JP Porcaro for ALA President

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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.

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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.

Leadership VS Management

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.

Some thoughts on “THE SECRET LIFE OF A PUBLIC LIBRARY SECURITY GUARD”

Me, Dillon Bates (who is now a Maine State Representative), and Marko Petrovich, February 2013.

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.

Halfway There (?)

Pap Pap Pleczynski. I wish I had a photo with Pap Hoenke. I don't think I do.

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.

IMLS Supporting Making in Museum and Library Conversation

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

THREE THINGS

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.

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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.

hyrule

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!

FOUR THINGS

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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 11.40.50 AMBALANCE
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!