Everything Will Be Alright In The End

I have been going through a lot of changes when it comes to my library life. I have been meditating on everything that involves libraries and my place in them for the past six months. The new Weezer album Everything Will Be Alright In The End (EWBAITE) was released during this time. Here’s my review: it’s awesome, pretty much perfect, and exactly what I have wanted in a Weezer album since Pinkerton was released in 1996. In the words of my son Aero….good stuff!

In the same way that The Blue Album and Pinkerton sang to me as a teenager,  EWBAITE speaks to me as an adult and as a librarian who has recently been thinking a lot about the big picture and going through some changes. My 17 year old self says, “Hey Justin, make one of those lists that lays out what the album means to you at this moment. It’ll help you think through what’s going through your brain.” Before, I would put these thoughts into a notebook and only look at them when I was moving and packing things into boxes. Now I’ve got this blog and it has become a place where I can be myself, talk about the things that are in my life, and work through everything and anything. Here we go.

Ain’t Got Nobody:  I feel alone in the library world. What is it that I am doing here? Are my efforts to bring a unique library experience to my community amounting to anything? It’s difficult to bring forth change. There are a lot of bumps and a lot of complaints along the way. How does one stay on the positive path? Sometimes I feel like I ain’t got nobody to talk to.

Goodbye heroes.You had a good run.Fifteen years of. Ruling the planet. But now your light’s fading. Adios rock band that we loved the most.This is a toast to what you did.And all that you were fighting for.Who could do more when.Time marches on. Words come and go.We will sing the melodies that you did long ago.

Ok, I am beginning to understand something. We all have a shelf life. Musicians and bands have one. They have their big albums and then the albums where everyone complains about how they don’t sound like the old ones. This is a very easy to spot cycle within a profession. The bloggers rise, the tweeters come up next, then then tumblrs, and who knows what else. Words come and go. Adios librarians that we loved the most. This is a toast to what you did. Keep on working but that “first two albums” part of your career is over.

Don’t wanna find myself homogenized.Don’t wanna become the very thing that I despise.Don’t want my ideas polluted by mediocrity.Don’t want my sentiments diluted.This is important to me.

I’ve had it up to here. This library thing is important to me…so important that I don’t want to pollute it with half baked ideas and some kind of mediocrity. This community doesn’t deserve that. They deserve the best. I tried to give my best to you but (sometimes) you plugged up your ears. Where does one go when they have had it up to here? How does one grow?

I like to think that I know quite a lot. But with you it feels like I forgot.I wish that I can explain who you are.But when I try to I never get far.

I used to have some kind of insight into library work that I loved sharing with the world. I thought about it all of the time. I constantly aimed to grow, change, and lead. But anymore I don’t know you. It feels like I forgot. You’ve become someone that I used to be very close to but anymore all I have are these memories. I don’t want to have just the memories.

We grow old, our hearts are dim.But our minds are free, to fly where they will.Your beauty is faded, you’re a broken shell.It’s only the weak that fall for your spell.You can’t control me no more Cleopatra.It’s time to move, to the next life.You’ll be reborn as a beautiful child.

This change has happened with age. I have become a caricature of what I used to be in terms of ideas and change. There is constantly something on my shoulder reminding me that everything has changed and it is never going back. But I won’t let it control me anymore. There has to be a better way to go through the day to day of life. There has got to be a place for me in libraries. I’m not waiting for retirement and just counting the days. I still have something in me. The next life. Change. I’ll be reborn.

EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END

You find out where you are at this moment, you find out where you want to go, and you start moving your life on that path. You follow that path and find what you are looking for. You are what you are and you can’t change that. I am Justin William Hoenke, a husband, a father, a friend, a human being, and a librarian.

The path is rocky and difficult, but in the end it all leads to our return to our own personal Ithaka, a place that we call home and can be free to explore, grow, and try out all of the new things that we want to experience in this life.

I don’t know where I am going but I’m sure I will get there. It is scary. It is exciting. There is something cool happening inside of my brain and in my heart.

Life and Libraries and 2014

2014 is coming to an end and every blogger and writer out there is going to be writing a year end recap of what’s going on and what to look forward to in 2015. I love these kinds of posts and I usually think about writing my own at the very last minute. But not this year!  I’m gonna get a jump on this thing!

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The first half of 2014 was busy. The team at the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library had a lot of big projects happening. We brought in some big attendance and circulation statistics to the library.  I did quite a bit more traveling than I usually do and spoke to a lot of great librarians. I visited Strathmore Alberta Canada, Baltimore Maryland, New York City, Louisville Kentucky, Nashville Tennessee, Greensboro North Carolina, and San Antonio Texas and had an amazing time learning and sharing with librarians. I found myself kind of tired at the end of it all. Yes, it was all very rewarding but the balance between libraries and general life was a bit off.  I learned about limits and how to take care of myself first and foremost before other things.  A healthy and happy Justin leads to a happy and healthier Justin The Librarian. Everything that we do affects everything else that we do.

JHFinn

In around August I decided to make some changes to achieve more of a balance. I visited family and friends twice in Pittsburgh, PA in August and September.  It was nice to go back there with Haley, Finn, and Aero and be with our extended families and take part in a few weddings.  Seeing the day to day things that happen in life makes you want to chill out and appreciate those things more.  That’s exactly the approach I’ve been taking and it has been wonderful.

JHAero

Haley and I piddle around in our yard a lot.  We take care of our home, our little slice of urban farm/homestead here in Chattanooga.  Finn, Aero, and I play with Legos and we kick around a soccer ball a lot.  We only go out to eat at a Chinese Buffet because it’s awesome and every other restaurant is average and costs way too much.  We eat a lot of vegetables at home.  We play a lot of Nintendo Wii U and have family movie nights.  We have a really cool dog named Sonic The Border Terrier. I really enjoy watering and taking care of my plants, especially our banana plants.

JHBanana

These are the things I look forward to the most these days.  2013 Justin was a bit different….there was something library related in that end of the year toppermost of the poppermost list. This year, there isn’t. That’s not to say that I’m not into libraries anymore….I am, and I still believe that the public library holds the key to unlocking an amazing future for our communities. It’s just that now, well, I have realized that I don’t need to think about them all of the time.  And I’ve also realized that the less that I think about them, the more focused I am on helping them better serve their community.

JHHaley

So that’s 2014, life, and libraries in a blog post. I look forward to everything in 2015: life, family, friends, libraries, travel, music, video games, food, and sleep.  Things are cool. Things are on the level. Life. I’m just gonna live it.

Once Upon a Long Ago

Once Upon a Long Ago by Paul McCartney. Great song

Capture

Once upon a long ago I was part of 8BitLibrary.com with JP Porcaro. We started the website up to talk about video gaming in libraries. It was awesome for a bit, then we got a chance to write a book, it never happened, we had a mild falling out, and then balance was restored to the force and we’re all just doing our things these days. It was really neat to talk about video games in libraries. You can read some of the old 8BitLibrary here: http://blog.8bitlibrary.com

Anywho we were going to write a book and it didn’t happen. I remember that we had these great chats about what we wanted the book to be: honest, funny, and informative. We didn’t want to write another book on library services that would just be outdated by the time it was printed. So when we wrote, we dug deep and tried to make the book as enjoyable as possible.

I’ve been thinking about this book recently so I went back and read my contributions. It was nice to read them even in their very unfinished state. I think we were onto something…the melding of professional ideas, honesty, passion about video gaming in libraries, and just a fun, casual atmosphere in a book form. I think it would’ve been a fun read.

I’m going to share one chapter below. It’s totally unfinished but it’s the best example of raw Justin honesty, passion about video games in libraries, and a semi young person trying to do his best to change his little sliver of the world. Enjoy.

CHAPTER 1.7 BOBBY BONILLA

I was a huge fan of baseball growing up.  I closely followed my hometown team (the Pittsburgh Pirates) and on my own time kept a detailed log of players statistics and other information.When it came to playing baseball, that was another thing.  Honestly, I was horrible at the game and was the kind of kid that you’d just stick out in left field and hope that no one would have the power to hit a ball out there.  I had more fun sitting on the bench watching the game and helping the coach keep track of the stats.  What I’m trying to get to here is that I had a passion for the game and wanted so desperately to be part of it in any way I could.  Passion has a strong power over people.  It makes you do things  you otherwise didn’t feel like you could do.

I feel like libraries have the same kind of passion I had with baseball when it comes to adding video games to their collection. We all want to do it for our patrons.

However like baseball, life throws you curve balls and sometimes these can get you off track.  I had my curve ball thrown to me in 1989 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA.  Somehow, I ended up at Three Rivers Stadium that day as one of about 50 Pittsburgh area kids chosen to learn how to play baseball from the players on the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Dressed in my finest ball playing garb with my Pirates hat and my ever trusty baseball glove, I marched out onto the field ready to suck up anything that these pros would teach me.

Midway through, we were led to center field where Bobby Bonilla, the Pirates third baseman/outfielder, was teaching kids how to correctly catch a pop up.  He gave a brief overview to us and I hung onto every word.  After all, this was Bobby Bonilla!  He played for the Pirates!  I have his baseball card!  We formed a line and Bobby went through tossing pop ups to each kid.  Eventually, it was my turn.  I stood in front of Bobby and nodded just after he asked “Ready?”.  This was my time to shine.

The ball missed my glove, but I caught it…with my nose.

Long story short: Bobby Bonilla broke my nose that day, and I cried my eyes out and bleed all over the outfield of Three Rivers Stadium.  I left shortly after Bobby had apologized and autographed his weapon of choice for me.  I never looked at baseball the same way after that day.  Baseball was damaged goods and there was no looking back.  I moved on with my life and got into other things.  Baseball, the sport that was once central to my upbringing, now was just something I dabbled in.

You’re going to have your broken nose moment with your video game collection.  It’s gonna come in the form of someone in your community questioning why the library is offering such a service.  It’s gonna hurt like a broken nose too.  All the work, research, and  passion you put into the collection will be questioned and doubted by the people using your library.  “Isn’t the library about reading and teaching?”  “What do video games have to do with this?”  Time to wipe off the blood and get back to business.  One of our hopes with this book is to provide you with enough arsenal to provide a rational and educated comeback to these types of comments (keep on reading!).  Right now, we’re here to tell you that situations like this are not the end of the world.

Remember when I talked about how I hung onto every word that Bobby said as he taught us how to catch pop ups?  Looking back on it, I realize that that’s where things went wrong.  I listened too carefully Bobby talk about how to catch a pop up instead of taking in the information, quickly digesting it, and applying it to the real life situation.  This happens a lot in the library world when it comes to conferences.  We spend a lot of time taking in what the presenters are saying in the form of scribbled notes which we set aside until we get time to go through them a few days/weeks later.  At that time, the initial passion has faded and many of the notes are now nothing but random words that mean nothing to you.  You have to listen, but don’t listen too much.  Instead, act on the initial passion that you have.  If you’re listening to one of us speak at a conference or webinar, we urge you to take a few notes and then go back to your library THAT DAY and make something happen.  Put together a list of ten video games that you’re going to buy that week for your collection.  Write a press release announcing that the addition of video games to the library collection.  Get the project started using that initial momentum you feel inside of you.

David Weinberger at the Chattanooga Public Library

Not the best photo, but it's David Weinberger with an image of Sim City behind him so that's pretty awesome.

Not the best photo, but it’s David Weinberger with an image of Sim City behind him so that’s pretty awesome.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing David Weinberger speak on The 4th Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library as part of Startup Week Chattanooga. I have long been a fan of David’s work, especially his Library as Platform article in Library Journal, so seeing him speak was an extreme jolt of inspiration and excitement that came at the perfect moment.

I won’t recap his excellent presentation here but I did live tweet some of his key quotes (if you want to look through my twitter feed, here you go) but I will say this: if you have a chance to hear David speak about the library as a platform, do not miss it. His ideas make perfect sense in the world today. The library as a platform allows the public library to become an integral part of the community fabric.  It allows the public library to live and breathe along with its community.

I also got a brief chance to share what we’re doing on The 2nd Floor with David, and he had super kind things to say about our work today in his blog post (read the full post here):

Go down to the second floor and you’ll see the youth area under the direction/inspiration of Justin Hoenke. It’s got lots of things that kids like to do, including reading books, of course. But also playing video games, building things with Legos, trying out some cool homebrew tech (e.g., this augmented reality sandbox by 17-year-old Library innovator, Jake Brown (github)), and soon recording in audio studios. But what makes this space a platform is its visible openness to new ideas that invites the community to participate in the perpetual construction of the Library’s future.

This is physically manifested in the presence of unfinished structures, including some built by a team of high school students. What will they be used for? No one is sure yet. The presence of lumber assembled by users for purposes to be devised by users and librarians together makes clear that this is a library that one way or another is always under construction, and that that construction is a collaborative, inventive, and playful process put in place by the Library, but not entirely owned by the Library. Via Joho the Blog by David Weinberger

It was a great day to be a librarian yesterday. It was a great day to be living in Chattanooga yesterday. I’ll carry those good vibes on today and make a positive impact on the world.

The 3 D’s of 3D Printing (Version 2.0)

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Almost a year ago I wrote a post on this blog titled The 3 D’s of 3D Printing (Version 1.0)I’ve been meaning to catch up and post an update but I haven’t got around it until now.

This Saturday, our library will begin the following procedure with our 3D printer on The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library.  This is sort of the Version 2.0 of the whole 3 D’s of 3D Printing idea.

Anyone who wishes to use a 3D printer must have a Chattanooga Public Library card in good standing, meaning that they must not have greater than $5.00 in fines and their registration must not have expired.

Anyone who uses the 3D printer will be charged $0.06 cents per gram of PLA plastic used. The amount of plastic used will be determined when the library employee who is working with the patron previews the 3D print.

The 2nd Floor 3D Printer is for ages 0-18 only.

Users will get a maximum 30-45 minutes per day to 3D print an object, as the 2nd Floor 3D printer is designed to be used as a basic introduction to 3D printing.

So why the changes?  Well, to be honest with you there were really no problems with the first version of the program to begin! It worked well. Kids, Tweens, and Teens got their assignment and they completed them when they visited the library.  Megan Emery and I made every intent to add more challenges to the program but….simply stated we just didn’t have enough staff time to make those other challenges happen.

Our summer at the Chattanooga Public Library is what really made us rethink this program. We were slammed with visitors to the library this summer (a VERY good thing) and we couldn’t really focus on getting each kid, tween, and teen updated on the program. Instead, we took an introductory “here’s the 3D printer, here’s Tinkercad and Thingiverse, you have this amount of time, have fun and we’re totally here to help” approach.  It allowed us to give the 3D printing experience to more of our community which is something we wanted to do.

Why the charges you ask? It makes sense for the library to find a way to keep income coming into the library so that we can purchase the proper amount of PLA plastic needed. 6 cents per gram is not a lot in the long run. Will it deter some of the community from using the 3D printer? Of course, as money always will deter people from doing anything. But we are taking the approach of “it’s a small cost that helps us keep this service here for you” with the community. It’s a positive and honest message that needs to be told.

So hopefully it won’t take me another year to follow up on this, but I hope this is informative for everyone who reads it.  And if you have any questions, you can always email me about it at justinthelibrarian at gmail dot com.

Have a wonderful day!

An Update on THE AWESOME BEAR

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Awesome Bear recently and have learned a lot! Who knew you could learn so much from a bear that tweets!

THE AWESOME BEAR PART ONE

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I drew this picture of the Awesome Bear because I wanted to draw a picture of what I see in my head.

I recently got to sit down with James McNutt (Employee of The 4th Floor and all around great human being) and work on a new version of THE AWESOME BEAR, Chattanooga Public Library’s tweeting bear.  It was a lot of fun to share ideas with James and then watch him make those a reality when he wrote the code that runs The Awesome Bear.

Now The Awesome Bears lives online and anyone can go to THE AWESOME BEAR and tweet a positivity, kindness, and wonderful ideas.

You can also follow THE AWESOME BEAR here.

THE AWESOME BEAR PART TWO

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I think that THE AWESOME BEAR is a pretty cool idea and I want to develop it further. I think it’s a great tool because 1) It’s so very simple AND 2) It’s a great first lesson on creating, sharing, and publishing content online AND 3) It’s fun, so I decided to submit a Knight Foundation News Challenge Proposal to help take the Awesome Bear to the next level.

I’ve had mixed feelings about this proposal and let me be honest with you on why I am having those mixed feelings:

I looked at a lot of other amazing proposals and saw that they were…..I don’t really know how to say it….really great and really heavy! Lots of big time ideas that I didn’t fully understand where proposed (and I love them!) but I got a bit scared. How would THE AWESOME BEAR be received?  Would it be laughed at and tossed aside with a simple “A tweeting bear that shares good vibes and ideas from the community? Now that’s gotta be a joke.” After seeing so many great ideas that came out of the News Challenge, I was toying with the idea of deleting my submission and moving on.  THE AWESOME BEAR came from a pretty pure place in my heart: share good ideas, share good vibrations, and have fun. I didn’t want it to be laughed at.

I thought about it a lot. It weighed on my mind for about a week. My wife Haley was extremely helpful with thinking this through. She said something along the lines of  the Awesome Bear is unique. It’s fun. It stands out. Sure it may be simple but…that’s what makes it unique. It’s easy to use and that’s something people respond to. So I kept up the proposal and now we see what happens.

THE AWESOME BEAR PART THREE

I would love the Awesome Bear to live in every city and be a unique part of what the public library can offer their community. Have you read the news today? Oh boy! There’s just so many negative stories and headlines written to make you want to click them so more advertising money comes through that it can just really put a damper on your day. The Awesome Bear can counteract that. Imagine The Awesome Bear everywhere, sharing the little things that really make a community thrive…the tiny moments of kindness, the simple ideas to make your day better, the goodness in all of us. That’s the kind of world I want to live in.

 

Youth Services in Public Libraries (some thoughts that I’m having circa September 2014)

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I think about Youth Services in Public Libraries more than the average human being. That is ok as it is my job and I make a living to provide for my family with these thoughts, ideas, and actions.

My mantra with library services in general is to keep pushing ahead and try new things. To be in a constant state of change is to always be on the top of your game. When you are on the top of your game, I believe that you are better able to provide for the needs of your community. Flexibility enables you to have a quick reaction. Too many times in libraries we are bogged down by the planning and talking about it process. Once that’s over, it is sometimes too late to give the community what it seeks. OK, back to the subject of this post.

Here are some ideas that I have been having over the past few months. Enjoy them, borrow them, modify them, etc. If you don’t agree with them you can just close out your internet web browser and forget about everything I just said.

SIMPLIFY
Youth Services librarians always think big. We plan big. We want our community to have the greatest possible experience in the library and at our programs. Never lose that. That’s what makes you special and that’s why youth services librarians are often looked upon as some of the best people in the community. We give a HUGE crap about our community.

But simplification is, in my experience, not a quality that most youth services librarians have. I know I am in that category.  I see others that I work with in that category. Simplification in this case is a good thing. Think about the resources you have around you. Can you take those resources that you’re using everyday (volunteers, 3D printing, Legos, community members) and copy/paste them into your library and programs? I suggest you give it a try if you are not doing this already. You will be using things that you are already comfortable with and in some cases already prepared. Simplification will give you less stress to knock everything out of the park. Less stress allows you to be a better librarian for your community.

WORK TO YOUR STRENGTHS
What are you most comfortable with in the library? What does your work schedule allow you to accomplish? What are the skills that you have now and wish to develop in the future?

Mindfulness of those particular things allows you to work to your strengths. At my current stage of my professional life, I am most comfortable with the behind the scenes stuff, laying out the big picture, and making sure it connects. For someone that came through libraries working directly with the public for 6 years, this shift was difficult. I initially fought it very much. What that led to was stress and depression. None of that is helpful.

When you work to your strengths, you will approach your day to day work in libraries with a clear set of eyes. This clear set of eyes allows you to focus better on the job in front of you.

FUN
I am a big believer that having fun leads to more learning than we can understand at this point. My son Finn and I were recently interviewed for the Chattanooga Times Free Press about video games. I also point out this great post by Megan Emery (who I work with at the Chattanooga Public Library) titled Learning Through Fun.

The basic idea behind all of this is that fun leads to a lot of amazing discoveries and life moments. I think this approach works really well in libraries. We are in this very unique position of not being a school but also having a mission to encourage lifelong learning in our communities. We can try new things. We can experiment! Yes! I just said that! We are free to be unique.

Fun is a great approach to take. When you have fun at something you create a positive memory. You look back on that experience fondly. It gives you warm fuzzies.  There’s probably some kind of chemical brain thing happening that makes the warm fuzzies and fun so memorable…I don’t know. I’m not a brain doctor smart person type. All that I know is that my head is full of amazingly fun memories and I keep going back to those things.

IN closing….when I re-read this post one thought comes to mind: it is all about simplicity and getting back to the basics. Make things easy, for yourself and your community. Have fun. Don’t stress yourself out. I really believe this to be a great path forward for youth services in libraries.