Category Archives: Technology

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Two of my grandsons, ages 10 and 13, seem destined to suffer some of the negative effects of video-game overuse. The 10-year-old gets up half an hour earlier on school days to play computer games, and he and his brother stay plugged into their hand-held devices on the ride to and from school. “There’s no conversation anymore,” said their grandfather, who often picks them up. When the family dines out, the boys use their devices before the meal arrives and as soon as they finish eating.

Taken from the New York Times article “Screen Addiction is Taking a Toll on Children” by Jane E. Brody.

It seems like every six months or so an article comes out that talks about the dangers of (insert here) screen time, video games, computers, iPads, etc on kids today. I don’t know if it’s a slow news day or its just something that gets a lot of clicks and likes, but hey, they keep on coming.

I see this argument from two sides: as a parent and as a librarian. I see what technology does to kids AND adults: it kind of totally mystifies us! We want to use it, we want to have it in our hands, and we want to play with it. I think it’s important to realize that this argument doesn’t just apply to kids. Adults too get sucked into technology. I see parents (myself included sometimes!) lost inside of their smartphones. It’s an escape from the world and sometimes a nice 5-10 minute break.

I also know that too much technology can have an effect on a person. I find myself getting tired and worn out if I’ve looked at my computer or my phone too long. I see my own kids getting cranky and bored when they’ve watched way too many toy review videos on YouTube.

Technology is awesome. Technology lets us connect and learn in so many different ways. This week, I’ll be part of an interview process at my place of work to hire a new Youth Services Librarian. You know what? We’ll be doing all of our interviews over Skype. Technology helps bring the world together. Technology like video games help us take part in stories and adventures and connect with other like minded people.

What this article, the many others before it, and the many others that will come, should be focusing on instead is balance and the importance of having conversations. Talk to your kids, whether you are their parent, their teacher, or their librarian. Talk to them about how important technology can be in their lives. While you’re at it, also talk to them about the importance of balance in their lives. It doesn’t have to be all technology all the time. You need balance. You need variety. I like to tell my sons that it would be AWESOME to have ice cream all the time but in the long run I’d probably die really quickly and that would suck. They get it. Don’t have ice cream all the time. Spice it up. Have some lima beans in there too. It’s that way with technology/video games/iPads/etc: sprinkle in a walk, play a musical instrument, have a conversation, etc. Balance is awesome.


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!


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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.


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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.


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.



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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.


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!



Awesomeness in the Children’s area of THE 2ND FLOOR

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I’m gonna brag for a moment: our kids area of THE 2ND FLOOR of The Chattanooga Public Library is totally rocking all things library.  We’ve been making quite a few changes over the past few months….our area for ages 0-7 and their caregivers is now home to all of our picture books, there is LOTS of open space to relax and enjoy the library together, and there are now creative stations all around.  Everyone on the 2nd Floor staff are pitching in on the development of the creative stations and the community using the library are enjoying these stations SO VERY MUCH.

Here’s one that really caught my eye that was made by Olga, who works primarily in our kid’s area and runs our Thursday BABY BOUNCE program on THE 2ND FLOOR. This amazing creative station was built by her. It teaches kids the basics of automation. The awesome part? IT IS SO MUCH FUN. It’s a great hands on thing that anyone that comes into the library can use and learn about automation through fun.


The 2nd Floor Commercial

There are so many awesome people who visit The 2nd Floor.  One of those awesome people that I’ve been lucky to meet during my time here in Chattanooga is the awesome Zachary Cross.

I asked him if he’d be interested in making a commercial for The 2nd Floor after I saw some of the awesome work he whipped up at one of our MAKEANOOGA TEENS events back in late 2013.

Check out more of Zachary’s video work here

Thanks for the awesome commercial Zachary!

Thank You Wisconsin Winter Web Conference!

575380_584031804990366_921861033_nI am honored to  be presenting with my co-worker Nate Hill at the Wild Wisconsin Winter Web Conference today at 1pm CST.  We’ll be talking about the following:

From Testing to Deployment: Moving Technology from the 4th Floor to the 2nd Floor

New and emerging technologies, trends, and services should and can encompass several areas in your library. Hill transformed a 4th floor storage area into a vibrant beta space, while Hoenke transformed the youth services floor. This tag-team webinar will talk about the informal and formal processes and synergies between the two floors. They’ll discuss high-tech: 3D printing and vinyl cutting as well as low tech: button makers, crafts, and the Awesome Bear.

Follow along the conversation at #WWWC14 on Twitter!

Keynote: Marigold Library System May 2014

MarigoldKeynoteI am extremely happy to announce that I am heading up to Strathmore, Alberta, Canada to give the keynote address for the 2014 Marigold Library System Members Workshop.  I’ll be presenting on teens, community, and makerspaces in the library.

Thank you to the Marigold Library System for asking me to be part of their program.  I am honored and SUPER excited to visit Strathmore!  This is my first keynote ever…I am excited to move into this new chapter.