The Platform

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The Nintendo Entertainment System is a video game system that you enter video game cartridges into in order to play a game on the individual cartridge. Sometimes these video games are made by Nintendo themselves, and other times they are made by other companies (such as Capcom, Square, and others). The Nintendo Entertainment System is a platform that allows users to play video games that are either made by Nintendo themselves or by another company/organization. The games that are able to be be played on the Nintendo Entertainment System platform are approved by Nintendo. The Nintendo Entertainment System (like other video game systems out there) is a platform.

Nate Hill turned me onto the idea of platforms. I can’t thank him enough for these ideas and this influence on my life. As Haley and I have dove into work building and envisioning Fidelia Hall, the idea of the platform has came back into my mind.

Two big things that drew us towards purchasing this property were:

  1. The location, which sits at a wonderful intersection in Titusville PA
  2. The former chapel space (now know as The Great Hall) and the downstairs community room and kitchen (now known as The Gallery and Artist Studios)

With so much space and so many options with those spaces, it would be silly of Haley and I to think that we both could fill up that area with activities and ideas at all times. We will be using the space to execute our own personal ideas from time to time (think of Fidelia Hall as our own personal canvas), but the idea behind Fidelia Hall becomes even stronger when we work with others who can use the space as a platform for their ideas.

What does this mean? I think it can mean a lot of things. It can be as simple as an individual coming to us with an idea and then themselves executing that idea within Fidelia Hall. It could be a group or business using the space for a fundraiser, a private event, or something open to the community. This would also create a revenue stream for Fidelia Hall, in that the individual or group would be using our space for a fee. As the owners and directors of Fidelia Hall, it would be then on Haley and I to create a set of guidelines for acceptable use of Fidelia Hall. With the space acting as our home, our work, and a community center, we will want to exercise control as to who uses the space and what they’re using it for.

As I write this, my mind images what a day at Fidelia Hall may look like. This is all pure speculation:

In The Great Hall, a musician works with a producer using the space to record an album of original music. They were attracted to Fidelia Hall because of the acoustics in the Great Hall. Downstairs in the Gallery, we have a monthly exhibit from a local artist. This event is free and open to the public, and is part of a collaboration between Fidelia Hall and a local arts organization that we have chose to partner with. In the Artist Studios, we have quite a few things happening at once: a visual artist rents out one of the rooms on a monthly basis as their art studio. In another, Justin is running a retro video game day. Folks can come into the space for a fee and play Nintendo games from Justin’s personal collection. In another room, there’s a businessperson meeting with one of their clients.

What we have in the above paragraph to me is a good balance of what the platform at Fidelia Hall may look like. It has art, it has meetings, it has gatherings, it has events. It has a lot going on at once. The events listed above would bring in income to Fidelia Hall, which could then be used to do the following: to pay the utilities for the space (water, garbage, electricity, gas/heating, internet), to pay a salary so that Fidelia Hall will have an employee (this will most likely be Haley to start), to fund more community based initiatives (income=what we can use to pay artists for exhibits, performances, etc), and to pay for the upkeep of the building (145 year old buildings need a lot of love).

At present, we’re still working towards all of this. Our heating system half works at the moment and winter is near. The gallery just had its carpets and drop ceiling removed to reveal the original hardwood floor and tin ceiling. Those will be fixed soon. On the plus side, we’ve got almost all the details sorted out to begin our process to become a business or non-profit (we’re still thinking about the pros and cons) and we’ve got the handicap accessible roof and drainage system working. We’re making small steps towards a bigger idea. Patience. We will get there….and once we do, this platform will do its best to make our small community an even better place to live.

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THREE THINGS 2016.10 (Deluxe Edition)

  • I enjoy the simplicity of late 1950’s/early 1960’s rock n’ roll and pop music. I can put on the Sirius XM 50’s and 60’s channel and really enjoy every song that comes up. Simple chord progressions, easy to sing melodies, and generic lyrics lead to good music.
  • I enjoy seeing vegetables and flowers grow around our home in our gardens.
  • The circus at Drake Well in Titusville, PA on August 27, 2016 was amazing. Top Hat Side Show is awesome.
  • Scott toilet paper is hands down my preferred toilet paper. Good price, good texture, and nice on the butt. All in all though, get a bidet and a squatty potty for the best experience.
  • I recently discovered the band Against Me! and I really enjoy their style. I wrote them off originally as just another punk band but they have this folky, jangly thing going on that is really impressive. Their lead singer sings with such great power.
  • I enjoy sitting around in the hammock that my father installed at the bottom of our son’s tree fort.
  • I want to learn more about the universe and would like to obtain a proper telescope to use to do so.
  • This summer Haley has been identifying so many “weeds” on our property and wow they are so amazing. Purslane is a great thing and I enjoy eating it while I’m sitting around outside.
  • I enjoyed the time I got to spend relaxing after my umbilical hernia surgery. There should be no such thing as a schedule, no such thing as an alarm. We should just be able to exist in the moment. It took a minor operation to make me realize this. I think our world could be stronger and much more patient if we all didn’t have something to do or somewhere to be.
  • I believe we are coming up on yet another turning point for libraries where we present ourselves first and foremost as cultural and learning institutions that make communities stronger. I believe that this is the identity that we must present to the public. Our time to advocate for our budgets and funding is now.
  • Tonight my family will go see KISS perform live. This will be Aero’s first concert and I could not think of a better choice for him.
  • The end of summer and the beginning of fall are magical times here in Northwestern PA and I am really going to enjoy it while it lasts.

 

Who Wants to Work With Me? (August 2016 Edition)

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Hello World! I am looking for a most excellent Youth Services Librarian to come work with us at the Benson Memorial Library in Titusville, PA. If you like small towns where everyone knows everyone else, where you can walk around the whole town in just an hour or so, enjoy scenic trails, and great community members who are all willing to work together, this is a great town for you. Our library employs 7 (nine total) fantastic human beings who are dedicated to doing amazing, positive work for the community. We may be small and we may not have all of the time in the world, but we try our best. I’ll be your boss and I promise to be as nice and awesome and supportive as possible. I’m a human being so sometimes I may let you down but I promise that no matter what we will work together.

Interested? Here’s the listing!

The Benson Memorial Library is now hiring a full time Youth Services Librarian. The primary responsibility of this position is to implement and maintain services for ages 0-18 as well as to provide excellent customer service for parents & caregivers. This position involves working directly with youth, parents or caregivers, community organizations, and partners of the library. This Youth Services Librarian must have a strong knowledge of youth services in libraries, emerging technology trends, and be dedicated to the community of Titusville, PA.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Prepare and present weekly events and programs at the Benson Memorial Library for ages 0-18 including after-school programs.
  • Engage in outreach to schools, day cares, preschools, and other community organizations and agencies serving youth.
  • Select all library materials for youth ages 0-18.
  • Maintain the Youth Services collection by withdrawing used and outdated materials.
  • Develop and oversee all aspects of the yearly summer program.
  • Maintain and use technology related to Youth Services including iPads, 3D Printers, and more.
  • Maintain Youth Services areas in the library and keep it updated to give library visitors a welcoming and amazing experience.
  • Public Service and Circulation Desk assistance.
  • Assist patrons with any library related needs.

The ideal Youth Services Librarian will:

  • Be able to create great relationships with youth ages 0-18 and their parents and caregivers.
  • Demonstrate a knowledge and appreciation for all areas related to youth services in libraries.
  • Be a responsive and proactive employee and value personal customer service.
  • Embrace and promote imagination, innovation and inspiration in both the work setting and in the Titusville community.
  • Work as part of an amazing team that is committed to community of Titusville, PA and work to establish the Benson Memorial Library as a leader in the community.
  • Collaborate and work with public and other staff members in a pleasant and professional manner.
  • Possess strong working knowledge of technology and current trends in library services.
  • Have the physical ability and strength to bend, reach, lift and carry (up to 25 lbs.) at times.

Education Requirements:

  • A college degree is preferred, a Master’s Degree in Library science or Education is highly desirable.
  • Experience working with youth ages 0-18 and their parents and caregivers.

This position is full time, including potential evenings and Saturday shifts. Salary will be dependent on qualifications. Health/Retirement benefits included.

PLEASE NOTE: The following is a guideline as to what is intended for this position. Additional duties may be asked of this position.

Please submit a letter of interest and resume to Executive Director Justin Hoenke via email at justin.hoenke@ccfls.org or via mail at 213 N. Franklin Street Titusville, PA 16354.

Outreach/Community

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Here at the Benson Memorial Library I’m kind of thrust into the  outreach portion of the library. I don’t mind at all….it is a portion of my job that I’ve enjoyed at every library I have worked at and I believe it is one of the most important things a public library can do in this day in age. Getting out there and talking to your community can lead to amazing things.

This past weekend, my town held its yearly Oil Fest event. The library wasn’t really involved in my first year here as we were just moving in and getting settled. This year, we went all out. On Friday, the library kicked off the festival with our LOL: Lunch on the Lawn Local Music Series. All through the week we hosted the Oil Region Alliance Exhibit “Walking The Line“. We had a booth at the festival where we raised money through our Friends of the Library group by raffling off a basket of books donated by DK Publishing (thanks!)

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The big event was our participation in the parade (pictured above). My awesome partner Haley, our sons Finn and Aero, and our most awesome janitor/all around radical human being Emi Foxberg and her kids Tilley and Abe led our “float”. I use quotes because it was just a book cart full of 200 books that were handed out to kids. Many thanks to Haley for pushing that rickity old cart for a mile in the 95% humidity that day.

You make outreach happen however you can. Sometimes you have staff helping out. Sometimes you have volunteers and library related groups like the board of directors or the Friends of the Library helping out. Other times, you call on family and friends. Outreach is a lot of work: there’s the planning and the execution. Always thank those who help out every step of the way. In the end, always remember just how important outreach is to the community. This gets your library’s name in all the conversations happening around the community. It is a positive thing. THIS is one of the ways we can keep libraries relevant and funded in the 21st century.

 

Help my Library win $1000

My library, the Benson Memorial Library in Titusville, PA, was chosen earlier this year to be part of the Greater Titusville Development Foundation Grant Facade Project. We were very honored to be part of this program. It allowed us to repair our historic sandstone steps and ensure that they’re around for many future generations.

The final part of this grant is pretty awesome….a social media contest to get the most LIKES on our project. The photo posted above shares the BEFORE/AFTER of our steps, and if that photo can get the most LIKES this week (contest ends at 12pm on Sunday August 14 2016) we can win $1000!

If you have a moment, would you please consider LIKING the above photo? Click on the image above to be taken to Facebook where you can LIKE the photo.

$1000 can go a long way for a public library….that amount is half of our yearly budget for programs for youth in our community. It could pay our electricity bills for 3 months. It could help fund another building improvement project in the near future. Your support means a lot!

THANK YOU SO MUCH! -Justin

Food Stamps, the Feeling of Failure, Student Loans, and Life as a Library

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Last week, Haley and I applied for food stamps. Our family, which has been going on strong for 11 years and now includes 2 awesome kids, Haley’s mom, our dog Sonic, 3 chickens, and 2 rabbits, have hit a period in our journey where we couldn’t do it without help anymore.

I know that there’s a reason I pay taxes. They are there to help….my family and I, others in need, and more. This is one of those situations where we needed help. I understand this very well. I am all for taxes that help out others in my community. We are all in this together and together we can do amazing things. At the same time there’s a stigma that comes from applying for and using food stamps: that somehow you’ve failed, you’re lazy, or you’re just downright an average human being. I try to have a healthy mind and outlook on everything, but I’ve gotta admit that I’ve fallen into this pit recently. I’m a 36 year old human being, I’ve got a wonderful job which I’m pretty good at, an amazing and happy family, and I’ve done some other things that I’m also really proud of. But here I am at this point where I feel like a failure just because I need some help. It shouldn’t be this way.

We’ve used the support of food stamps before. When Haley and I first got married, we were finishing up college. We both had part time jobs in addition to our full time school workload. The food stamps helped out a lot. Back then, the feeling of being a complete failure because you’re on food stamps wasn’t as big as it is now. Having a family and needing food stamps feels like you’ve hit the bottom. I think about this feeling that I’m having and then I think about all of the others out there who are on food stamps, especially those with families just like mine. What happens when you have all of those people out there in the same situation? You have millions of people out there feeling that they’ve lost all hope, that they’re somehow pathetic, and that they’ve failed. You have millions of people who feel like shit just for wanting to make sure their family doesn’t go hungry. When you have that many people feeling bad in the country, those bad vibes add up. It can’t be proved, but I really think the general malaise surrounding things in our country is somehow related to feelings like this.

On our end, I know that student loan debt is crippling. We’re both on programs that give us flexibility with our payments (income based repayment). While these do help, it’s still tough to have around $100K of debt total hanging over your head just because you went to college, got an education, and pursued a career in something you felt could make a difference in the world. I also understand the argument “well, you went into college knowing full well what would happen.” I’ve heard this many times before. I can see it from two sides: of course I knew (something) about how I’d be in debt once I left college. When I went, they told us about it. Did they tell us the specifics? Sort of kind of maybe not. I started college in 1998 and at that time it was just “oh yeah, you’ll have some debt but it’ll be OK because you’ll be a college graduate.” Most of us became the first great generation of student loan debt holders. And we’re still here! * Can America Afford This Approach to Solving Student Loan Debt? (it’s behind a paywall, but it is a great read) by Haley Sweetland Edwards is a great read that sums up the collective “wow, so much student loan debt”weight of a generation.

The amount of money we spend on student loan debt per month could help us in a lot of ways (FYI: it is around $337/month). First up: it could help with the grocery bills, thus giving us enough money to not go down the food stamp route. Second: it could help with the startup of Fidelia Hall. Have you ever tried starting up a business or a non-profit? Maybe I’m really stupid, but it’s really difficult and confusing…and it costs a lot. Just this week, our Fictitious Name Registration cost us $70 to file an application, $41 to advertise the application in our local newspaper, and $75 to advertise the application in a legal journey. That’s $186, and we’d still have $151 to spend this month on something else (groceries! Fidelia Hall repairs and infrastructure!) What am I trying to get towards? The debt we’re saddling people with for school, health care, and more are crippling us. They’re crippling us mentally. They make us not want to get out of bed. They make us want to sit around and do nothing when what we really want to do is something, because I believe that all human beings (no matter which political side they are on) just want to get things done for their communities. They’re also crippling our ability to move forward and do better things for our communities. You can’t start up a business/non-profit when you don’t have time or money.**

I better wrap this up. We just hit 1,000 words.

I’m not asking for a raise. I’m not asking for donations. I’m not even asking for an “oh man I feel you.” I just wanted to get this out there so that if you’re in a situation similar to this that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We’re here. We’re successful. We’re pretty happy. We’re in debt and we’re also on food stamps.

*On a side note, I remember credit card companies and banks lining up at the dining halls doing everything they can (“here! have a free beach ball for taking our credit card!”) to get students signed up for their first horrible credit card. They succeeded with me and so many other of my friends.

**Go ahead and leave a comment telling me to suck it up and “pull myself up by the bootstraps just like an American would. I’ve been trying to do this for years. This is just what my Dad said and continues to say. But there’s more to it than “sucking it up” or “taking it like a man” or “pulling up your bootstraps”. There has to be some give and take.

 

Pokémon GO at the Library

Before I start, I must give credit where credit is due: amazing librarians Chantel Theunissen and Pam Jones of New Zealand for their awesomeness and inspiration to do something with Pokémon GO here in Titusville, PA. They helped me see what libraries are all about once again….people, conversations, and connections. It was perfect timing. I was getting a bit negative there. (sorry)

The idea was simple: purchase a few lures, set a time, set off those lures, and tell people to come to the library. Once they came, the thing that would connect us and start conversation would be Pokémon. We had some books out and about but the real goal wasn’t circulation…it was community building. And it sure did happen.

One helpful way of promoting this event was to target Facebook groups. In my semi-rural neck of the woods I found 4 Pokémon GO related groups. There’s probably more but that’s all I felt that I needed to find to help promote the event. Of course, we also used our own library Facebook page and got our awesome paper the Titusville Herald to also help us by running a story.

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Our Youth Services Librarian Ashlee Norwood hangs out with a new library patron and chats about Pokemon GO.

 

 

We had a blast running the program for our community. It was two hours full of conversation, sharing, and community building. Will we do this again? Of course! We will do whatever we can to start up amazing conversations with our community.

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It rained a bit so we went inside. No worries though! We still had a blast.