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.

Calm, cool, connected: Study suggests an hour of video games a day makes kids better-adjusted

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First and foremost, a big thank you to Casey Phillips of the Chattanooga Times Free Press for chatting with me and my son Finn about video games.

Read the full article here: Calm, cool, connected: Study suggests an hour of video games a day makes kids better-adjusted

I remember getting my Nintendo Entertainment System all set up for the first time when I was 7 years old. I had Super Mario Bros, Duckhunt, Mighty Bomb Jack, and Trojan as the lineup of for my first set of games.  I remember playing them endlessly while I dreamed about the characters, settings, and wondering just how did they make those games?  They opened my mind and I was forever changed.  Video games gave me something to think, dream, and learn about. A good portion of my youth was spent studying anything gaming related in the gaming magazines of the time. I became a walking, talking pre-Wikipedia for video games.

Fast forward to today. I’ve been pretty successful in getting video games into libraries. Kids, Tweens, and Teens are playing video games together in libraries in pseudo 80’s arcade-like settings and they are connecting with each other and creating community.  Friendships are being made over Minecraft, Mario Kart, and more.  When I go home, my son Finn and I will sometimes fire up the Wii U. We talk about who gets to use the Wii U gamepad (it’s a pretty coveted thing) and then we talk about the adventure we want to go on. Sometimes it’s Mario Kart, sometimes it’s Lego Star Wars, and sometimes it’s Super Mario 3D World. It doesn’t matter what game we play because the end result is the same: we play, we talk, we laugh, and we share.  We fill our heads with amazing adventures. When we’re not playing games, we’re sometimes re-enacting those adventures in the front yard.

Video games are amazing.

Library Boredom

Hello everybody.

Hello everybody.

I haven’t been writing as much as I used to here on Justin The Librarian. It’s not because I’m done with blogging, have moved to Tumblr, or something along those lines. There’s one reason and one reason only why I haven’t been writing as much: simply stated, I got kind of bored writing about libraries. And I’m writing this to tell you what I learned: it’s ok to say that you got bored with libraries and that you wanted to take a step back for a moment.

I’m a really big believer in the idea that if you’re not feeling something, you should probably stop doing it. Forever? If that suits you, sure. But most likely you won’t feel that way forever. You’ll have peaks and valleys and I suggest you pay attention to those.

For me, I hit a valley with libraries over the past year. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t directly involved in youth services programming as much as I had been in my past. These days, I am doing things like payroll, supply orders, budgets, schedules, statistics, and making sure programming was standardized across our library system. That’s not necessarily the most fun stuff to write about so I did’t write about it at all. But now that I think of it…maybe I should be writing about that kind of stuff! I don’t know of many folks out there doing it….and it’s always good to share new stuff.

So I got bored with writing about libraries and that’s OK. I still love libraries. I still love what they offer to our communities. Overall, I still believe in the power of libraries. 

Maybe this is the start of a new writing resurgence for Justin The Librarian. Maybe today is the day I stopped being bored with writing about libraries and started to love them once again.

 

 

Lee Hope

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I wanted to take a moment to talk about Lee Hope, the Children’s Services Coordinator at the Chattanooga Public Library.  Since I arrived in April 2013, I’ve got a chance to work very closely with Lee on a number of projects involving kids, tweens, and teens in Chattanooga….and it has been an awesome experience, one that deserves sharing.

Lee worked her way up in the Chattanooga Public Library, starting as a shelver, becoming a kid’s librarian, and now as the Youth Services Coordinator.  She’s been with the library for over twenty years and has done great things for her community.  It’s been super awesome to work with her. She’s been a great manager and mentor, being there when I needed guidance but also listening to my ideas and letting me implement them.  There’s a great balance between the two of us and how we work.  We trust each other, we listen to each others ideas, and we question each other.

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We call each other Goose and Maverick, a nod to the film Top Gun.  In our eyes, we’ve gotta have that balance.  Sure, (SPOILER ALERT) Goose dies in Top Gun, but that’s not the point.  The point is that Goose and Maverick work together.  They trust each other. Plus, it’s just really fun to be constantly making Top Gun references through the work day.

Lee’s mentorship means a lot to me. She helps me see the whole picture and has taught me how to collect my thoughts, create a plan, and put that plan into action. That’s huge. Her teachings have really helped me grow.

Now that I’m Coordinator of Teen Services for the Chattanooga Public Library, I get to work even closer with Lee. We’ve got one big project that’s almost ready to share. I can’t wait to put it out there in the world.

Thank you Lee for everything!

Badges

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I earned all these badges, dagnabit.

Up until a few months ago, I was very bored by the whole idea of issuing badges for completing certain tasks, obtaining new skills, or just doing something in general. Foursquare was the first badge system that I had participated in and, quite frankly, I could’ve cared less about earning new badges.

Enter Mozilla.

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This summer, I worked on some projects with Mozilla, specifically HIVE Chattanooga and the Mozilla Community Gigabit Fund. We helped out with the HIVE NYC Maker Party in the Bronx, NYC, threw our own Maker Party in Chattanooga, TN, and even dabbled around with Webmaker a bit for our Summer Program at the Chattanooga Public Library. All in all, it was an exciting summer filled with great collaboration and great work.

And every once in awhile when some work was completed, I would get an email from Mozilla saying “you earned this badge”. The image you see above shows the badges that I earned over the past few months, and dagnabit, I’m proud of those badges. They look awesome and they share that I’ve been a part of something pretty cool.

Now my outlook on badges has changed. I’m most curious about exploring Mozilla’s Open Badges and how we can use them at the Chattanooga Public Library for not only programs but also volunteers.  Just imagine the kids, tweens, and teens earning badges for being part of their local library. Take that to the next level and you can issue badges for your teen volunteers when they complete certain tasks around the library. When they’re applying for colleges or jobs, they can share those badges to show off the skills they have. Here at the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library our teen volunteers have become our unofficial “3D Printing Gurus”. They walk the patrons that are curious about 3D printing through the process from beginning to end.

Now just imagine if we gave them a badge to show how they’ve learned this particular skill. That’s some next level awesome library stuff we’re talking about here!

 

 

Hello Chattanooga Part Deux!

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Exactly 1.5 years ago, I made the announcement here that my family and I were packing it up and moving to Chattanooga to join the awesome team at the Chattanooga Public Library.  Now I’m back with some more news….I’m happy to announce that I’ve accepted the position of Coordinator of Teen Services at the Chattanooga Public Library (I’ll also be working with Kid’s Coordinator Lee Hope on all things Tween).

I tend to think about life as one big video game and for me this is a level up. I’ve been a Teen Librarian since 2008 and every moment has been awesome. I’ve loved dreaming up new programs, working directly with the community, and just being the front line in all things Teen at the public libraries I have worked at. As I’ve gotten older (I’m 34!) I’ve noticed some things changing in my brain; I’ve really started to enjoy the management and big picture part of public libraries. So for me, this was the next step and I’m so happy to be taking here in Chattanooga. I really dig this community and all of the change that is happening all around. And the Chattanooga Public Library, well, I can’t say enough good stuff about the team here. This is a magical place.

To end, I’d like to recommend that you give the Chattanooga Public Library Flickr page a quick look to see all of the great stuff the library has done for the community over the last few years.  I feel like we’ve really got something special here: a great community, a great library staff, and a wonderful city.

Here’s to so many more years of curiosity, growth, and fun.

DEV DEV 2014: at the Chattanooga Public Library DAYS 10-14

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DAYS TEN through FOURTEEN of DEV DEV: summer of code 2014 is in the history books. For a quick recap, click on the image above to follow along with our Storify.

And with that, DEV DEV 2014 comes to an end! Thanks to all of the students, parents, and partners that helped make this year a HUGE success!