Make. Play. Read. Learn Logo designed by Kyle Gordy http://kylegordydesign.com/
From the moment that I began working in libraries in around 2007, I was not a fan of Summer Reading programs and the themes they were generally packaged around. They were boring, cookie cutter, and out of date. The themes seemed to be 1-2 years behind what was popular at the moment. As a teen librarian, my job was to take these themes and put some excitement around them. I found it to be a difficult task that took energy away from what I consider to be the most important part of any public library: the community that uses the library services. Why spend energy on something that doesn’t reflect your community? I’ve been asking myself this question throughout my career. It’s taken awhile, but as time has passed the answer has become clearer and clearer: summer reading programs should not be catch all, cookie cutter programs. They need to be crafted and designed to meet the needs of the community.
My early research into summer programs at libraries turned me onto the Summer Game at the Ann Arbor District Library, a remarkable game where library patrons can earn points, badges, prizes, and more for participating. I loved this approach. However, I knew that at this moment my library and the community did not have the means to achieve something like this. This is ok! Instead of saying “oh well, we can’t do this, so let’s just do what we used to do” we said “NOPE! Let’s keep moving ahead!” And ahead is where we went with MAKE. PLAY. READ. LEARN.
The idea is simple: what are the themes we can organize library programming around? What is our community interested in? Using ideas for STEAM and Every Child Ready to Read, we came up with 8 themes to focus our efforts around: Design, Drama, Tinker, Technology, Music, Writing, Science, and Art. We (myself and Children’s Services Coordinator Lee Hope) then assigned our staff to a certain theme and tasked them with coming up with 5 simple programs focused around that theme. 20 staff members contributed and came up with amazing program/lesson plans, supply lists, budgets, and more. Everyone who created these themed programs in a box got a $150 budget. These “theme programs in a box” will travel throughout our library branch locations this summer and serve our kids, tweens, and teens with two programs every day (one for kids, one for tweens/teens) over the course of 8 weeks.
There are two big parts I like about MAKE. PLAY. READ. LEARN. First up is how we had all of our staff involved in the planning. Coming from a strictly youth services background, I always try to remember how important it is to have the youth services voice at the table. Youth Services traditionally drive library circulation, programming statistics and more. Simply speaking, kids, tweens, teens and families love libraries. It is easy to say “yes, we will do this and that for the kids”. Those kind of initiatives will work out in the end but I find it far more rewarding and successful at the core if you involve as many of the youth service staff that you employ. Youth Services staff have a treasure trove of ideas in their head. Why not create a program and give that program the structure and support to unleash staff creativity? I’d like to think that MAKE. PLAY. READ. LEARN did that for our amazing Youth Services team at the Chattanooga Public Library.
The other big part I’d like to finish with is the branding. To me, a successful program has to reflect the community it serves. What do Chattanoogans enjoy from the library? They make, they play, they read, and they learn in our libraries. With that in mind, we are trying to tie it all together into one package that the community can identify with.
The final step in our story is unwritten. Throughout May 2015, we’ll prepare for MAKE. PLAY. READ. LEARN at our library locations. June and July will be the months where everything happens. It’s super exciting and a whole lot of scary, but you know what? We’ll make it through and we’ll give some kids, tweens, and teens and amazing summer.
MAKE. PLAY. READ. LEARN images and logo design by Chattanooga Public Library Web Developer/Designer Kyle Gordy.
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).
Hi everyone! I am very happy to announce that I have accepted the Executive Director position at the Benson Memorial Library in Titusville, PA. I’m pretty excited to head back to Northwestern Pennsylvania and work in Crawford County. Ten years ago, my wife Haley and I met in Crawford County (Meadville, PA) and we started our life together. We’ve traveled and lived in Cape May Court House, New Jersey, Portland Maine, and Chattanooga Tennessee over the last 8 years. We’ve loved every place we have lived and worked, but there was always something inside of us that knew that one day we’d be back to Crawford County.
I am really excited to lead the awesome team at the Benson Memorial Library and to serve the community of Titusville, PA. Titusville is a great town full of wonderful people. I am very lucky to be the leader of a library that will continue to be such a vital part of the community.
Before I head out, I want to thank everyone that I have worked with at the Chattanooga Public Library over the past two years (I can’t believe it has been two years….which reminds me of this scene from “The Jerk”). I have enjoyed every moment of my time here in Chattanooga. I have grown considerably as a person and librarian and I thank everyone for being patient and trusting with me. The team that Corinne Hill and Nate Hill have worked to assemble at the Chattanooga Public Library is one of the greatalltimeteams. I will miss you a lot but we shall always be connected.
In the meantime, we’ll be packing up our orange house over the next month and tidying everything up here in Chattanooga, TN as we begin the next step in our journey. Thank you all for your love and support.
Mow the lawn. Water the plants. Sit in a rocking chair. These are the things that I want to do with my life. This is the man that I want to be. Put on the new blur album. Sit back and let the songs sink into my mind. Throw a tennis ball to Sonic the Border Terrier. She’ll retrieve it and bring it back to me. Repeat until she collapses. Listen to my boys act out Star Wars in the yard. They’ve zapped and lightsaber’ed each other so much that in real life they’d have mortal wounds beyond comprehension. Haley will make us some iced tea. She’ll then join me and we’ll sit and talk about our plans to get a bird feeder. Maybe I will play the guitar again tonight. Maybe I’ll write some songs. I haven’t done that in awhile. I want to wake up without the alarm telling me that it is time to go somewhere. I want to drink my tea at a casual pace. I want to live.
I have written in the past about the little things and how I believe that they are extremely important when it comes to libraries. Here’s my own personal example of how the little things bring a smile to my face and help me enjoy the library experience more.
Almost every Monday, my six year old son Finn visits the library for the Kids Quest program, which is a program where 5-8 year olds take part in “mind-boggling experiments, challenges and hands-on projects using fun technology and books.” It’s an amazing program and every time Finn goes to the program he builds something that he is extremely proud of and always shares what he learns with my wife and I.
At the beginning of the program, the participants all write their name on a different name tag. Not only is this a good way to remember names, but it also gives all the kids a chance to practice writing. What a brilliant way to slip in a little bit of learning to the program! At the end of the program, Finn always gives me his name tag and asks me to put it on my desk at work. I’ve amassed quite a collection as you can see above.
Something as simple as writing your name on a name tag is an act of learning and engagement. It also gives a proud parent like me a souvenir to proudly display on my desk at work. I see it every day and I think about my sons and how quickly they are growing up and learning about the world. I also see it and am reminded that learning happens everywhere and at all times. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel with learning. We just need to connect with each other.
Yesterday, my family and I visited South Pittsburg, TN (yes, no “H” at the end) to attend the National Cornbread Festival. It was a great festival full of great food, games, events, and more. The weather was absolutely perfect as well so we also had that going for us. All in all, it was a wonderful day.
It felt great to be in what I’d call a small town. South Pittsburg, according to my observations, reminds me a lot of Meadville, PA. That’s the town where my wife Haley and I met and lived in for about 3 years. There’s a “downtown” area, a few major side streets, and it’s surrounded by nature. The whole town felt rather clean even though there was a major festival with thousands of people running around. The people that live in and around South Pittsburg, TN had a sense of pride about where they lived. They were locals and they seemed to be proud of it. They lived where they lived, ventured out when they needed to, and that was it. There was something oddly out of touch with the modern world about it all. I think this hit me when I saw their local grocery store was Foodland, a store which I remember existing all throughout my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA in the 1980’s.
I think I am out of touch with the modern world. I don’t feel that good living in the modern world. I think this is why my trip to South Pittsburg, TN and the discovery of this Foodland store hit me so much. I think it’s also one of the reasons why I look back on my time in Meadville, PA so fondly. I think I function best in a small town. Not only are they cheaper to live in, but they’re also a bit out of touch with the modern world. When I lived in Northwestern, PA, a good friend once said that you could be immensely popular and well known in that area by emulating all the cool things that happened in “the real world” about 10-20 years later in Northwestern, PA.
Young. Twenty-something. Full of energy, excitement, and the strong desire to change everything that you see around in the world. That’s why I got into this library thing and that’s how I started on this path.
But time passes, moves forward, and things change. I’ve started to slow down a bit. I’ve stopped thinking about the big things all of the time and start to look up and see little things like birds chirping, grass growing, etc. I watch my two sons Finn and Aero as they grow from little babies to dapper young men who have unique personalities and ideas about the world. I see the energy that I used to have in them. I see them thinking about the big ideas and how they can possibly change them.
I grow older with my amazing wife Haley. She’s my best friend and my partner in everything that happens from day to day. We make the big decisions (where do we wanna live?) and the small decisions (do we want to get rid of all of our couches and get bean bags for our whole house?) every day. We grow together and we have fun doing it. There have been ups and there have been downs. But we do it all together and it is an amazing ride. I now understand the whole best friend thing.
What has happened to the librarian part of my brain is kind of remarkable…it kind of went away. That’s not to say that I’m done with being a librarian. I still have a lot in me. But that ever nagging feeling to be the best librarian in the entire solar system is….well it’s gone. It’s been replaced by a steady sense of calm and understanding. I am just a human being whose is first and foremost a husband and a father. The librarian thing? It’s a great way to connect with the community and have an impact on the world. It also pays the bills, and that is very important too. It is not everything. But it is something.
My best “library programs” these days happen at my home with my family. We watch movies together. We record songs together (see the photo above). We cook, clean, and eat as a family. We learn together. Our home has become not only the place where we rest our heads and hang out hats, but our library/school/college/community center/etc. It is our “third place”.
I’m happy to announce today that I will be attending the LIANZA 2015 Conference in Wellington, New Zealand this year from November 7-11 2015 to speak about youth services, kids, tweens, teens, and everything awesome that can happen in libraries. I’m honored to be a part of this event. I’ve always enjoyed following the LIANZA conferences on Twitter (#lianza15 this year!) and cannot wait to learn and share with many librarians from New Zealand, Australia, and beyond. They’ve got a great lineup this year (Sarah Houghton, Ned Potter, David Lankes, and more!) and I am also looking forward to hanging out (and in some cases, meeting for the first time!) with some wonderful library colleagues.
November is going to be a most excellent month full of libraries and learning.I can’t wait to meet everyone. If you see me while I’m in New Zealand, please say hello and give me a hi-five! (here’s what I look like these days)
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.