Via RH Reality Check, I’ve learned about the awesome SexInfo. Launched in San Francisco by Internet Sexuality Infomartion Services (ISIS), SexInfo lets teens receive health information via text message when they send numerical codes for common questions–1 for a broken condom, 6 if you’re not sure you want to have sex, and so on. While the texts require minimal effort on the part of teens, the messages they receive in response fully utilize the character limit. Responses include clinic addresses, hours and phone numbers, and a brief (often empowering) message to the teen, like “It’s ur choice 2 have sex or not.”

I can see huge potential here for libraries. According to RH Reality check,

Isis’ efforts to advertise the program ranged from flyers and bus shelter ads to getting a popular local hip-hop artist to help spread the world — but their community partnerships with clergy, juvenile justice groups, and health educators were particularly vital. They plan to spread the program, with variations, to DC and Toronto within the next year, and further after that.

How about community partnerships with libraries? The reference interview can be particularly sticky when it comes to medical information in general, with nervous patrons sidling up to the desk with a question like “Do you have any books on diseases?” when the real problem is “What do I do about this rash?” And for teens already feeling like they live in a fishbowl, asking about sexual health brings up huge issues of privacy and confidentiality. Ta da! Coded text messaging with quick, reliable results! I really hope libraries in San Francisco think to publicize SexInfo (discreetly, of course) in their young adult sections.

Now, I can already hear parental objections. With the popularity of websites like Teen Chat Decoder, it’s clear that some adults are getting freaked out by teen cell phone use. (My opinion? If your kid doesn’t feel comfortable talking with you about sexual health, you have bigger problems than figuring out the code.)

But if health professionals can use text messages to remind patients to take their birth control, couldn’t libraries be using text messages to send overdue and hold notices, or remind the youth advisory board about the meeting on Wednesday night?

About mk Eagle

I'm the librarian at Holliston High School, a bit west of Boston. In my spare time I advise my school's yearbook and Gay Straight Alliance, write about food, and root for the Red Sox.

5 Thoughts on “For a Broken Condom, Press 1

  1. MK, thanks for picking up on this story. I think you’re completely right that libraries are an obvious partner in publicizing SexInfo and other new media-based sexual health programs to teens. It’s exciting to see librarians supporting the many innovative ways to bring critical sexual health information to teens who are getting none of it at school. In the absence of factual, informative school sexuality education programs, do you notice teens leaning more heavily on libraries’ resources? Or are libraries just as under-resourced?

    Also, did we go to college together?!

    –Emily, RH Reality Check

  2. Alas, I’m still a library student, so I’ll have to defer to YALSA folks working in libraries to really answer your question. My hunch from the school libraries I’ve been in recently is that libraries are certainly under-resourced–sometimes woefully so–and that in schools where abstinence-only or otherwise non-comprehensive sex ed is the norm, librarians may be afraid to “cross the party line” in terms of what kind of sexual health information to provide. But hopefully we’re precisely the kind of bold librarians willing to take a risk and give young adults the information they need.

    (It’s entirely possible. Did you play rugby, by any chance?)

  3. MK, Woohoo! You go girl. Thanks for plugging sexinfo. We are GIANT public library fans. Besides being regular users, public libraries are one of the only places in the U.S. where young people can get free, confidential sexual health information (no Internet filters, no charge for books). Thank you.

    Oh, and the Oakland, CA public libraries do make available lists of sex education websites for youth. All the good ones are there — Teenwire, TeenSource, Sex, Etc., ScarletTeen, and some other great sites.

  4. Great job,,,,,,,,,

  5. I profess the use text messaging for spreading the awareness of “CONDOMS” among young people.
    The same campaign was launched by last month, we were thrilled by the response to the campaign.
    Different types of information messages were sent to thousands of youths in TEXAS.
    The content of the messages was devised around :
    1) What are Condoms?
    2) Why to use “Condoms”?
    3) The emergence of “Female Condoms”.

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