When people ask me why I became a librarian, I offer them a two-part story. First, it’s so I could get married to my wife Haley. Her mom (who is an amazing librarian doing great things) told me that I would make a great librarian. Being that I really wanted to get married to her daughter, I took her recommendation and here I am today. The second part of the story was simply because of the fact that being a librarian allowed me to combine everything that I wanted in my life into a career: the opportunity to do really awesome and unique things for my community. I got into this to create and implement library programs. In 2007-2008, the teen community was where the most exciting and innovating library programming. My idea of what a public library should be doing for their communities and the what teens wanted from their library went together like peanut butter and jelly.
The beginning. 2008. Clarion Free Library. Clarion, PA.
Over the next five or so years, my title was Teen Librarian but in all seriousness my role was Teen Programmer. My job was to make the library an exciting and worthwhile place for ages 12-18. We hung out in libraries. I organized some really cool programs and the teens seemed to dig them. I loved my job and the communities that I served, but I wanted to grow. I had ideas about how libraries could grow and better serve not just teens but all age groups in the community. I knew that I couldn’t be just a teen librarian anymore.
I came to the Chattanooga Public Library in 2014 to grow as a person and as a librarian. I have done both very much so. Inspired by my co-workers, over the past two years I’ve dove more and more into library management and planning. I schedule and supervise staff, I get the payroll into the HR Department, I help write grants and budget proposals. I spend a lot less of my time working directly with the public and even less of my time being a teen programmer. It’s a pretty radical shift from why I got into libraries in the first place, but I enjoy it very much. At the core, my work is still directed at doing awesome and unique things for my community. Seeing that just requires you to look at it with a new pair of glasses. Library work is all about people.
Megan Emery as the Joker. A pretty typical library day. Photo by Rickie Blevins.
Every day I get a chance to look at the amazing work that MeganEmery is doing with the youth community at the Chattanooga Public Library. I see the direct connection she has with the community and in head and in my heart I think to myself, “wow, I wish I was back there doing just that.” But as the title of this post and Lindsey Buckingham say, I’m “never going back again.” I’ve grown and my roles have changed. My work now is to support the people who not only use the library but also help make it a beautiful and inspiring place for the community. If that means signing timesheets, scheduling staff, and focusing more on the back-of-the-house stuff that the public may never see, so be it. Library work is all about people; the people in your community AND the people you share your work experience with. I may miss being a teen programmer from time to time but as long as I can continue to help people, my job as a librarian is not finished.
The last time I posted on Tame The Web was on August 6, 2014 in a post titled Catching Up. The title of that post sort of sums up the past year and a half in my life here at the Chattanooga Public Library…lots of work for the community and not enough time to sit back, reflect, and share with everyone in the world. It’s all good. In that time, I’ve had some ideas floating around in my head and over the months and days they’ve been revised, edited, and now they’re ready to go.
In my role as Manager of The 2nd Floor/Coordinator of Teen Services at the Chattanooga Public Library, I’ve been looking a lot at how libraries operate their youth services departments. From kids to tweens to teens, we all seem to have a common theme connecting us: we all have so much passion for working with ages 0-18. That passion leads us to want to constantly offer the best services, be it story times, maker programs, special events, and more. The passion to give back to our community drives us. It is that passion that makes youth services in public libraries some of the most innovative and popular public library offerings. Corinne Hill (Executive Director, Chattanooga Public Library) and I call Youth Services in public libraries the “bread and butter” of public library services…the keep us well loved in the community and they act as our most popular circulated materials and programs attended. In summary, Youth Services drive public libraries.
However, passion alone cannot drive a youth services program. While amazing and powerful, passion can also lead to some misguided decisions when it comes to how we should operate at our core. The days where youth services staff were plentiful and there was an almost unlimited time to plan and prepare for programs has gone away. These days, the need for great public service at all times is what we need to focus on. The need for great public service at all times is the opposite of having large amounts of time to plan and prepare. You can’t do both at the same time. You can try, but you will get stressed and burnt out in the end. As a manager, I’ve stared at the weekly schedule and tried to figure out formulas for how my staff can have the time to prepare for programs that they’re used to having and also to have that necessary public service time. After working on it for a year, my conclusion is simple: it just isn’t there anymore and if we want to grow and continue with our successes, we need to change how we work.
Realizing that this was the new normal in our youth services lives, my colleague Megan Emery and I began having discussions about this new reality. How can we continue to maintain great levels of passion for what we offer to the community and have our public services faces on at all times? How do we achieve balance with something that seems to be so naturally out of balance…innovation and public service? How does a public library operate in times of lean staffing, increased community usage, and the need to constantly innovate?
From that conversation came a phrase that now drives what we’re trying to accomplish at the Chattanooga Public Library: PUBLIC SERVICE IS A LIBRARY PROGRAM. There is an art to working a public service desk in public libraries. You have to be “on”. What do I mean by this? You’re basically involved in a shift long performance art piece where you’re helping, teaching, and aiding the community. The traditional library program, you know, the ones that take place only from 4-5pm on the third Tuesday of every month and only for ages 13-18? Yep, those ones. Those types of programs can and will still happen but it can no longer be our focus. What can be our focus? The public. Being “on” for them at all times. Being there for the community at all times.
If public service is a program then how can we actually have programs for our community? This ties into another thing that we’ve been thinking about a lot in youth services libraries….unprogramming, never ending programming, anti-programming….whatever you want to call it. It’s an idea that takes the library space, turns it into a destination, and adds programs, activities, and chances to learn into everything that we do. The 3D printer, button maker, rainbow loom…whatever it is, it’s all there and it’s ready for the community to use. The programs happen during our open hours and they don’t end. The library staff working in public services becomes the programmer. Their job is simple: guide the community in the library, help them find what they need, teach them all about the learning opportunities in the library, and to simply just have fun.
That’s where our passion for what we do in youth services can go. We don’t have to leave it behind and become nonstop public service workers. We can weave that aspect of our job into what makes us passionate about working in libraries. Public services is our programming. We can create engaging learning opportunities for our community and run those opportunities while we’re working public service. We can mix the two and it will not be the end of the world. It will be a seismic shift, but we will survive. This is the new way for us to work and be the best for our community.
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.
Blog posts are always better with images. Ladybugs are great little things that live on Earth. “Ladybug”: Photo by Gordon Wrigley. Used by Permission with a Creative Commons License. http://www.tolomea.com/2010/08/28/ladybug/
The little things matter….a lot…or so I have come to believe over the past year of my life. When the little things are a bit out of order, the world can quickly become chaotic and overpowering.
I had this thought once when I was doing the dishes. There have been times where I have worked myself up into a rage because the dishes were just so overwhelming. I thought about them. Why are these dishes driving me crazy? I realized over time that they were a little thing that bugged me so very much that added up and got to a point where it was now no longer a little thing but instead a big and overwhelming thing. The path to clarity? It was realizing that if I did the dishes on a daily basis, at least once per day, that they would then not become a big and overwhelming thing. Anything more than once per day would be a bonus. The dirty dishes did not all need to sit around. They could be done at least once per day and everything could all alright and manageable in the world.
I think about these things a lot in my life and then I try to apply them to my work in libraries. What little things can I think about in my day to day work that can overall improve my mood, my work flow, and make me a better librarian for the community? Here are some things that I have learned as I think about the little things in libraries.
PATIENCE No matter what public library that we work for, we all have to deal with how slow change can come. We are an excited profession. We want to try new things all the time and that gets us excited! But in the public library world, there are some barriers that just exist that makes change a bit slower to happen than usual. This is ok!
Patience in our day to day work helps. Understand that the public library is like a work of art….it is never truly completed. It is in a state of constant change and growth. The ideas and changes you have will happen eventually. Keeping focused and positive on what you want to accomplish is key.
Things do not happen in a day. I sometimes wish they did, but they just don’t. It would’ve been great to have The 2nd Floor up and running on day one (Monday April 22, 2013) but that isn’t realistic. Things need time to change and grow. Patience helps with that.
SETUP When you walk into your library space, what is the first thing that you notice? Is it an unpleasant looking table that’s out of place? Or is it a smiling employee waiting there to help you? What you see around you and how these things are setup in a library matter quite a bit.
These little things in the public library space matter. There’s a reason why supermarkets usually put the milk and bread at the very back of the store. They want you to walk through the store and purchase more stuff that you “need”. We can take a similar approach in libraries. Recently, I visited the Darien Library in Darien, CT. When I walked through the door, I was greeted by employees and materials on what the library calls Main Street . All of the materials and employees were customer facing and inviting to anyone visiting the library. The library also had large and clear digital signs that talked about library programs, upcoming events, and more. All of the little things that came together to make up Darien Library’s Main Street created a great and unique experience. The little things become HUGE when they work together. They can be used for a positive experience.
GOSSIP Let me paint a picture that may happen in your place of work: Wednesday afternoon. Everyone’s around the water cooler/coffee pot/tea kettle. There’s a bit of a lull in public service before the after school crowd comes in. Everyone’s at work so it’s natural that everyone talks about work. People begin to talk about the things that are happening at work. They wonder “why are things going this way or that way?”. They wonder what other employees are up to and where they are going. They talk about things they see around them at work. There are tidbits of information passed around, conspiracy theories presented, and speculation all around. These little things can add up over time and create a not so pleasant working atmosphere.
Don’t get me wrong: I love a good conspiracy theory (see my Facebook Timeline for more) and I love speculation (I read Star Wars blogs obsessively trying to figure out where the new movies are headed). Information, conspiracy theories, and speculation get our minds humming and our hearts racing. It’s kind of fun. But over time, especially in the workplace, these little things can create a paranoid and unhealthy atmosphere. It’s not possible to get things done for the community if you’re spending a good chunk of your time at work worrying and thinking about something that may or may not be true or something that may or may not happen. Look, I’m not saying that we’re going to completely eradicate gossip and conspiracy theories from our lives, but instead what I’m saying is this: cut back on engaging in that pattern of behavior. Use that energy, those little bits of energy, for something else more constructive.
Think about the little things. They add up. If managed in a certain way, they can powerfully benefit your life.
What do you do to be a better librarian? What music or podcasts do you listen to? Where do you go? Just what do you do for inspiration?
A few years ago, I followed a lot of library blogs and twitterz related to libraries. I got a lot out of them and they helped me grow a lot as a librarian. They were pretty much my only source of inspiration for libraries. It was a great source for inspiration, but I just love to grow and think about things differently. I wanted to approach libraries in a different way. I knew that only following library stuff wouldn’t take me there.
I started thinking about the things that I enjoy in life. I enjoy music quite a bit. That part was easy….focus on the music that you enjoy and you will be inspired. I also enjoy people that are passionate about what they enjoy. That’s a little bit trickier. You can’t easily find a podcast on people who are passionate about what they enjoy. You have to dig for this.
I’ll start with music….
I talk a lot about the Beach Boys and specifically Brian Wilson quite a bit. The label “genius” has been tossed around a lot with Brian Wilson. Sure, he’s a genius in some ways but what I really dig about him is that he is a guy who just really follows his passions and inspiration. This is a beautiful thing.
His 1966 album SMiLE is the perfect example of this. Brian attempted to create something new and unique in the music world. He wanted to create a beautiful piece of art, a “teenage symphony to God.” That’s no easy task. Many will say that SMiLE was never fully finished by Brian (read up on the history, I recommend this book) and even if it really wasn’t fully finished, he got pretty darn close. Heck, I listen to it and all that I hear is a beautiful piece of art that sounds finished to me.
Brian composed and recording SMiLE in sections. He’d have about 1 minute of music here, 30 seconds of music there, and another little 15 second link track to connect the two. He didn’t really fully understand how the parts would fit when he was recording them. Instead, he knew that they’d fit somehow in the great grand scheme of things. He was right. If you can get your hands on the little bits and pieces of SMiLE in an unedited form and put it on shuffle, it works.
To me, SMiLE is the big inspiration for the 2nd Floor. If the 2nd Floor could sing, it would sound exactly like SMiLE. You have pieces and parts of things, what we call “walk up programs” (3D printing, button making, Minecraft, etc) all around the space. You can make buttons first if you want. That may tickle your fancy and make you think about 3D printing next. Or maybe you’ll just wanna move along into our arcade and play Wii U for a bit and relax with some other community members. There is no clear path or program for the community to follow. You put the library on shuffle and somehow, it all links together.
The other big inspiration in my library career these days totally comes out of left field…Bill Simmons, editor of Grantland and a pretty big podcaster. His passion is sports and in particular, basketball. Weird, right? I, Justin Hoenke, really don’t care at all for basketball. I don’t care that much for sports (NOTE: Pittsburgh based sports teams are something that I DO CARE VERY MUCH ABOUT GO PIRATES) but there’s just something about Bill and his passion for basketball. He loves the game. He knows the game. He knows what makes it work and how all these things come together to make a successful basketball team. In his book The Book of Basketball, he talks a lot about how chemistry is important for the success of a basketball team. To me, that’s one of those things that can be easily copied/pasted into librarianship. Chemistry is an important thing to have. Team chemistry, with the right people all playing their specific and very important parts, can lead to great success. I think a lot about the team we have here at the Chattanooga Public Library and how we all really work well together in our roles. To me, that’s why we’ve been able to do the things that we’ve done here. Chemistry is huge. Bill Simmons, I may not know what a pick-and-roll is, but damn, I really love hearing you talk about basketball.
Who are some of the people that inspire you when it comes to libraries and why?
My goal in my professional life is to be the best librarian that I can be. In my 7 years as a librarian, I have been lucky to achieve a lot of my professional goals. However, over the past year of my life I have hit a wall professionally. I feel like there’s nowhere else for me to go. Do I ride it out until I retire? Or do I somehow continue my quest to be the best librarian that I can be? These are the questions I have had to ask myself over the past year. Well, I now have an answer. I’ve finally decided to go for it.
I, Justin The Librarian, have decided to enhance myself with cybernetic implants that will allow me to be a better librarian.
The transformation has been great! I can do a lot more in libraries than I have before! I can do circulation, reference, programming, management, and leadership all in a single day! I can work for hours without a break! I don’t really have to eat (I do require 4 AAA batteries)! All in all, Justin The Cyborg Librarian is kinda working out!
I don’t really have a soul anymore (Update 3.104X) and my emotions are kind of gone, but you know what, we’ve got more than enough human beings working in the library these days that it all works out. They handle the feelings kind of stuff, I’ll handle anything cyborg related.
Way back in 2010, I met JP Porcaro at some New Jersey Library Association event. Then in that same year we were both in the most excellent ALA Emerging Leaders program. We bonded over video games in libraries and started 8 Bit Library shortly after. We went on the 8 Bit Library path for a year or two and then crashed and burned. I kinda had a mental break down for a moment there and JP became JP #makeithappen Think Tank JP. It was a Paul and John of the Beatles of the Library World break up kind of thing. It sucked, but that’s the story and that’s all I’ve gotta say.
Now JP’s running for ALA President and I’m here to endorse JP for ALA President. Why will JP make a great ALA President? Because he’s the kind of leader that we’ve needed all these years. ALA needs someone a bit louder, a bit more outspoken, and a bit more from left field. JP fits that role. He’s not your typical library person. He promotes people first and always strikes up a conversation. This is good.
I’m not an ALA Member right now so I won’t be voting. If I could, it would be for JP. Actually, a vote for JP would most likely cause me to seriously think about re-upping my membership.
Best of luck to JP in his presidential campaign. Party on.
The past few weeks have found me focused on one question when it comes to libraries: What is the difference between leadership and management? I was asked this question by a great group of librarians a few weeks back. I stumbled in my response when I was asked the question but I kind of trudged my way through. My mind did not stop thinking about the question. I kept reliving the moment. The answer to this question became something of a healthy obsession for me.
I read a lot of articles, saw a lot of tweets (like the great one from Anthony Molaro above), and talked to a lot of people. Everything has been coming together and I think I have an answer. The piece Three Differences Between Leaders and Managers by Vineet Nayar really helped me shape these ideas, and I’ll be pulling quotes from the piece to share what I’ve learned, where I am, and where I think (hope) I am going.
“You’re probably counting value, not adding it, if you’re managing people.” Over the past year of my life, I’ve focused strongly on the numbers and analyzing and measuring what we do in libraries. It has been a great experience: I can better see how and if things work, understand what changes need to be made in order to make something work, and to not be afraid to shift things around or pull the plug if they don’t work out. All of these things are ok. Numbers, value, and measurements help this. But if you’ve followed along this blog and my social media presence over the past year you’ve notice that I’ve been…well a bit weirder and more scattered than usual. Change can do that to a person. You know what else can do that to a person? Being in a role that they know they’re OK at, but also being in a role that they’re not the best at. I strive to be the best in everything I do. I want to be the “toppermost of the poppermost” with every role in my life. While I think I am an OK manager (I get things done, I don’t mess up that much), I know these days that I am not and will most likely never be the best manager. It’s not in my personality.
“Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success.” And here is where things become a bit clearer for me. The part of my job that I enjoy the most is thinking about the big, forward thinking ideas, assisting and connecting with others to put those ideas in place, and influencing and motivating others to be part of the team and take the work we do in the library to the next level. To me, everything I do in a library has one goal: It has to meet and exceed community needs and be beneficial for the longterm health of the organization. This is where it hits me: managers work through the day to day stuff, keep things running, and are the on the ground drivers of the work done in libraries. Leaders have the idea of where to go in the long run. They create, refine, and craft those those ideas. They work with others to get those ideas up and running. They inspire everyone around them to be better people, librarians, and community members. I don’t know why, but all of this makes me think of the Matt Foley sketch from Saturday Night Live. Maybe Matt Foley lit a fire in those characters in the sketch?
My mind tells me that there is a (sort of) clear path ahead for my life as a librarian. I want to be involved in leadership. I’m pretty good at that stuff and I want to get better. I want to be the toppermost of the poppermost. Here’s to the beginning of this journey. I don’t know where I’m exactly going but I know that I’ll work hard to get there.
Me, Dillon Bates, and Marko Petrovich, February 2013.
Sometime this past week, a very well written and interesting essay titled “The Secret Life of a Public Library Security Guard” made the rounds on the internet. I was immediately drawn to this article because of my strong belief in the importance of having a strong security staff at urban public libraries. What’s that belief? It’s simple. A strong security staff at all urban public libraries is critical for the health of the organization. When an urban public library has a strong security staff, this allows both the community and the librarians to better utilize the library as a community center. Everyone loves a happy, healthy, and safe place. Security in an urban library setting allows the public library to establish that “safe place” setting.
The second reason I was drawn to the article was because I had a professional connection to the subjects of the article. From 2010-2013, I worked at the Portland Public Library and as manager of the Teen Library had a great working relationship with the security staff at the library. The security staff at the Portland Public Library is top notch. Marko, Paul, and the other members of the staff run a tight ship that allows the library to be the community center for Portland, ME. Simply stated, the security staff at the Portland Public Library puts forth many of the qualities of what an urban public library security staff should be: safety first, community oriented, and human focused. This comes directly from the security staff, a group of employees who at their core care about the public library and the community. You can see this when Petrovich states at the end of the essay, “You don’t need to respect me,” he reminds patrons. “Respect this place. Respect this library is public.”. They’re at the library to help keep it a safe place for the community.
I know that to most non library people who read the article that the entire “sex, drugs, booze” slant of the article stood out the most. I bet many people thought “THIS STUFF HAPPENS IN THE PUBLIC LIBRARY WHERE I TAKE MY KIDS TO STORY TIME/PICK UP MY DVDs/USE THE INTERNET?” The answer is yes. This stuff goes on at pretty much any library around the country. I’ve worked in big libraries and I’ve worked in small libraries. It happens everywhere. It’s a part of the job that all librarians have to face, understand, and come to terms with. It will never fully go away, and this is another reason why it is important for larger urban libraries to have a security staff. They’re the people that make sure this kind of stuff doesn’t happen in the library or if it does, they make sure it doesn’t happen again. They do all of this without the community and staff (usually) knowing that anything happened.
Marko and the security staff at the Portland Public Library have done an amazing job at making their library a safe and welcoming place for their community. Their efforts and care for the library and the community show in their day to day work. Their leadership and management of all things security related at their library help make the community of Portland, ME a better place for the citizens.
Public libraries, take note. The Portland Public Library Security Team have developed a great model for how we should manage our spaces.
Pap Pap Pleczynski. I wish I had a photo with Pap Hoenke. I don’t think I do.
On June 15, 2015 I will be 35 years old. Both of my grandfathers passed away at age 70 (well, one was 69 but was close to 70). If genetics and family history mean anything, this could mean that I have already spent half of my time here on Earth in this plane of existence. Heavy stuff, huh? It is, and perhaps this is why I’ve been going through some depression recently.
I’m well aware of my lifestyle choices these days and I know there are things I need to change (More exercise! Better eating! Less stress!) and I’m doing those things. In a way, I’m pretty happy that I am able to be well aware of this trend in my family history. It makes me understand who I am, where I am going, and what I need to do. These thoughts inspire things like this post (“Never Going Back Again”) and where I’m heading with libraries. I envision a different kind of life for myself in about 3 years. I have to a lot of work before I get there. I will get there.
When I say things on Twitter like what you see above, I’m in a place where I’m thinking about things like being halfway there. There’s a part of me that knows how important this blog, those tweets, and all that other jazz are to who I am. There’s also a part of me that says that tells me that all of that stuff is crap and that it’s time for me to give all of that away. I don’t know. Like everything, I aim for balance and many times I’m out of alignment. What I do know is that I am so very happy that this twitter and blog thing have become what it is. It has allowed me to connect, share, learn, and laugh with so many people. That’s the good stuff. That’s the thing that keeps me here.
Maybe the “Justin The Librarian” thing is just a costume….a platform….that has allowed me to have a place where I can connect with people. It could be anything: Justin The UPS Delivery Guy. Justin The Farmer. Justin The Musician. It doesn’t matter. Perhaps this is the thing I needed to type and work out in my brain.
Thanks for reading and following along with everything that I’ve put here over the past 5 years. I like having you all in my life.
For the next two days, I’m in Pittsburgh, PA attending the Supporting Making in Museum and Library conversation being held at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. I’m really enjoying everything that’s being shared and want to share that with you! Below you will find my Google Doc which I’ll be constantly updating throughout the event. You can also follow along at the #makingandlearning hashtag
1. I am currently in the Atlanta airport on my way to Pittsburgh, PA for my first ever “I’m doing the business travel thing but I’m business traveling to my hometown” experience! I will be taking part in the Supporting Making in Museum and Library meeting happening in Pittsburgh, PA. I am honored to be a part of this! Late last year, I met Peter Wardrip & Lisa Brahms from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and gave them a tour of the 2nd and 4th Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library. It was great to share ideas with them back then and I am looking forward to sharing more with them and many others over the next few days. The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh was one of my big inspirations when I started on the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library. It’s neat that I get the chance to go back to that same place and learn and share more ideas. Here are some photos I took the last time I was there.
The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh in cooperation with the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) have launched a field-wide initiative to better understand, advance, support, and connect makerspaces in museums and libraries. This project, in partnership with Maker Education Initiative, Chicago Public Library, the Exploratorium and North Carolina State University Library is holding a convening to advance our efforts in supporting learning in these space and programs.
2. I can’t wait till Megan Emery blogs more about her ideas on libraries, programming, parallel programming, volunteers, and more. I guess this is kind of my nudge to get her to write about those things! Ha! Seriously though, Megan is (IMHO) doing the best work in public libraries at this moment. From Camp EtsyNooga to linking programming between Chattanooga Public Library’s 2nd and 4th Floor to writing a book on library programming, everything Megan is doing is inspiring and community first. Go ahead and think that I’m a bit biased because I work pretty closely with Megan…you’re right, I do work pretty closely with Megan. But read about her programs and ideas and you’ll see what I mean. Go Megan go.
3. I am currently on the sixth dungeon in The Legend of Zelda. This time around I am playing it on my 3DS in little moments of inspiration. I almost forgot how good this game is. I find the grinding aspect of the game to be quite rewarding. I haven’t played a game where I need to dedicate a good chunk of my time to getting rupees and preparing for my next adventure in such a long time. If you haven’t played this game in awhile and are looking for something to do, pick up a 3DS and buy it for a few bucks on the Nintendo eShop. You’ll find yourself quite happy!
PROCEDURES One of the best things to have when you’re managing public library work are sets of procedures for your employees to refer to when needed. Not only are they helpful for your staff, but as a manager who is writing them you get an interesting glimpse into workflow. You learn how to think step by step and try to simplify things.
Here’s a screen capture of a procedure regarding security cameras. Sure, writing procedures won’t be the most fun you’ve ever had as a librarian but I will say this: they’ll help you manage your time, your staff, and aid in creating a positive atmosphere at your library location.
BALANCE 2014 was the year where I noticed my personal life/work life balance was way off. I worked pretty hard over the past year or so but I hadn’t noticed it. When I started having dreams about work that’s when I noticed that I should take a step back and balance everything out in my life. It has a been a great journey. When I’m away from work and libraries in general, I don’t think about them that much. I’ve always had a worry in the back of my mind that if I stopped thinking about libraries even for a moment that I’d become stale, old, and outdated. I was very wrong about this. Stepping back and taking your mind off of your work allows you to be even better than before. It gives you more patience. It allows you to stop and think before reacting. You grow to make better decisions. These decisions allow you to give your community the best that you have to offer. Everyone wins when balance is achieved.
IDEAS One of my colleagues Michael Whittaker once said the following to me: “You and I are idea people. We have about ten ideas every minute. Once you learn to let some of those ideas go and focus on the really good ones you become a lot happier.”
It is so much fun to sit in a room and brainstorm a ton of ideas. There’s probably some study out there that talks about how some kind of very awesome brain thing happens when you sit in a room and brainstorm. I’m not going to link to that study here because I’m being lazy and I don’t want to look it up. But you know what’s even better than sitting in a room and brainstorming? Having ideas, weeding out the ones that won’t work, and sitting back and letting things happen naturally. Now I’m not suggesting we stop brainstorming. It is good! But we’ve all fallen into the “what we brainstormed didn’t happen and now we’re stuck in a rut” trap. Brainstorming allows us to be free and dream big. But sometimes when we brainstorm we come up with things that just don’t translate well into the real world. When we get hung up on those things not working, we can get bummed out. That’s not fun either.
I really like my work here on The 2nd Floor.I have had so many ideas about how to make this place work and how to make it both fun and enriching for the community. Some things have worked and some things haven’t worked. As I step into a bigger management role, I’ve had to put some of those ideas aside and hand over the keys to my colleagues to be the idea makers. Some of their ideas have worked and some of their ideas haven’t worked. It’s all good. We’re all trying our best.
DISCO I really like disco music. Specifically I love Italo Disco. Websites like Mixcloud and Soundcloud are amazing places to find disco and dance music. Check it out! Here’s a mix of JAMZ that I’ve collected on Soundcloud. Smile! Dance! Enjoy life!