Connecting the Arcade to Reading (Guest post by Jessica Meyer)

20150826_190149NOTE FROM JUSTIN: I had the great privilege of working with Jessica at the Chattanooga Public Library…in fact, I hired her! Jessica has awesome ideas and connecting the arcade to books was one of her best. I’ll shut up now and turn it over to the great Jessica Meyer…
Arcades are awesome. They are big tween/teen draws, they facilitate trans-literacy, allow socioeconomic groups to mix and make friends, and  are just really fun.
Our arcade pulls in big numbers – it and the button maker pull in delightfully obscene numbers in face. Only, after a while I noticed a trend with our arcade gamers- they don’t check out books or even seem to realize there are books here. As a book addict (yes, predictable, I know) this got under my skin. It ate away at me. I put a display in the arcade, not the most amazing but it always featured cool graphic novels, fiction about video games, and even some non-fiction about game design. When I set this up I was so excited – I just knew this was how I was going to sneak book reading into the lives of this kids.
It didn’t work. I changed the books out about every week and half and when I was in the arcade playing with the gamers I would oh so causally bring the books into the conversation. Only twice were the books taken.
It bummed me out BUT I also saw it as an opportunity to try something new, think of something better. We have only a few rules in on our twee/teen floor but one was that each day a new game was put into each system and that was the game of the day. You didn’t like, come back tomorrow. Then I really listened to my kids – no matter how many times we told them it was one game a day, they asked if they could change the game. That was the answer – they could earn a game change. Instead of telling them same ol’ spiel I told them they could read any book for 20 minutes and get to change the game. 

I posted a sign in the arcade and told  a few leaders of the arcade teens. Then I made one of our comfy chairs next to the desk our the designated reading chair and kept a tab of the Google Timer open on my desktop. Teens started asking and reading right away.

Here’s how it works:
  1. The teens approach a librarian and ask to change the game
  2. Teens pick out a book, OR get some awesome reader advisory for a book
  3. Read for 20 minutes
  4. Pick out a new game and be the first person in rotation to play it
It was so awesome. I had to amend the rules that a game could only be changed every two hours per system so that the reader would have at least two hours with that game. The kids had to read near us but they could read anything they wanted. This facilitates much awesome reader advisory – especially for reluctant readers.

In the summer I put in our least popular games and had readers change the game at least 2 times a day, typically more. At least two kids told me they did their entire summer reading requirements while in our comfy gamers chair. More than once I had teens ask if they could wait to change the game until they finished a chapter or even their entire graphic novel.They wanted to keep reading. It was so awesome.

(Read more from Jessica! Her blog Bathtub Reader can be found here)

This is Awesome


I wish I could give credit to the awesome artist who wrote and created this comic (my eyes must be failing me because I can’t read the very fine print in the upper left hand corner) because THIS IS AWESOME.

(EDIT! This editorial cartoon is by Chris OBrion and you can find out more about Chris and his work HERE!)

The cartoon perfectly sums up everything we’re doing and we’re doing well these days in our libraries. It shows that we’ve survived the “lean years” of 2008-2010 and we’re coming around to a new chapter in our story. We’ve successfully reshaped what we are and what we can do for our communities. Some of us have been rewarded with new buildings that help and support us in our mission even more. We still do have the negative commentators, but as the cartoon shows they are usually solitary, screaming at the wind with no audience to hear them.

Librarians! You’ve done a great job. Let’s keep it up.

I look out of my office this morning and see beautiful things like this happening: someone reading the daily newspaper, 3 folks enjoying our wireless on their devices, one person at a public computer station, and a few others just browsing. It’s a great thing for every community to have a library. It is THE center of the community.

Put Down The Phone

Image by via a Creative Commons License at

Image by via a Creative Commons License at

I went to bed at around 9:15PM a few nights ago. Recently I’ve been getting to bed between 11pm-12am. It was a bad habit and I really knew I had to get out of it. I plugged in my phone, made sure my alarm was set, and I fell asleep. I woke up the next morning feeling more refreshed than usual. It was neat.

Maybe it had something to do with the extra time I spent sleeping, but I think it has something more to do with the fact that I shut off my phone earlier than usual. I get it. It is addicting to look at our phones, to read, to keep up, and to watch videos. I like having a smart phone. It’s like a computer in my pocket that keeps me occupied when I want something to take my mind off of things.

But I definitely think these things drive us nuts and change our brains and our rest patterns if they’re used after a certain time. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s just me. I can only perform these experiments on myself.

I think I’m gonna try to start putting down the phone much earlier at night. I will have days where I don’t and that’s OK too. It will be neat to see what happens.

Please Stop Calling Me

Téléphone ancien by Frédéric BISSON via Creative Commons License

Téléphone ancien by Frédéric BISSON via Creative Commons License

The most difficult and frustrating thing about being a library director thus far is dealing with what seems like a never-ending array of phone calls from various vendors and salespeople who want you to buy something from them. I know it from the moment I pick up the phone that this is gonna be a horrible sales pitch followed by a NO from me followed by a very desperate plea to reconsider. It doesn’t end. The shtick is the same every time. You want me to buy something. I don’t want to buy something. You try to pressure me into buying something. We both get a little bit grumpy. It never ends well.

Please stop calling me.

I do not want your product. My library does not need discounted coloring books from last year’s summer reading theme. I know that some kids may dig them but I don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on just that. I’d rather spend that money on something my community or staff can really use. You know, I’ve also got a really great building to keep up with and repair. I also do not need you to scare me into buying your product. This makes me feel horrible and I bet it makes you feel horrible to scare someone into buying something. Let’s just stop doing this.  If I want to work with you, I’ll find you on the internet and then I’ll call you. Maybe we’ll just email each other. That works really well too!

Once more, I ask you kindly….please stop calling me. I’ll call you. Maybe.

Work Environments, Happiness, and Human Beings


Two really great articles about work environments and employee happiness came out this weekend, both via the NY Times:

When You’re in Charge, Your Whisper May Feel Like a Shout

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace

I liked these articles a lot as it really jives well with what I’ve been thinking these past few months: leadership sets the tone of the workplace, and that tone is KEY to the success or failure of the organization. Success and failure are very loose terms and ideas that have varying definitions, but to me success means that you have happy employees and happy library users that have positive experiences in the library. Failure, in my opinion, are library employees and users that are generally unhappy to be in the library.

These articles also make me think about how I say things and what I say to my employees. I think openness and honesty are two great practices to put in place. Talk about what’s going on behind the scenes and how board meetings are going. Talk about grants, budgets, and more. Be open and be honest. Don’t paint a horrible picture of doom and gloom even if things are tough in the moment. We work in libraries, and what a great place they are to work at! We let people borrow things! We share things with our community! It is a great job.

I don’t believe in the whole “competition leads to great innovations” idea fully. Yes, I think competition does lead to innovation but I think it also leads to employee unhappiness and burnout. That is something that I think should be the focus of our conversations. People and their lives and happiness are much more important than innovation. Humans adapt to so much. Sometimes that change takes awhile but we always get to where we are going. Unhappiness and depression caused by stress can have lasting and devastating effects. Depression is a horrible thing that no one should have to experience, especially depression that is caused by a work environment.

You are not your job. You are an awesome human being.

Hi There


The title of this post sums up what has been going through my head over the past two months. I’ll tackle these one at a time and then make some kind of semi-coherent synopsis that tries to pull everything together. I’m not a writer folks, but the internet lets me pretend that I am from time to time.

Small towns offer something that you don’t get much these days in modern society: the chance to explore all possibilities that life puts in front of you.  In small towns, you can walk to work, leave your house wide open, know everyone and their relatives, and most noticeably, have financial flexibility.

My move from a big city (Chattanooga, TN) to a small town (Titusville, PA) can be seen from many different angles. From a financial angle, I make a lot less in Titusville than I did in Chattanooga. But then again, my health care benefits are much nicer and cheaper here in Titusville. The same thing rings true with my mortgage. When I lived in Portland Maine, we paid about $1400/month for an 800 square foot condo. In Chattanooga TN, we paid $678/month for our orange house. Now we own a house and an church building here in Titusville PA and we’re paying about $500/month.

I also should add that my wife and I both suffer from the same disease that cripples most of my generation: student debt. Yes, we made the decision to better our lives by going to college and now we have to pay for it for 10-25 years.  But life in a small town makes the student debt thing a lot easier. Of course, it’s still a major hassle and a huge annoyance but at the same time it is manageable when you can live a lot cheaper in a small town. Why anyone would want to pay $2000/month to rent a room and have roommates and deal with student debt is beyond me at this point in my life, but hey, everyone has a right to make their own decisions.

The older I get, the more I think about quality of life. I think about how my day to day life looks and ask myself if I am happy with it. I am. Living cheaply, owning a home, being able to walk to work, and being in a town where everyone knows everyone else makes me happy. I ask myself this question: why isn’t most of my generation doing this as well? Why are they running away from small towns? What are they hoping to get away from? Happiness and a chance to live a fuller life? I dwell on this and I realize that I must live on a different planet from everyone else. Not everyone think like I do and that’s really awesome. Then I doubt myself and want to delete everything that I’ve just wrote.

I think we could all enjoy life a bit more if we took a step back and really thought about the important things: where we live, what we do, and how we confront the situations that face us. I don’t think this crazy thing called life needs to be difficult. I think it can be a whole lot of fun if we just say that we want it to be this way. Maybe I am an alien though and I have a different biological makeup than everyone and that’s why I think this way. I don’t know. I will never know. I am just going to do what I am doing and that’s about it.

Hi There.
I’m on my way I’m making it.
I had it made like a mountain range with a snow white pillow for my big fat head
And my heaven will be a big heaven, and I will walk through the front door

Social Media is Really Fucking Stupid These Days


About a month ago I heard about a site called Who Unfollowed Me. Once you log in with Twitter, this site will show you who has unfollowed you on the service. I logged in and saw my list of recent unfollowers. It was a mix of the following:

  • Authors who thought “oh he’s a librarian I’ll try to sell him that book that I published on Amazon” and then discovered I wasn’t that kind of librarian.
  • Librarians who haven’t used Twitter in months-years.
  • Other random people who don’t fit into a neat and tidy category.

The site also had an option to tweet about how you found out who unfollowed you on Twitter. All in all, these two things got me thinking about social media, ego, and all that kind of jazz. I came up with this. WHO GIVES A FUCK.

The amount of followers a person has, their “social influence” and their reach? I think it is all a bunch of crap. It doesn’t matter all that much. And it sure isn’t a badge of honor that a person should wear around. Big on Twitter? That’s great. Huge on Instagram? Wow, you are amazing. Actually not really. None of this matters that much in the long run. It’s just a bunch of numbers that give the user and others in their community an inflated social media ego. It’s a bragging right that doesn’t need to be a bragging right.

The other thing that struck me (the option to tweet about how you found out who unfollowed you) was just how rude we can be to each other. Why would someone want to put this out into the world? “Hey, I found out that you unfollowed me. Here’s something to make you feel bad.” I don’t get this. But this is something that I see on social media these days; rage, anger, and the idea that one always had to get in the last word. It’s like we’re living in a social media time loop where something happens, followed by another thing, followed by this and then that. We usually get Saturday and Sunday off to forget about the hot topic of the moment and wait until Monday to start up on something else (see this for a perfect example of the social media time loop idea). It doesn’t seem to end these days.

I like the internet a lot. I like social media. I really like talking to friends that I don’t get to see everyday. This damn thing connects us and that is great! I love it! But recently, I think we’re stuck in a rut. We should all take a step back and think about how we’re using the internet and how we view ourselves and each other on the internet. Let’s deflate our egos a bit. Let’s calm down and not get so angry. Why so serious? Let’s dance for a bit. Wait a second. I have a fantastic song.

THIS is why I love the internet.