Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Demographic Information

This year is a census year in the US. The census happens every ten years and is a massive undertaking by the federal government to count all its residents. The information is used in a number of ways, including determining how funds are distributed and whether the number of representatives in the House needs to be adjusted because of population losses or gains. Names and personal information are not released until something like 70 years have passed (for example, the 1940 census raw data won't be made public until 2012), but how can you get to the aggregate data? Check out

There are tons of pages of information available. You can find statistics on all kinds of topics all the way down to the local town level. It's almost overwhelming, but scan the links in the center of the screen first. If you're looking for basic information, it might be listed there. If that doesn't work, you may want to try a search (the box is in the upper right). Also, take a look at the "Subjects A to Z" link in the upper right. That might help if you're not quite sure what to search for.

If you want data for the years since the last census, check out American FactFinder in the menu on the left. Not every year is represented, but at least the information is more recent than the previous census.

To get local statistics, use the Population Finder on the right side of the homepage. Also check the QuickFacts, also on the right. Area profiles include states, counties, and towns of at least 25,000 people. To find a smaller town, select the state the look in the "city" menu. The last option is "Other places not listed," and you might be able to find your town by searching that way.

What if you need data from other years? Take a look at the Statistical Abstract of the United States. The information is housed on the Census website, but the information is gathered through means other than the census questionnaire and is released yearly. Generally you can't get down to town level, just counties or cities. Click the "Earlier Editions" tab to get the Stats Abstract back to 1878. Other historical data is available back 1789. Also check the links on the left to get to specific sections of the current edition. Other similar resources, such as the "County and City Data Book," are listed on the right of the main Stats Abstract page. Your local library  may have some of these books in its reference collection, but the information is also all on the Internet. Feel free to ask your local librarian if you need assistance with the books or the website.

There's another place to find some basic demographic information: ePodunk. Type your town into the search box on the right. You should get a long page with a list of sections on the left. Under each section are links specific to your location. You can find everything from population to cemeteries to real estate to local events. This might be a great starting place if you're moving and are curious about your new town, or if you need genealogical resources.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Book Review - "Not My Daughter" by Barbara Delinsky

At first glance this book is about mothers and daughters and what happens when a daughter does something the mother might not like. How do those unpopular decisions reflect on the mom, and is it fair to hold the mother responsible? But this book also goes deeper than that to address issues such as friendship, motherhood, pact behavior, teen pregnancy, mothers and daughters, fathers and daughters, marriage, standing up for yourself, and loyalty.

Three high school seniors, Lily, Mary Kate, and Jessica, decide to get pregnant after working one summer as mothers' helpers. They have different reasons for wanting babies--such as to create family or to have something that's entirely her own--but mostly they dream that their children (daughters hopefully) will have the same life-long bond that their mothers have and that they themselves have. They never plan on what happens when they announce their pregnancies and their intentions to carry to term.

The girls' decision is the central focus of the book, but this is really Susan's story. She is Lily's mother and the high school principal. She had also been an unwed teen mom so she understands some of what Lily is going through, but she has a hard time comprehending why Lily would want a baby so much that she would plan to get pregnant...and why her friends would also make that same plan. Susan questions her mothering skills, knowing she did the best she could yet at the same time wondering whether it was enough. Her relationship with her own mother is distant and strained so she doesn't have that tie to rely on, but she does have her three best friends: Kate, Sunny, and Pam. Two of them are also dealing with pregnant daughters, so they become Susan's support system. As if dealing with an expectant teen isn't enough, Susan constantly has to defend her job and the decisions she makes as principal, and her battle against the school board and against certain town citizens is uphill.

We also get some glimpses into the lives of the other girls and their families. There is denial, threats to send the girls away, worry over the health of their babies, and the need to deal with classmates and family members, not to mention the fathers of their babies. Lily begins to realize that her decision to become a mom affects not only her but also her mother, the boy involved, and so many other people that she never considered. As she watches her mom face the superintendent and the school board and respond to parent concerns, she says things like "I never imagined." She is an incredibly knowledgeable girl in the facts of pregnancy, knowing how long her fetus is at each week, but she is naive about the permanent changes a baby will bring. Bad news forces Lily and Susan, and by extension the other girls and their moms, to really decide how they will approach the impending births.

This is a powerful book. We watch as Susan faces one challenge after another, questioning and doubting herself at times but also needing to be strong for her daughter. She knows she is a good principal, but she isn't quite as confident in her parenting skills. Echoes of other authors struck me as I read this book. Names like Jodi Picoult and Anita Shreve popped into my mind. Delinsky doesn't lay out the same ethical dilemmas as Picoult or have the same unique writing style as Shreve, but her family dynamics and her characters' relationships are drawn in similar ways. Readers of authors such as Patricia Gaffney, Luanne Rice, and Kristin Hannah will enjoy this one.


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Monday, March 1, 2010

How Do You Get Your News?

Saw an interesting blog post from The Librarian in Black. She wrote about the recent report from Pew Internet. Here are some stats:

The Pew Internet & American Life Project released a new report this morning about the consumption of news in a digital setting.  The report can be found on the Pew website.  Some of the interesting findings:
  • 92% of Americans surveyed use multiple places & platforms to get their daily news
  • local & national television stations still come out ahead of the internet as news sources
  • 59% of Americans surveyed use both online & offline news sources
  • 33% of cell phone owners access news on their phones
  • 28% of internet users have customized homepages with news sources (e.g. iGoogle)
  • 37% of internet users have actually participated in news dissemination, creation, or commenting
  • 75% of those who get news online find news through email forwards or through friends’ posts on social networking sites
  • 52% of those who get news online also share links to news with others through email or social networking
  • 55% report that it is now easier to keep up with news and information than it was five years ago, and yet…
  • 70% feel overwhelmed by the amount of news and information available
How do you get your news? Do you prefer print, television, Internet, or a combination?