Category Archives: Life In Chattanooga, TN

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.

End of the Fiscal Year and All That Jazz

I’m going to take a moment and share something that I am very proud of: statistics for the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year for Youth Services at the Chattanooga Public Library. Now I’m most affiliated with all things on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library, but as we all know it takes the whole picture and the team to make something truly magical happen.  These stats will show you that it is the TEAM at the Chattanooga Public Library that makes things happen.  Some of us have been called Rock Star Librarians but in the great grand scheme of things that isn’t what matters. It’s how the team comes together to do amazing things.  These statistics are proof that amazing things are happening in Chattanooga:

2nd Floor Kids Programs: 676 programs, 11,073 attendees
2nd Floor Tween and Teen Programs: 522 programs, 9233 attendees
Branch Library Kid Programs: 903 programs, 19,811 attendees
Branch Library Tween and Teen Programs: 95 programs, 1,326 attendees

Overall, the Chattanooga Public Library improved all programming and outreach from 51525 attendees 2012-2013 to 82849 attendees in 2013-2014. That’s a 37.8% increase.

Our circulation statistics were also pretty awesome:
2012-2013 Kids Circulation: 233,042
2013-2014 Kids Circulation: 318,485
That’s a 37% increase!

2012-2013 Tween/Teen Circulation: 31,974
2013-2014 Tween/Teen Circulation: 42,598
That’s a 33% increase!

Yes.  These are just numbers. And numbers only tell a part of the story. But they are a very important part of the story. And it is good to have all sides of the story.

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To end, here’s one of my favorite photos from 2013-2014 at the Chattanooga Public Library. It’s Megan Emery and one of our tweens cracking a smile. It took SO much for us to get this guy to smile, but we got there.  And once we did, it was all awesome from then on out.






Catch Up

I haven’t had the chance to give a lot of the great events/happenings/moments going on in the world around me a proper post so I’m gonna play catch up with one great giant post full of beautiful, wonderful, and awesome things.

1)  The 2nd Floor has been busy growing!  We just hired Rebecca Zarazan Dunn and Jessie Meyer to join the team.  They’ll be working with us to keep on providing awesome things to kids, tweens, and teens.  Look for more awesome things on the horizon.

2) Last Summer, the excellent Warren Cheetham visited the USA and specifically Chattanooga to learn about Ubiquitous Superfast Broadband as part of his VALA Travel Scholarship.  It was so rad to hang out with Warren and here’s a great paper written by the man himself about his travels.  I highly suggest you read it to get a glimpse into where (some) US cities and the entire country of Australia are heading.  A brave new world indeed.

3. TRAVEL!  And lots of it.  For the first time in my life I have frequent flyer miles.  I gave my first keynote for the UNCG LIS Alumni earlier this year, the Texas Library Association Conference was one of the best I’ve ever attended, the School Library Journal Think Tank in Nashville, TN brought together some of the greatest Youth Services Librarians in our field today to talk and brainstorm about our future, and I’m heading off to Strathmore, Alberta, Canada and Baltimore, MD to give two more keynotes!  It’s so exciting to chat with so many new people and share ideas.

Here’s what it looks like from the stage.  Fun and equally terrifying stuff indeed:
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4) Back to the 2nd Floor: it is rockin’!  ZZ Top style rockin’! Megan Emery keeps pushing the boundaries of what makes up a library program with her  programs on the 2nd Floor (see this and this) and Lee, Vicki, Bev, Kaye, Olga, Emmy, and Bobbi keep adding to our stellar children’s programs with new ideas like SENSORY STORYTIME and our collaboration with the most excellent  MUSE OF FIRE project. It’s getting better all the time.  The future of Youth Services looks great and it’s just gonna keep on getting better.  Here’s the secret: it’s all about providing neat opportunities to kids, tweens, teens, and families.  Gone are the days where we divided up our populations.  Together, we can offer the world.

5) Chattanooga has loads of great visitors, and I really enjoyed meeting with the team from the Aarhaus Folkelab.  They’re offering a new outlook on what libraries can be for their community.  I especially like the gifts they gave the Chattanooga staff when they visited….multi purpose tools!  This is the new library card!  Imagine that!

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6) Life is good.  We stay in our yard a lot, tending to the garden, digging with Finn and Aero, throwing the ball to Sonic, and just enjoying life.  Chattanooga is great.  The transition to life in the South has gone well.  The transition towards more responsibility, management, and other things in the library for me has gone well.  Bumps in the road?  Yes.  Minor freak outs where I don’t believe in myself?  Of course.  But like everything in life, we will all get to where we need to get to.


I think that is all I have for now. I am most likely missing something big but that means I can just write another post sooner.  Everyone should listen to the first three ZZ Top albums.

Love, Justin




What’s Goin’ On

2014-01-24 18.57.29I haven’t done a great job sharing the nitty gritty details about what’s been happening on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library and I wanted to take a moment to change that.  I knew that the work here in Chattanooga would  be unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in the past but what I didn’t realize was just how much work there would be.  This is not a bad thing at all…in fact, it is a very good thing. The 10 months I’ve been here have been the best professional experience of my life.

So let’s play some catch up, shall we?

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We’ve been playing around with the concept of how we work on the 2nd Floor.  There’s a strong drive to get us away from the “desk” model and into something that’s more of a “always working in and with the public” model.  I’m totally on board.  Why?  We’re public librarians and the public is our bread and butter.  If we ain’t helping them, what are we doing with our time?

The goal is to create something that isn’t big and scary and instead  invites the community to work alongside us.  We want them to sit next to us.  We want them to feel that our workspace is a place where they can connect and hang out with us.  It’s collaborative.

The “always working in and with the public” model has its good parts (we’re always there for the public) and the bad parts (how do we get away from the public when we need to do something else that requires focus?).  We haven’t found the perfect answer but we’re trying new things.  We’ll find what works for us and go with it.

For more on this, read Work Spaces

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One of the things I’ve heard most from librarians is that you’ll never know how many people you’ll get at a program and there’s no really good way to predict these kinds of numbers.  I agree. I’ve had some duds and I’ve had some hits.  To answer this question, we’re trying something I like to call “neverending programming.”  Why put a lot of energy into programs that only happen at a certain time during the day?  Why not have things going on all the time?

We’ve got a mix of neverending programming and traditional programs happening at the moment.  To see all of the “neverending programming” we offer on the 2nd Floor,click here.  Traditional scheduled programs still work, but we want to have something for everyone at all times.  This is our way of finding a balance for everyone in our community.

For more on this, read Buttons, Buttons Everywhere and The 2nd Floor Photo Booth

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How in the heck does one manage one 3D printer and make it avaliable for every single person in the community? I think about the answer to that question a lot.  3D printing takes time and when you have a city of over 160,000 to serve that’s a lot of 3D printing.

I also ask myself this question all the time: how do you make the 3D printing experience worthwhile?  Going onto Thingiverse, finding something neat to print out, and doing that is great but there’s gotta be more, right?

Over the past few months, my colleague Megan Emery and I have come up with an informal program called The 3 D’s of 3D Printing.  It’s part gamification, part badge system, part learning experience, part our way of making sure we’re not turning into a 3D print factory.  Does it work?  Parts of it does.  It allows us to educate the kids, tweens, and teens about 3D printing and make the process into a learning experience.  Where it doesn’t work is how it’s a drop in program that requires staff time.  I’ve noticed that 3D printing interest happens most when we are busiest (Monday-Thursday between 4-8 and Saturdays between 1-5, FYI) and finding the time to really work with someone one on one isn’t going as smoothly as we’d like. But with everything else we do, we have the flexibility to change it to fit with what the community and the staff needs at this moment.  I’ll be sure to check back in soon when we move from version 1.0 of this program to version 1.5!


We’ve moved so much stuff around (with the help of our maintenance staff, thank you!) in our quest to make the 2nd Floor a destination for ages 0-18.  Books and shelves that were once here are now there and tables and chairs have been re purposed as creative tables and more. With the 2nd Floor, nothing ever stays the same and that’s a good thing…we are constantly trying to improve our services to best meet the needs of our users.

Thinking of the 2nd Floor as a flexible space that’s always changing has helped.  Our director Corinne Hill says that the only certain thing these days is change and she’s right.  If that’s what our staff can expect, then moving some furniture and services around won’t be so much of a big deal.

Here in Chattanooga I’ve been doing way more of what I’m calling manager type stuff.  I make the weekly schedules.  I book programs.  I do staff payroll.  I handle vacation requests.  I make sure the staff is aware of all of the changes happening.  It’s been a tough transition to this role but it is something I am really enjoying.  Management is hard but very rewarding.

My management gurus these are a triforce of awesome.  Corinne Hill (director of the Chattanooga Public Library) and Dan and Lisa Nausley of Sandler Training in Chattanooga have taught me more about management in the last 10 months than I’ve ever known.  Like I said above, it’s challenging but it’s a welcome challenge.  This is growth and growth is tough.

For more on manager type stuff, please read Staff Development and Training

A lot of folks said “are you sure you’re gonna like the south?” when I announced that I was moving to Chattanooga. I’m happy to report that I finally have an answer for you: YES.  What makes it great are the people.  The city of Chattanooga loves their community and even more so, their library.  Their input, suggestions, comments, and support help make the Chattanooga Public Library awesome.  I point to  The 2nd Floor Commercial as an example: directed by a local teen named Zachary Cross, this was filmed and edited on his own time just to share what the 2nd Floor is about.

Chattanooga is awesome.  It’ll keep being awesome.  I’ll keep on working hard to do my part.

2014 YP Awards

YP Awards

Wow!  I am super honored to be nominated for a YP Award in the category of YP Corporate Innovator of the Year.  The Young Professionals of Chattanooga Association does a lot of great work in creating opportunities for young professionals to connect and grow into the future leaders of Chattanooga.
The YP Awards luncheon on Friday, February 21, 2014, at the Chattanoogan Hotel and winners will be announced then.

Happy Birthday Finn!



Happy birthday Finn!  You are five!  You are awesome!  You have one of the most unique personalities of any person I have ever met!  Keep being you and amazing things will happen.  I am proud of you my little dude.

All things Finn:
Finn’s birth annoucement:

2013 Year In Review

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I’ve always enjoyed writing these year in review posts in the past.  I haven’t done one since 2010 and I thought this year would be a great one to share.  I’m gonna focus on the professional part of my life here and keep it simple.

2013 was the year I fell in love with libraries….again.

It sounds horribly cheesy and easy to say, but it is true.  I came to Chattanooga, TN on April 22, 2013 and three hours into my job I began on an awesome adventure that continues to this day. What we’re trying to accomplish at the Chattanooga Public Library is something that is really difficult to put into words.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to write a blog post about it but ended up scrapping what I had written.  It’s a flexible, evolving, always learning, always trying new things kind of library.  It is a library that responds to the community.  It is a good, no scrap that, great library to be a part of.  I work with awesome people full of awesome ideas and amazing talents.  Whether it be the folks that have been in the library system for 20 years up to the recent hires, everyone is super awesome.

I learned to put everything in the past behind me, to move ahead, to keep saying yes, to keep trying new things, and to grow into whatever role this journey leads me to.  I’m growing up in the library world and with that comes more responsibility and duties.  It can be difficult to grasp these new roles and ideas at first but I’m learning and changing the way I think.

2013 was very awesome.  I am very thankful to be surrounded by such amazing people.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading this blog and following my adventures via social media over the last few years.  I really appreciate all of the great conversations we’ve had and the ideas we’ve shared.  I hope we continue to do this in 2014 and beyond.