Libraries, Pittsburgh, PA, Presentations, Technology, Video Games

THIS SATURDAY! I’ll be speaking at the Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention 2018

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I’m pretty excited about this. I hope you can make it. Even if you don’t wanna hear me chat about video games and libraries, attend the convention, play some great games, and make some new friends. This is my first presentation in well over a year and I am really excited to dive back into how video games, libraries, and communities can all smooooosh together and make exciting things happen.

Here is a description of my presentation:
If you’re reading this, chances are that you are attending the Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention, an event that brings the community of video game lovers together. You know what else brings community together? Libraries! The days of the old, quiet, and musty library are gone. Nowadays, libraries are vibrant community centers, full of life, all kinds of literature, and events for all ages. And guess what else? They have video games too! (well, at least the really good ones do). In this presentation, Librarian Justin Hoenke will share his experience about bringing video games into libraries. You’ll learn about how he created video game collections in public libraries all over the country and also how he created events that centered around gaming for all ages at the library. Gamers who are looking to take video games out into the community and do some community building should attend this event.

Follow along on Twitter at https://twitter.com/PghRetroGaming
Like and follow along on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PittsburghRetroGaming

And for those that can’t attend or for some reason look at presentation slides, well here you go:

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Abigail Foster's Photosynthesis Machine, Fidelia Hall, Life, Music, Titusville, PA

Small Town by Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine

I was going to originally release this album on May 2, 2018, but here I am to tell you that the album is out today, Tuesday April 17, 2018. I hope you get a chance to listen to the album and enjoy it. Thank you for your continued support.

I wrote a lot of this album in November/December 2017 when it was cold, grey, two ceilings of ours started collapsing in the house, pipes were freezing on a daily basis, and it was just really cold out. As I recorded the album, two fires swept through our town destroying a good section of a town already in decline and all that was in the news were stories of small town squabbles and little bits of politics that had the potential to seriously affect people’s lives. The album wasn’t born in the greatest of times, but I think that’s OK. It stands as a document for a moment in time that happened, and that’s what all albums are…they’re a snapshot of a moment.

If you’re a librarian and you’re reading this, consider this album to be the aural equivalent of my A New Career In A New Town posts. As I was writing those posts, I was writing these songs. The second half of the SMALL TOWN album is that journey towards a possible new career in a new town.

If you’d like to listen to the album, use the music player embedded in this post or visit abigailfostersphotosynthesismachine.bandcamp.com. The album is free to stream from this website. If you’d like to purchase an MP3 copy of the album, you can do so for $7 through the Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Bandcamp page. If I ever sell any copies of my music, I just then take that money and buy more music stuff to record more songs.

For more information, please visit Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine on Facebook

Thank you for your continued support.

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Local History & Genealogy

The Fabric of Our Families: Our journey in Local History & Genealogy Services

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Local History & Genealogy services were definitely not on my mind when I arrived at the Benson Memorial Library in 2015. To me, those services were something that local historical societies excelled in, not the public library. I have, like most things, been proven wrong the more time went on and this wasn’t any different. What I discovered shortly after I arrived in Titusville was that not only was this something that this public library excelled at but it was something that was much needed in this community. From that point forward, Local History & Genealogy services became one of the main focuses as I lead the Benson Memorial Library towards the future.

Almost one year ago my library hired a full time Historian. With this position, the goal was to expand these Local History & Genealogy services to a wider audience. And in that year, we’ve done quite a bit. NWPA Stories was started and in one year had 5,799 views, pretty great for a niche blog in a time where many people consider blogging to be dead. NWPA Stories was an important step for our library. Instead of the library being a place that connected individuals to the stories, the library became a place that researches, writes, and shares these stories. One of the things I’ve always found amazing about blogging is that when you write and share via a blog that you’re basically your own publisher, so in a way our library became a niche publisher when NWPA Stories began in 2016.

You can read more about this specific project here: Blogging at the Library

The next step was to expand our services beyond the traditional obituary listings and complete microfilm collection of our local newspaper. While that stuff still has tremendous worth and value (and is still very much utilized by our guests), we wanted to expand. That expansion meant taking what I consider to be a big step in genealogy with our subscription to Ancestry Library Edition. There’s now not a day that goes by where I hear a staff member talk about census records or some other amazing find that they came across in Ancestry. We’ve also been able to expand our programs at the library and now host 1-2 evening workshops where people can learn more about the service.

You can read more about this specific project here: A Neat Local History & Genealogy Story.

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This brings me to our latest project, a Photo Scanning Station, a VHS Conversion Station, and the seeds of a hopefully robust Digital Local History Collection. This concept and idea isn’t new by any means (The Memory Lab at DC Public Libraries is the first example of this that jumps out in my head). It is a tried and true idea to offer these tools to users in public libraries. Where it stands out to me is in how it gives a rural small town with a rich local history a chance to be a part of that history. The best parts of history come from the stories that we all share. It is through those stories that we all learn the little nuances that come with every family or every community. History is so much more when it comes from the heart, and what better way to get at that heart than through working directly with your community members. Our Historian Jessica Hilburn really hit home when she said this to me: “At the Benson Memorial Library, history isn’t just an abstract concept, but the fabric of our families”. The library is the place where we can grow our families and learn more about them. In turn, we build a stronger community because our roots become stronger. That’s why having these digitization stations at our library are so important. They’re building the future of this community by better connecting us to our past.

You can read more about this specific project here: Building a Digital Local History Collection Together.

 

Abigail Foster's Photosynthesis Machine, Music

Small Town

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Seven months after the release of the album Prozac Is The Dam And I Am The Dynamite, the musical project known as Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine is back with another album titled Small Town. Written and recorded in the Fall/Winter of 2018, this ten song album is a firsthand glimpse at rural small town life in America circa 2018.

Everything is falling apart. Houses falling down. Pipes leaking through the walls. Abandoned lots. Lost dreams. Student loan debt crippling an entire generation. Broken and beaten down humans. SMALL TOWN is for a generation that has been destroyed by those that came before and thought they could rule the world. -JUSTIN HOENKE, April 2018

This album is the third album from the musical project known as Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine in 2 years. As with all albums by Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine, this album was recorded inside and outside on the grounds of Fidelia Hall in Titusville, PA. Fidelia Hall is the homestead of the Hoenke family in addition to being a creative space for the arts and a recording studio for music. All of the songs on Small Town were written, produced, and performed by Justin Hoenke.

  1. Small Town
  2. Give Me The Atom Bomb
  3. This Town Will Destroy Itself
  4. Frozen Pipes
  5. Let’s Go Back To Sleep
  6. Little Paradise
  7. Aeoteoroa
  8. Much Too Late
  9. Atom Bomb (Reprise)
  10. Another Day

Small Town will be available on May 2, 2018 through Arbacarba Records (arbacarbarecords.com). The album will sell for $7 through the Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Bandcamp page (abigailfostersphotosynthesismachine.bandcamp.com).

For more information, please visit Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine on Facebook

Thank you for your continued support.

A New Career In A New Town, Libraries, Life

A New Career In A New Town: The Rejection Letter

“WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOU WERE NOT CHOSEN FOR THIS PARTICULAR ROLE. WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR APPLICATION AND WE WISH YOU THE BEST OF LUCK IN YOUR FUTURE.”

Every single person reading this post who has applied for a job has received these two sentences or some variation of them at some point in their career. Be it through email (the preferred choice of employers these days) or the postal system, these two sentences are never what a job seeker wants to hear. But if you want to find a job, you have to face the fact that you will see these two sentences at some point.

My recent job search has found me encountering the many wonderful variations of the two sentence rejection email quite a bit. I’ve gone through all of the emotions that someone who didn’t get the job will go through: sadness, a dash of anger, a lot of confusion, some conspiracy induced paranoia (convince me that there’s not a library cabal made up of folks that get together at conferences and have huge Facebook message threads where they gossip about everyone), and a whole lot of introspection. Here’s what I’ve told myself about all of those emotions: I’m totally supposed to be having them. No emotion is better than the other, and all of them together are part of the whole picture. I’ve found this approach to life in general to be quite exhilarating. When you give yourself permission to feel, you get the full experience of what it means to be a human being in the modern world.

But I’m getting off topic here. What we’re talking about today is the rejection letter. And once you’ve seen a few of them over the course of a few months, you start to have ideas about how you can make them better. I’ve only got one idea on how we all can make the rejection letter a better experience for the job seeker. It’s a big idea, but here goes:

WE SHOULD BE OFFERING FEEDBACK, NOT FORM LETTERS

The two sentence, cut and paste cookie cutter language, ending with the logo of the library that you just applied to rejection letter needs to die. We are not helping anyone but ourselves and our own time when we hit send on these types of rejection letters. I get it…time is precious, we only have so much of it, and there’s so much to do. But for a profession that believes so much in the power of sharing and mentoring we’re doing quite a poor job of it when it comes to communicating with those who we did not select for the job. Instead we’re giving them even more fuel for their sadness, anger, confusion, paranoia, and introspection and while emotions are healthy, direction and guidance is needed.

Job seekers will often wonder for hours on end why they didn’t get the job. Was there one little spelling error that threw off the person reading the cover letter? Was the candidate just not qualified for the job? Was there something else underneath it all that led the job panel to pass on this applicant? Instead of a cookie cutter rejection letter, try to imagine a rejection letter that was clear and direct on why the person did not get the job ending with some feedback from the panel. Here’s an example that I’ve cooked up.

Dear Sally Struthers, 

Thank you for your application for the Librarian opening at the Everytown USA Library. The panel has concluded reviewing applications and has decided to move ahead with another candidate. We are sorry but your application was not selected for this role. 

Your resume was very detailed and your experience in libraries shows a great deal of unique situations which have no doubt helped you develop into the librarian that you are today. For this role, Everytown USA Library was seeking an applicant with more customer service management experience, whereas the experience detailed in your resume was more rooted in behind the scenes administration. We specifically liked the Tater Tots For Fines initiative that you led at Busytown Library. That initiative was very inspiring and specific for the community you served, but it has helped us think about what we could do for our own community.

Once again thank you for your interest in the Everytown USA Library. If you would like further feedback on your application, please feel free to contact us via email.

Sincerely,
Scott Baio
Human Resources
Everytown USA Library

I probably didn’t nail it in the example above, but it gives a brief idea of what I’m thinking about when it comes to beefing up the rejection letter. Something more than just two sentences, and something that acknowledges that the panel did indeed read everything you put together and gave it the thought it deserves goes a long way. There’s still gonna be a little bit of sadness for the person that did not get the job, but all of those other emotions can either be minimized or all together avoided if there was just a bit more communication, guidance, and kindness from the employer. Take a moment, write some thoughtful worlds, and that energy you put into the world can go a long way.

Libraries, Management

Three Things You May Not Know About Your Manager/Library Director

It is so bizarre for me to vocalize this, but coming up in June I will have been a library director for 3 years. When I accepted this job, I knew that I was up for challenge and I was pretty sure I could do it. Three years into it I can say that I’ve enjoyed parts of it, loathed some of it, and have realized that I’m still not 100% sure that I can do it. One of the other things that I’ve learned along the way is what it feels like to be a manger/library director. I’ve worked for two really great directors in the past and one not so great and for each of them I always wondered what was going on in their head. Their ideas and decisions always made me so curious. Why did this make this decision? Why did they side with this person and not that person? Where do they think the library is headed? I always tried to understand things but in the moments I didn’t have a full picture so there’s no way I could understand it at all.

But now that I’ve been a director myself I can understand the fuller picture of being a manager/library director. I know that there’s a lot going on and that there are many complex thoughts, ideas, and emotions behind everything. While these three things I’ve learned may not apply to every manager/library director in the world, I’d like to think that they do apply to most of them out there.

No Matter What You Think, I Can Confirm That Your Library Director/Manager Has A Soul

Your manager/library director told you “no” or didn’t side with your input in a situation. This has all happened to us. In my opinion, the best directors always say yes or let you run with your wildest idea, but in some cases they say no. Hearing no or not having your input considered is tough. I’ve been through it many times and each time afterwards I have always had a day or two where I was down in the dumps, thinking that my manager/library director would always be against me or was simply out to destroy everything that I came up with. Boy was I wrong.

From my experience, I believe that no matter what the situation is that every library director out there is trying to think of the best possible solution for every issue that arises. While you may not agree with the end result, I can tell you that your preferred outcome was at least considered. A good manager and library director considers all sides of the story. For the things I’ve done and changed around at the Benson Memorial Library it has always been me pondering every possible side of the story for a few weeks and then once I’ve done that coming to a conclusion that best fits the needs of the library (we’ll get to the library and its needs soon enough). I’m not out to get anyone, I’m not out to give anyone a bad day, and you should know that I’m always thinking of the best possible way forward for everyone.

Your Library Director/Manager Is Thinking Of You

The best library directors and managers are always thinking of their employees. Y’all may not agree on every step of the way, but through the ups and downs I can confirm that they are thinking of you. They’re thinking about where you’re at and where you’re going. You may feel like you and your manager/library director don’t have a connection, but you do. A good library director has a connection with every single one of their employees. It may be small, sometimes almost non-existent, or it may be a bigger connection, but in all cases there should be some kind of connection. No library director or manager wants to make an individuals life miserable or tough. I believe that at our core all of us human beings are looking out for each other, and managers and library directors are the same.

Your Library Director Has To Look Out For The Library First

This is the one big one that I have learned. I believe it was Corinne Hill who told me that her first responsibility as a Director was that she had to look out for the present and future of the library as a whole at all times. Up until that point, I didn’t realize that “the library” was another employee that the library director/manager had to look out for. The library wasn’t just a ethereal thing to the library director…it was a living breathing organism who needed the utmost care and attention. Its existence was greatly depended upon not only by the people it employed, but the entire community.

With that in mind, I’ve come to understand that my first big job as a library director is to look out for the library as a whole. I need to maintain that heating system. I need to update our windows. I need to make sure we have a well rounded collection covers all of the different kind of information that our community needs. I need to make sure that the staff are trained and are doing their work. I need to make sure I lead in a positive and community first way. All of these things, when lumped and smooshed together, are best summed up in the phrase the library director needs to look out for the library as a whole first and foremost. When the manager/library director looks out for the whole of the library, everything that I mentioned above and much, much more can hum along nicely.

Libraries, Presentations, Technology, Video Games

Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention 2018

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I’m happy to share that I’ll be speaking at the 2018 Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention in Pittsburgh, PA on April 21, 2018 this year. Video games have always been a big part of who I am, and I’ve always loved bringing them into public libraries so this presentation will be a neat marriage of two things I really love. If you’re attending this convention, say hello and let’s chat about video games and libraries!

Here is a description of my presentation:
If you’re reading this, chances are that you are attending the Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention, an event that brings the community of video game lovers together. You know what else brings community together? Libraries! The days of the old, quiet, and musty library are gone. Nowadays, libraries are vibrant community centers, full of life, all kinds of literature, and events for all ages. And guess what else? They have video games too! (well, at least the really good ones do). In this presentation, Librarian Justin Hoenke will share his experience about bringing video games into libraries. You’ll learn about how he created video game collections in public libraries all over the country and also how he created events that centered around gaming for all ages at the library. Gamers who are looking to take video games out into the community and do some community building should attend this event.

Follow along on Twitter at https://twitter.com/PghRetroGaming
Like and follow along on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PittsburghRetroGaming