unique glossary and classification system for it. We answered calls from people with reference questions. We created fact sheets, FAQs, and bibliographies, and translated complex epidemiological and professional data and research into information that people could use on the ground to make change. We also benefited from the generosity of library volunteer and survivor advocate Jimmy Brennan. When we developed the Pacific Center for Violence Prevention, the network of users got enormously wider and more diverse, and the library staff increased. My tenure coincided with the burgeoning of the internet, so with Peggy Skaj and Lynne Olivier, we planned and designed the Trauma Foundation’s suite of web sites and trained community members and youth to navigate its rough and tumble seas. We created the architecture behind the suite of web pages, learned html, wrote and edited articles for the sites and for professional journals. It was a fascinating experience.

Liked most about the Trauma Foundation

I will mention three things. Firstly, work was meaningful. We tackled social problems in a politically savvy way, and concrete good came of what we did. That was important to me.
     Secondly, I loved the people, both inside and outside the Trauma Foundation. Inside, we worked as a team. We did have an org chart on paper, but day-to-day, everyone contributed. We also teamed with wonderful people, like Lori Dorfman and the Berkeley Media Studies Group, and Lorna Hawkins with Drive-By Agony, and even had an international effort, with folks like Philip Alpers and I still get pleasure hearing Anita Johnson on Hard Knock Radio (KPFA). When I knew her, she was a trainee at Youth Radio and tackling important issues (as she does still) around guns, youth violence and the prison industrial complex.
     Thirdly but hardly last, we were always encouraged to stretch our capabilities. When problems arose, we got together to solve them - using the staff we had. Unlike big corporations with strict rules about what one can and can’t do, we were expected to manage our areas using our own skills and creativity. And so we did.

Learnings still useful

I don’t think I would have pursued a doctorate without working first at the Trauma Foundation. My long-term interest is in language and literature/poetry and how it interacts with class, culture and race, but before my experience at the TF, I did not feel equipped with the tools to pursue that in a sophisticated fashion. At the Trauma Foundation, we were encouraged to problem solve, to gain new competencies. I knew nothing about the subject of injury and violence prevention when I came, but I started to read professional journals and learned on the fly. In epidemiological studies, for example, I saw how data were sought, acquired, analyzed, and discussed. This equipped me with skills for understanding how a subject is put together, and enabled me to examine how political and social problems behave, how systems emerge, how systemic interventions are formulated and how one might advocate for something different. After a while, when I was asked to write articles for professional journals, I realized I could and I enjoyed it.
     Actually, the Violence Prevention Initiative was very important for me. It brought me together with people from very different backgrounds, cultures, classes, languages. I remember sitting there and the Talking Stick was coming my way, and I wanted to disappear but didn’t. This community pushed me emotionally and culturally, and it was good for me.


After I left the Trauma Foundation, I started a doctoral program in the Literature Department at UC Santa Cruz, and got my PhD in 2009. Right now, among other things, I am revising my dissertation into a book, entitled: This Side of a Human Future: Poetry Wars and Imagined Communities in the San Francisco Bay Area - 1975-1990. I do some temporary reference work at the Main branch of the San Francisco Public Library, and will continue teaching “Language and Thinking” at the summer session at Bard College back east. Next Fall I will also teach at the San Francisco Art Institute. I interview writers, review poetry, and other work that catches my eye on my blog.
     Clay, my partner, helps to make all of this happen as painlessly as possible, and our daughter Alex thrives. She is fluent in Spanish, continues to study classical ballet, and enters high school in the fall.


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