It seems like I’ve been here forever, but as of this month I’ve been at the Chattanooga Public Library for 1 year, 4 months. In that time, we’ve accomplished a lot of great things for the Chattanooga community. At the same time, I haven’t been able to share as much because….well, things just got really busy in a good way! So this post is my Chattanooga catch up post….a way to share all of the positive things that have been happening around Chattanooga over the past few months.
One of the big new things in my world is library management. I manage The 2nd Floor, which is our brand name for the kid/tween/teen area. It’s a huge space full of many different personalities, ages, and ideas. I do the weekly scheduling, make sure payroll gets in on time, order supplies, think a lot about the big picture stuff, and make sure that the staff is happy. Looking at what I just wrote doesn’t seem like much what I’ve learned is that a lot of these little things add up. My brain is constantly running, making sure that I’ve done all the necessary management things while still keeping focus on the big picture: The 2nd Floor as a place in the community where kids, tweens, and teens can have fun and learn something along the way.
It’s a change for me and I think it would be a change for most youth services librarians. Why? We’re very creative individuals. We dream up programs in our sleep. We are the living embodiment of a makerspace. Blending that creative brain with a management brain has been a challenge, but I’m getting there. You don’t have to kill one to have the other. You can make it work together.
VOLUNTEERS One of the big realities that I’m learning about it that you will never have enough staff to do everything you want to do. The other part of that is that, wow, hiring people is expensive. It’s not just the salary you need to look at, but benefits and all that other stuff.
That’s where volunteers come into the picture. The problem is that I’ve never been good with managing volunteers. It’s just not in my skill set and I’m ok with that. Luckily, Megan Emery is good at that and we work together. So basically when Megan got to Chattanooga she took the keys to the car and ran with them. And here’s how awesome it has been:
July was one of our biggest months with teen volunteers and it showed. They took on projects that helped spruce up The 2nd Floor, making it more visually appealing for our community. They became our 3D printing experts, working one on one with anyone interested in trying out the service for the first time. Our 2nd Floor staff had more time to focus on their projects, focus on customer service, and in general just be great employees. Volunteers matter a whole lot for the public library, and it’s even better when you give them a chance to work their own special brand of magic when they volunteer.
STATISTICS Every librarian has a library guilty pleasure. My guilty pleasure is statistics. I love collecting them, analyzing them, and then using those stats to help me make decisions. I love it when stats are down because it tells me that I need to grow and change something. I love it when stats are up because, well, that is just something that makes you feel really good.
I won’t bore you with individual stats that went (way) up last fiscal year at the Chattanooga Public Library (if you wanna check them out), but I will say this; having an idea of what is/what isn’t working will really help you better serve your community. It sharpens your focus and allows you to better delegate resources to the events and programs that best serve your community. Starting this month, the 2nd Floor started keeping track of how many people use the various areas of our space. The results so far have given us the numbers to back up exactly what all of our staff have been feeling: we’re very busy these days. As a manager, this allows me to look at how we’re working and how we can make improvements to better suit our staff.
CONSISTENCY IN PROGRAMMING I’ve grown to really love strong, consistent programming in libraries. If you do something well, you keep doing it and all throughout the process you keep on growing, refining, and making things better. However, at the same time you have to recognize when something isn’t working and make those changes. Consistent Programming gives your library something great to share that your community will remember. Think of each program as a brand. Get those brands into the minds of the community and they’ll be asking for more.
PEOPLE Back in 2010 when I wrote my first TTW post I talked about leadership and working in groups. At the core, that post was all about what really makes the public library work….PEOPLE.
It’s the people that work in the library that make things awesome for the community. No matter where you go in libraries, you always have to remember that it’s people that matter. Treat them with respect and love. Help them all along the way and let them know that their work counts in making your community a great place. I try to remind the folks that work on The 2nd Floor of that all the time. Working in a public library is important work for the community and YOU are making your city a better place to live.
I’m very excited to share our new NIGHT OUT program that we’ll be running next month at the Chattanooga Public Library. It’s a simple idea, but it is one of the best library programs I’ve put together. Why? Let me tell you.
Parents and guardians get to have a night out. Kids, Tweens, and Teens get to have a night out. Everyone is hanging out in the library, and everyone leaves the library happy.
Why am I so excited about this? Because I feel that it represents a shift in how we are approaching programs. To make something like this work, all parts of the library (including our great Friends of the Library group who are sponsoring this event) need to work together. The adult program has to be all set up and ready to go. The kid/tween/teen program has to be planned and executed properly. We need to make sure we’re sufficiently staffed. We need our security team to do their best to help us monitor all things on the 2nd Floor. A program like this is truly a library wide effort.
Plus, it all brings it back to our community. It is important for the public library to recognize what all of their community needs out of programming. For parents and guardians, simply not having to worry about childcare for an hour or two can be a big deal in deciding whether or not they’ll visit the library. Hopefully with this idea, we will see adults who may not have considered it a possibility to attend a library event all of a sudden enjoying our programs on a regular basis. Do what your community needs you to do.
This message is brought to you by Justin Hoenke after 5 years of parenting and realizing just how important it is for adults to get out and enjoy library events and not have to worry about what to do with your kid/tween/teen.
Why are we doing this? We’ve got a lot of wall space on The 2nd Floor and more importantly it starts conversations among our library guests and our staff. When our staff shares an example of a library service that we offer of something that interests us personally we open up the library to some great conversations. In those conversations, we make connections with our community. These connections make our place in the community stronger.
Jan Holmquist’s nominators describe him as a “global librarian,” and it’s easy to see why. In addition to his current work as head of development for Denmark’s Guldborgsund libraries, Holmquist’s side projects tend to involve collaboration with librarians all over the world. He is engaged with ongoing international projects in Germany and the Read Watch Play Twitter reading group based in Australia. And in 2011 and 2012, he worked with librarians in the United States and the UK on the “Buy India a Library Project” and then built awareness of the program’s efforts with a presentation on crowdfunding for libraries at the Bibliothekartag conference in Hamburg, Germany.
Congrats to Jan Holmquist, who was just named a 2014 Mover and Shaker by Library Journal!
TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke: Congrats to Jan! I’ve had the great pleasure of being connected with Jan via Twitter since 2010. Jan’s tweets and writings inspired me from the start to be the best librarian I can be. Jan is one of the most honest and sincere people I have ever met. He is truly the “global librarian” whose thoughts and teachings are held to no international boundary. Jan writes and shares from the heart. I am proud to not only call him a colleague but a friend as well.
Jan and Justin in Hamburg, Germany at the 2012 Bibliothekartag Library Confrernce
As Justin mentions above, I truly believe Jan is a perfect example of a humanistic, global librarian, one who embodies what Lawrence Clark Powell wrote about when he described “A good librarian is a librarian, a person with good health and warm heart, trained by study, and seasoned by experience to catalyze books and people.” For Jan, I’d venture to say he’s helping to catalyze librarians, learners and everyone with the power of technology.
Oops! I broke the 3D printer! And you know what? It’s OK.
Bits of a 3D printer, post hacksaw
One night on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library I attempted to make 3 Stretchlet bracelets on our 3D printer at one time. We’re taking our 3D printer to the local children’s museum later this month and wanted to built up our arsenal of 3D printed giveaways. My idea was to attempt to speed up that process and boy oh boy did it not work.
I came back to see the mess you see below. Something went wrong and our whole extruder was covered in plastic. I attempted to chip bits of the plastic but I had no luck. I called on James and Geoff from The 4th Floor to assess the damage. They took our 3D printer away, let us borrow one of theirs (thank you oh so much), and came back down 15 minutes later with the diagnosis: the electronics were a-ok, but they had to cut out some bits with a hacksaw. They contacted MakerBot support and the final verdict was in…
Thanks for contacting MakerBot Support! The part that are you are inquiring about can definately be purchased by contacting MakerBot Support at 347.334.6800 Option 2, MOnday through Friday 9am-6pm (EST).
The name of the part is called Extruder Carriage and the cost of the part is $12.
Phew. The 3D printer will be good to go in a week or so, and the damage wasn’t too bad. What did I learn besides the obvious “don’t make too many stretchlet bracelets at one time”? Well, it helped me see that even if I make a mistake with this 3D printer thing that it’s all going to be ok. It’s just a machine that can be fixed. It’s not the end of the world.
Now I have this awesome pile of plastic and bits of a 3D printer lying around that everyone on the 2nd Floor can show to tweens and teens and say “see, we messed up and that’s OK because we learned something.”
J: Yah, just a test. We put it online because that’s the whole point of the on air hangout…to record a conversation and share it online. Plus, it was kind of neat to watch how we worked through any trouble we had.
J: Yes. What we’re doing on the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library (our space dedicated to ages 0-18) lines up really well with what the 4th Floor is going for. We want to try neat things and see if they stick. We’re happy to show our successes, failures, and the road we took to get there.
W: Can you share any other ways you’re putting your tests and trials out there?
W: But isn’t that embarrassing putting all the errors and mistakes out there for the public to see?
J: Not at all. Part of the fun is trying out new things and seeing how the community reacts. If they don’t respond to something we do on the 2nd Floor, all that says to me is “keep on thinking, keep on trying.” It’s actually pretty exciting.
W: That’s very cool. I think it’s good for us to remember that while we might be good at librarianship, and a few others things, there are people in our community who use our libraries who are much better at certain things, and their input and observations on our library processes and trials can help build better services.
So I see you’re doing a summer coding camp at Chattanooga – what is that teaching the teens about keeping your mistakes open and public? Software development is a wonderful example of how something (like computer code) can get better and better the more it’s distributed and developed by many people.
J: When I was a teen, I used to think that adults never made mistakes. They were the ones in power and they never messed anything up. Boy, I was wrong. That way of thinking had a big impact on me as I grew into adulthood. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be that “perfect adult” but what I was doing was something that I could not keep up with. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes and you know what? We grow from those mistakes.
I think making these mistakes and keeping them public is a great thing. It shows that we’re all human and that we’re all learning and growing.
W: We’re messing around with a 3D printer here, and one of my first pieces was dodgy so we finished the print before it was complete. I was going to throw it out but Neal my co-worker stopped me and pointed out that the print actually showed the insides and structure of a 3D print. Turns out, it’s a piece that other staff look at and are intrigued by the most!
J: That’s so rad to hear! When we create something, of course we want it to be perfect. But our colleagues and friends will see things a different way. Your idea of something that is junk may be someone else’s idea of gold.
A few weeks ago when you visited Chattanooga, you talked about how Australia is planning and implementing a country wide fiber optic system. With a project that big, there’s gotta be some mistakes that are made along the way. How has your country been managing this project and any mistakes that are made? I can imagine that if there are any bumps along the way there may be a huge public reaction.
W: Such a big, expensive project comes with a lot of scrutiny, and every mistake or misjudgment can easily get blown out of proportion by the project’s critics. One thing that this and other technology related projects has taught me is the economic concept of ‘opportunity cost’. Some of the criticisms leveled at Australia’s National Broadband Network include the idea that we should wait until the relevant technology gets cheaper, more reliable, etc. The opportunity cost is that while we’re waiting for that time, we miss out on the benefits that implementing that technology now could bring.
I think this thinking helps to round out the idea of ‘making mistakes’ in our daily work. By not making mistakes, by not taking responsible risks, by waiting until someone else makes it perfect before can adopt it, we miss an opportunity to benefit from any success of the project now.
Warren Cheetham is the Coordinator of Information and Digital Services at CityLibraries Townsville. He has worked in public libraries for twenty-one years, and his professional interests include the application of technology to public libraries, and how to best deliver information services, reader engagement, corporate research services and training to library staff and customers in an online environment.
PARTNERS Since the program happened on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library it would be easy for everyone to think that this all happened at the library and it was all the library and that was that. But that’s not the case and I’d like to take this moment to tell you about our partners. Without the support of Engage 3D, AIGA Chattanooga, and the Benwood Foundation, DEV DEV would not have happened. Their support (educational, funding, brainpower, design, etc) and dedication to the program and the community of Chattanooga is one of the key ingredients as to why this beta test run of this program was as successful as it was.
It really takes everyone in the community getting together to make amazing things happen.
SUPPORT Without the support of EVERYONE at the Chattanooga Public Library, DEV DEV would not have worked. Every day, the circulation staff would wait on the teens that came into the library at 9am, making them their white hot chocolates and letting them in the doors before the rest of the public could get in. The rest of the staff smiled and welcomed the teens every day. They knew how big this was for the teens attending DEV DEV and they made sure they had the times of their lives.
Photo by @chattlibrary http://instagram.com/p/chi99IiWnz/
The parents brought it all together. Not only did they drive the teens back and forth from the library, but on the last day of the program they came out to show their love and support. It is in moments like this where you can just see teens gaining so much love and respect for their families. Awesome.
TEENS DEV DEV would not have happened were it not for the amazing talent and dedication of the teens involved in the program. For four weeks, you gave your attention and hard work to learning how to build websites, make robots dance, and program video games. You blew all of our minds. For me personally, as I get older, I am happy to know that the world is in such good hands. To borrow from southern lingo….Ya’ll are gonna do some amazing things.
SO WHAT’S NEXT? DEV DEV was not meant to be a one shot program but instead an ongoing series, a library/community brand if you would like to call it that. As with any program of this size and scope, some time is needed to rest, reflect, and accurately plan the next steps. We’ll be doing that over the next few weeks at the Chattanooga Public Library. I already had a great discussion today with Engage 3D Education Director James McNutt about online learning communities. He is a brilliant dude and I can’t wait to see his ideas in motion.
“We’re going to grab up these fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders and show them their future,” said Ms. Wincek, who thinks the printer could influence some of their career choices.
Library board president Matt Phillips said Ms. Wincek’s enthusiasm is why the library has the printer.
“It’s prompted us as a board to share in her passion,” said Mr. Phillips, who owns an insurance agency in Saxonburg. “We’re not a big library, and we have something that many large libraries and institutions do not have.”
Erin’s got the vision and community support. When you have those, amazing things can happen in public libraries.
Also in the mix is my general frustration with library technology. We pay BILLIONS to ILS and other vendors each year, and for what? Substandard products with interfaces that a mother would kick to the curb. We throw cash at databases because they have the periodical content our clients need locked up inside them, and over a decade after the failure that was federated searching, we STILL do not have an acceptable product that provides a user-friendly interface and makes managing the data behind the scenes as easy as it needs to be for library staff. – See more at: http://ninermac.net/breaking-up-with-libraries#sthash.F7Wn43FP.dpu
I had been thinking about this same thing for the past few years when I made an attempt to look into a digital product for teens. My thoughts with that product were:
1) Wow, I don’t know any teens that would use this.
2) Wow, this is so expensive and there is no way I could ever afford this.
3) Wow, this product has such horrible design.
The outcome? I did not buy that product.
It was not until a few days ago that while under the influence of Nina’s post and seeing the amazing work that Dan Eveland (Web Developer, Chattanooga Public Library) and Mary Barnett (Social Media Manager, Library) did on the Chattanooga Public Library website that I had it hit me: we really need to start investing in employees who can make amazing things that do what we want them to do.
The calender over at chattlibrary.org. Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett. It looks great and the back end (where we do our work) is easy to use and well put together.
Like these calendars, databases, and whatever else that we buy from vendors, hiring awesome people to build stuff just for us is an investment. Sometimes your investment may not work out. But don’t think about that. You can always try again. But what if the investment in awesome people works out? You get awesome things that were built for what you need them for.
Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett with input and ideas from myself. I think it turned out pretty awesome.
A good example is the website you see above, teens.chattlibrary.org. About one month ago, the team started talking about what we wanted to do with this site. We got some ideas and Dan put up a template and we slowly worked on it. Mary gave the project a deadline and said “let’s get this done” so all last week we put our hardhats on and did it. Dan and Mary built teens.chattlibrary.org to reflect what I thought teens would be looking for: quick awesome tidbits of information, news of big things going on for teens at the library, a hub for the Teen Advisory Board (TAB), and a contact page. All built with Drupal on The 4th Floor in about one month by some amazingly talented people on the Chattanooga Public Library team. The best part? It’s works super well, is easy to manage, and it is exactly what I was hoping for with the teen site. Another great part? If it needs fixed or modified, I only have to head up two floors to talk to Dan and Mary and it’s done.
Hiring awesome people to help you realize your library dreams? To me, that’s the way forward. Not only do you get amazing products that you can actually use for what you want, but you get to surround yourself and the library staff with talented and kind people who contribute to the positive vibe of the community. A win in every area.
(please note: This post originally appeared over at justinthelibrarian.com)
Instead of siphoning teens off into different rooms (and locking away noisy activities), the space is airy and completely open. The openness means, among other things, that it only takes one or two librarians to monitor the entire space.
Rice says his team renovated the floor on the cheap, using paint and low-cost materials to fill the space. “Teens appreciate the rawness,” he says. “Rich materials might be a little bit of a turn-off.”
The key, he says, is a space without much security, where kids feel free to just hang out. “It makes teens feel as if they have free reign over the space,” he says. “They don’t feel like they’re under this intense adult scrutiny.”
This is what it’s all about: A tween and his Dad enjoy Ms. Pac Man at the Library
When I was a teenager, I spent most if not all of my time in video game arcades in shopping malls. It was the time of fighting games…Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, World Heroes, Primal Rage, and many, many more. Who knows how much money I spent playing those games and more importantly, who cares. What mattered most (and what sticks with me to this day) was being in the same room with people my age who enjoyed the same things as me. It was exciting. It was fun. It created friendships and community.
Video gaming in libraries isn’t a new thing. It seems to have picked up steam in the last decade and is now something that most libraries will offer to their communities. This is a good thing: video games can be fun, rewarding, help those playing them understand stories/character/plot, and so much more.
I’ve always wanted to recreate that vibe that I felt back when I used to frequent the arcade in the public library. It was exciting to stand around an arcade machine and watch someone get as far as they could in a game on one quarter. It was exciting to go one-on-one with someone in a game like Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat. Public libraries are places where people come together and experience something. Why not have a bit of that something be an arcade machine?
It has been a dream of mine to get an arcade machine in a library since I started in libraries back in 2007 and this past week, thanks to the Friends of the Chattanooga Public Library the support of the staff at the Chattanooga Public Library, and my wife Haley (she found it on Craigslist for only $150!), we now have an original Ms. Pac Man arcade machine on the 2nd Floor of the library…and it has been a great thing. I love seeing the reaction people have when they realize that the library has an arcade machine. I love seeing families (like the photo above) playing it together. I love seeing the teens gather round and have tournaments to see who can get the highest score.
I cannot wait to see the community and friendships that this little ‘ol machine will create.
This idea came from a film maker last year. He wanted to work with the library & the only money we had was from a grant from the Allstate Foundation. It was a large project where over a dozen teens worked on a PSA that lasted 5 minutes. We took that as a learning experience.
This year we found another local film maker named Mike LaVoie. I contacted the White Plains High School SADD chapter to see if they would like to work on the project. We had a smaller group…I think there were about 7 teens altogether. Mike put togethera no-budget script and explained it to the teens. I (Teen Librarian Erik Carlson) worked on locations, the library parking garage, a co-workers home & a local cemetery. Mike showed them some movie magic to make the car to appear to be moving, using fake smoke, lighting tricks. I came up with the eye drops for tears & one of the teens was able to talk a local medical supply store to loan us a wheelchair for the afternoon (this was a last minute thing).
Me, at the very beginning of my time in Library school.
I decided to be a librarian in late 2006 at the urging of my mother in law Jill. She had been a librarian for many years and spoke of her work very passionately. With a simple poke and a simple “you know, you’d be good at this library thing“, I was off to attend Clarion University of Pennsylvania in January 2007.
When I was a kid visited the Northland Public Library in Pittsburgh, PA on a weekly basis. I remembered two things about my time there: they had rabbits in the children’s area and they had the best selection of books on whales in the whole wide world. Oh yeah, and I thought it was a super fun and magical place. To me, that’s what libraries needed to be.
My time in library school was good but I always fell out of place. I wanted to have fun! I wanted the library to be this amazing place full of wonder, joy, exploration, and full of heart! Instead, I found myself writing out cataloging records by hand or presenting papers on teen literature. I got something out of that but…there was another side.
Since those days that’s been my focus with being a teen librarian. In order to succeed and give the community what they want, I realized that connection had to come first. All of those other things: collection development, cataloging records, and all of the other stuff I learned in library school were very important and had their place but first and foremost….IT’S ABOUT PEOPLE. I feel like it has worked out pretty well for me and the communities that I’ve served.
This taught me something else that was somewhat unexpected: there is so much value in connecting with your professional community. Through library blogs, Twitter, and other social networks, I have met a number of people that not only doInowcallmyfriendsbutalso who have given me so much professional advice and aided in my growth as a librarian and as a person.
All because of a blog that was started ten years ago. I don’t know if Michael thought about these kinds of things when he started Tame The Web, but they happened. And I thank him for that. What may have seemed like a ripple at the time has now created a very positive and helpful tidal wave.
Monessen residents soon will be able to borrow library books – at the laundromat.
Jill Godlewski, children’s director at the Monessen Public Library, is planning to place several portable libraries scattered around town. Godlewski hopes to situate the wooden dispensaries once the weather clears.
“The idea is to get books to people instead of people having to come to the library to get books,” Godlewski said. “We want to make sure there are no barriers to getting a book.
My favorite part? A partnership with the local school!
Monessen school district Superintendent Linda Marcolini is planning for wood shop students at the high school to build sturdier, weather-proof units for outdoor locations like City Park.
“Mr. (David) Gilpin, our shop teacher and students will be making them,” Marcolini said. “They will get done before the end of the school year… our district would do anything for our community and public library.”
What an awesome take on an already awesome project.
PS: Jill Godlewski is not only a fantastic librarian, but she is also my mother in law. -Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor
I’m Your Neighbor, Portland is a Portland, Maine community-wide read and series of public events in designed to promote a sense of community among the diverse people who make the port city their home.
I’m Your Neighbor, Portland is sponsored by the Portland Public Library and funded by the Maine Humanities Council.
Over the last three decades, the city of Portland has seen a significant cultural shift through the arrival of immigrants and refugees from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. Here in Maine, we’re blessed with a crop of recent titles, from picture books to young adult novels, that offer both particular cultural details about the lives of recent arrivals to our state and themes to which any reader can relate.
The goal of I’m Your Neighbor, Portland is to engage members of the Greater Portland, Maine community, both new arrivals and long-term residents, in reading books about recent immigrants to Maine and sharing in discussion of differences and commonalities, to build understanding between the two groups.
The series will open with a gala launch on May 25, 2013
I think about Youth Services in Public Libraries more than the average human being. That is ok as it is my job and I make a living to provide for my family with these thoughts, ideas, and actions.
My mantra with library services in general is to keep pushing ahead and try new things. To be in a constant state of change is to always be on the top of your game. When you are on the top of your game, I believe that you are better able to provide for the needs of your community. Flexibility enables you to have a quick reaction. Too many times in libraries we are bogged down by the planning and talking about it process. Once that’s over, it is sometimes too late to give the community what it seeks. OK, back to the subject of this post.
Here are some ideas that I have been having over the past few months. Enjoy them, borrow them, modify them, etc. If you don’t agree with them you can just close out your internet web browser and forget about everything I just said.
SIMPLIFY Youth Services librarians always think big. We plan big. We want our community to have the greatest possible experience in the library and at our programs. Never lose that. That’s what makes you special and that’s why youth services librarians are often looked upon as some of the best people in the community. We give a HUGE crap about our community.
But simplification is, in my experience, not a quality that most youth services librarians have. I know I am in that category. I see others that I work with in that category. Simplification in this case is a good thing. Think about the resources you have around you. Can you take those resources that you’re using everyday (volunteers, 3D printing, Legos, community members) and copy/paste them into your library and programs? I suggest you give it a try if you are not doing this already. You will be using things that you are already comfortable with and in some cases already prepared. Simplification will give you less stress to knock everything out of the park. Less stress allows you to be a better librarian for your community.
WORK TO YOUR STRENGTHS What are you most comfortable with in the library? What does your work schedule allow you to accomplish? What are the skills that you have now and wish to develop in the future?
Mindfulness of those particular things allows you to work to your strengths. At my current stage of my professional life, I am most comfortable with the behind the scenes stuff, laying out the big picture, and making sure it connects. For someone that came through libraries working directly with the public for 6 years, this shift was difficult. I initially fought it very much. What that led to was stress and depression. None of that is helpful.
When you work to your strengths, you will approach your day to day work in libraries with a clear set of eyes. This clear set of eyes allows you to focus better on the job in front of you.
The basic idea behind all of this is that fun leads to a lot of amazing discoveries and life moments. I think this approach works really well in libraries. We are in this very unique position of not being a school but also having a mission to encourage lifelong learning in our communities. We can try new things. We can experiment! Yes! I just said that! We are free to be unique.
Fun is a great approach to take. When you have fun at something you create a positive memory. You look back on that experience fondly. It gives you warm fuzzies. There’s probably some kind of chemical brain thing happening that makes the warm fuzzies and fun so memorable…I don’t know. I’m not a brain doctor smart person type. All that I know is that my head is full of amazingly fun memories and I keep going back to those things.
IN closing….when I re-read this post one thought comes to mind: it is all about simplicity and getting back to the basics. Make things easy, for yourself and your community. Have fun. Don’t stress yourself out. I really believe this to be a great path forward for youth services in libraries.
I remember getting my Nintendo Entertainment System all set up for the first time when I was 7 years old. I had Super Mario Bros, Duckhunt, Mighty Bomb Jack, and Trojan as the lineup of for my first set of games. I remember playing them endlessly while I dreamed about the characters, settings, and wondering just how did they make those games? They opened my mind and I was forever changed. Video games gave me something to think, dream, and learn about. A good portion of my youth was spent studying anything gaming related in the gaming magazines of the time. I became a walking, talking pre-Wikipedia for video games.
Fast forward to today. I’ve been pretty successful in getting video games into libraries. Kids, Tweens, and Teens are playing video games together in libraries in pseudo 80’s arcade-like settings and they are connecting with each other and creating community. Friendships are being made over Minecraft, Mario Kart, and more. When I go home, my son Finn and I will sometimes fire up the Wii U. We talk about who gets to use the Wii U gamepad (it’s a pretty coveted thing) and then we talk about the adventure we want to go on. Sometimes it’s Mario Kart, sometimes it’s Lego Star Wars, and sometimes it’s Super Mario 3D World. It doesn’t matter what game we play because the end result is the same: we play, we talk, we laugh, and we share. We fill our heads with amazing adventures. When we’re not playing games, we’re sometimes re-enacting those adventures in the front yard.
I haven’t been writing as much as I used to here on Justin The Librarian. It’s not because I’m done with blogging, have moved to Tumblr, or something along those lines. There’s one reason and one reason only why I haven’t been writing as much: simply stated, I got kind of bored writing about libraries. And I’m writing this to tell you what I learned: it’s ok to say that you got bored with libraries and that you wanted to take a step back for a moment.
I’m a really big believer in the idea that if you’re not feeling something, you should probably stop doing it. Forever? If that suits you, sure. But most likely you won’t feel that way forever. You’ll have peaks and valleys and I suggest you pay attention to those.
For me, I hit a valley with libraries over the past year. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t directly involved in youth services programming as much as I had been in my past. These days, I am doing things like payroll, supply orders, budgets, schedules, statistics, and making sure programming was standardized across our library system. That’s not necessarily the most fun stuff to write about so I did’t write about it at all. But now that I think of it…maybe I should be writing about that kind of stuff! I don’t know of many folks out there doing it….and it’s always good to share new stuff.
So I got bored with writing about libraries and that’s OK. I still love libraries. I still love what they offer to our communities. Overall, I still believe in the power of libraries.
Maybe this is the start of a new writing resurgence for Justin The Librarian. Maybe today is the day I stopped being bored with writing about libraries and started to love them once again.
I wanted to take a moment to talk about Lee Hope, the Children’s Services Coordinator at the Chattanooga Public Library. Since I arrived in April 2013, I’ve got a chance to work very closely with Lee on a number of projects involving kids, tweens, and teens in Chattanooga….and it has been an awesome experience, one that deserves sharing.
Lee worked her way up in the Chattanooga Public Library, starting as a shelver, becoming a kid’s librarian, and now as the Youth Services Coordinator. She’s been with the library for over twenty years and has done great things for her community. It’s been super awesome to work with her. She’s been a great manager and mentor, being there when I needed guidance but also listening to my ideas and letting me implement them. There’s a great balance between the two of us and how we work. We trust each other, we listen to each others ideas, and we question each other.
We call each other Goose and Maverick, a nod to the film Top Gun. In our eyes, we’ve gotta have that balance. Sure, (SPOILER ALERT) Goose dies in Top Gun, but that’s not the point. The point is that Goose and Maverick work together. They trust each other. Plus, it’s just really fun to be constantly making Top Gun references through the work day.
Lee’s mentorship means a lot to me. She helps me see the whole picture and has taught me how to collect my thoughts, create a plan, and put that plan into action. That’s huge. Her teachings have really helped me grow.
Up until a few months ago, I was very bored by the whole idea of issuing badges for completing certain tasks, obtaining new skills, or just doing something in general. Foursquare was the first badge system that I had participated in and, quite frankly, I could’ve cared less about earning new badges.
And every once in awhile when some work was completed, I would get an email from Mozilla saying “you earned this badge”. The image you see above shows the badges that I earned over the past few months, and dagnabit, I’m proud of those badges. They look awesome and they share that I’ve been a part of something pretty cool.
Now my outlook on badges has changed. I’m most curious about exploring Mozilla’s Open Badges and how we can use them at the Chattanooga Public Library for not only programs but also volunteers. Just imagine the kids, tweens, and teens earning badges for being part of their local library. Take that to the next level and you can issue badges for your teen volunteers when they complete certain tasks around the library. When they’re applying for colleges or jobs, they can share those badges to show off the skills they have. Here at the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library our teen volunteers have become our unofficial “3D Printing Gurus”. They walk the patrons that are curious about 3D printing through the process from beginning to end.
Now just imagine if we gave them a badge to show how they’ve learned this particular skill. That’s some next level awesome library stuff we’re talking about here!
I tend to think about life as one big video game and for me this is a level up. I’ve been a Teen Librarian since 2008 and every moment has been awesome. I’ve loved dreaming up new programs, working directly with the community, and just being the front line in all things Teen at the public libraries I have worked at. As I’ve gotten older (I’m 34!) I’ve noticed some things changing in my brain; I’ve really started to enjoy the management and big picture part of public libraries. So for me, this was the next step and I’m so happy to be taking here in Chattanooga. I really dig this community and all of the change that is happening all around. And the Chattanooga Public Library, well, I can’t say enough good stuff about the team here. This is a magical place.
I have been having a great time in NYC with the Mozilla Community Gigabit Fund team, HiveNYC, MakerParty, and HyperAudio teams . It has been pretty neat sharing the excitement of the HyperAudio project and libraries in general with the Summer Quest Kids of NYC. Thank you to everyone that brought me here (Lindsey!) and to all of the 2nd Floor staff at the Chattanooga Public Library who are back in Chattanooga, TN running the last bit of our summer programs.
The days, both at the MakerParty events and in between, have been full of sharing and exploration. In my opinion, this curiosity and sharing is what leads to some of the best learning that anyone can get in the world.
About a week ago I saw this tweet from the great Cate Levinson @storytiming. We talked about management and supervision in libraries over email and it was a great conversation…so great that it got me thinking that I really needed to share my most recent library management and supervision stories and lessons learned here on the blog.
Folks, let me tell you: my transition towards a lot more library management hasn’t been easy. I’ve messed up a lot. But on the other hand I’ve been a part of some pretty rad things. It has a lot been stressful. I think about all of the little intricacies in libraries and how to make the 2nd Floor even more awesome a lot more than I used to. For example: I woke up from a small nap this past Saturday and my first thought was “OMG. I NEED TO SUBMIT THE PAYROLLL…TODAY!” when in reality payroll was due on Monday (and it got in on time!).
Here are the lessons that I have learned:
Always get payroll and scheduling and all that important behind the scenes stuff in on time. There are other employees whose work depends on you completing a task. If your part is not done, their part cannot be done and that just rocks the whole boat. Speaking of which…
Think of the library as one big giant organism. This was hard for me coming from a youth services background. It’s not all about the kids, tweens, and teens. In order for the library to work, you have to think about how anything you do affects everything that everyone else does. Sure, the 2nd Floor is a 14,000 square foot space for kids, tweens, and teens. But what happens on the 2nd Floor may affect everyone else in the library. How do I be respectful to others while still giving the age group I primarily focus on the best possible service? That’s a tricky one, but if you give it enough thought and care you will get there.
Your mood as the manager/supervisor sets the tone. Are you stressed out? Are you being negative? If you are, get ready for that to come back to you from the library staff. Set a positive tone in the work environment. Keep your employees shielded from the stuff that may cause them stress that doesn’t directly involve their work.
Piggybacking on that last one: keep your employees well informed about what is happening but also remember…not everyone needs to know everything…AND THIS IS OK! You as a manager and supervisor are not hiding away information from the people you work with. You are giving them what they need to know and keeping the rest where it needs to be. Yes, information overload is a real thing and it can have a harmful effect on the work environment.
Work well with others: you will be working with everyone in the library. Everyone has their jobs and they are all trying to do them to the best of their ability. Thank everyone for what they do. Be patient with everyone that you work with. Remember that we are all in this together.
Finally, and I think this is super important: HAVE FUN. Work does not need to be super stressful. Work should be fun. It should not just be a place that pays the bills. It should be a place that encourages your heart and your mind to grow. It should make you smile.