The Next Few Years #sharegoodstuff

Don’t worry: this is not a political post. I don’t care who you voted for, and I don’t care to discuss politics with anyone.

What I’m gonna talk about is the next few years and what I believe to be one of the biggest things all of us in this country (and the world to a greater extent) need to practice and learn more about: how to be kind to each other, how to listen to each other, and how to make real and positive changes in our world.

I believe that all of this starts in our heads and in our hearts. First, we must be willing to see the positive parts of our daily lives. When we see those, we see hope and love all around us. Our world changes and instead of being a place where the day-to-day slog happens, it becomes a place of opportunity.

Once this is established, we can have better interactions with other people from day to day. They can be kinder and more focused. We can have the patience to listen to each other and try to understand each other. When we try to understand each other we contribute to a bigger picture: a kinder and more understanding world.

Every action we take creates a ripple. If we act in a more positive and understanding way, I feel like the sum of all of these actions will add up to something great. It is a big thing to think about, but I believe in it. I believe in it because I’ve seen it daily in the public libraries where I have worked. The sharing and borrowing of information creates positive ripple in the world. When you say the world library, most people smile. They see it as a safe and welcoming place. It took years and years of these positive actions to build up those smiles. These positive ripples work.

I’m just one human being, but I promise to be kinder to everyone I met. I promise to listen more closely to everyone that I interact with. I promise to take more actions to make real and positive changes in our world. I promise to #sharegoodstuff.

 

Play Video Games With Your Family

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My son Finn turned 8 on January 17 and one of his gifts was his very own copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf. My wife Haley and I have been playing the game for over three years and haven’t stopped enjoying it. In those three years, Finn has created his own character in each of our towns and dabbled in the game here and there. As he got older and started learning how to read, one of the things we told him was that he could get his own copy of the game. His eighth birthday seemed like the perfect time to get him his own copy: he’s a pretty great reader, he’s got his own Nintendo 2DS, and it just felt right. We snagged him a copy of the new Animal Crossing: New Leaf Welcome Amiibo game and last night dove into starting up a new town for Finn.

He decided to call his town “Finntopia” and that his in game character would be known as Finnix because “I just like the letter X.” We cozied up on the couch as a family (minus his younger brother Aero, as he went to bed and this was a special Mom/Dad/Finn night) and helped him through the setup process of getting into his own town, finding where to put his house, and more.

Once  all of the setup was complete, Finn opened his town gates and invited Haley and I into his town. It was like the “Mom and Dad, I’d like to invite you to my first apartment/home” moment, but this time it was when he was 8 and it was in Animal Crossing. He showed us around his town, pointed out that he had some pear trees, and introduced us to some of his villagers. We then headed back to the train station but before we left did the parent thing and left him with some gifts and money to help him start his new life in Finntopia.

After playing for about an hour, it was 10pm and we told Finn we were getting tired. He said he was getting tired too. But he had a glow on his face that I will never forget: he finally got his own Animal Crossing town and he also got to spend some time with his parents playing video games. It was a great night where we all got a chance to enjoy something fun, learn something together, and best yet….hang out as a family.

Video games can be awesome family and community building tools!

I’ve written about how fun, learning, and community can happen during gaming in the past. You can read all of those here or head on over to Medium and read this collection on Nintendo games.

“The Importance of Connecting” over at the State Library of Queensland Blog

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A panoramic view of the first level of the State Library of Queensland. This is probably my all time favorite entrance to a library. It perfectly blends the outside world with the inside world of the library.

I was super honored to be asked by the State Library of Queensland to write a guest blog post for the new blog. I got a chance to visit their amazing library in November 2015 and I was blown away! Not only is the building amazing, but the people working inside it are some of the kindest, most forward thinking people I have ever met.

Here’s my favorite part from that piece, and you can read the rest of The Importance of Connecting here.

Just look at your local library and the slate of public events happening there: story time, crafts, book groups, and public art events. The specifics of these events are what bring people into the library, but it is the connection to each other that is the important thing that community members take away from these events.

These connections come in all forms: the parent who meets another parent at a story time and is able to share the joys and frustrations

 

Something To Think About

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Quote by Judd Apatow from this NYT article


I read this quote in a NYT article yesterday and felt like I had to share it. I think it nicely sums up something that I’ve been trying to articulate for awhile now. It is very easy to get caught up in the internet and all things digital. The internet connects all of us and provides us with a nearly infinite source of entertainment. It is a great place to be! I’ve seen myself and pretty much everyone around me get sucked into it from time to time. This is ok! It is perfectly normal and fine to be pulled to the internet.

At the same time, I believe in balance and the flipside is that we need to remember that our actions on the internet also need to be balanced with our actions in the physical world. I have begun asking myself how I can translate every tweet/share/post that I am a part of on the internet into something else in the physical world. These things don’t have to be big personal acts…they can be as simple as holding the door for another person, saying hello to a stranger, or just simply being kind in any moment.

Library Ideas

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I can’t figure out how to properly embed a Storify in a blog post, so just go here and read a lot of tweets if you want to do so https://storify.com/JustinLibrarian/a-discussion-about-an-idea-called-library-plus

I think ideas and conversation are awesome. When you have conversations that stem from ideas it is even better. I constantly have ideas about libraries and one of my goals for 2016 has been to only have ideas related. I have learned this year that the only library ideas that we have that are worth anything to us are the ones that we can apply in our own situations. Every other library idea out there can be an inspiration, but given that every community is different most ideas don’t adapt easily. So….I think a lot about the Benson Memorial Library, Titusville PA, Crawford County PA, and all of Northwestern PA and say to myself “how can I do just a little bit to make this place just a touch more wonderful.” In the great grand scheme of things I am not gonna to be the leader of any great seismic shifts but instead have come to love my place in the world as a person who sometimes drops pebbles into a massive ocean.

This idea came out of thinking about the following things about Benson Memorial Library:

  1. How can we better use our downstairs space?
  2. How can we offer interesting, cutting edge, and unique services in times of flat or decreasing funding?
  3. The library card is boring and out of date….we can fix this but how do we do that? (here are two good examples of fixing that by the way #1 and #2)

Additional thoughts to the questions I posted above:

  1. We have an amazing downstairs space at the library which is so very underutilized. Part of it sits empty all the time, part of it is used 1-2 times week, and part of it is used to store a lot of stuff that we don’t need. I want to transform this space into something that people can use.
  2. It is difficult for small rural libraries to innovate and bring new and exciting things to their community in the same way that larger urban libraries do. Our funding remains flat or in some cases decreased. I don’t believe that small rural libraries should have to wait for these things to eventually come to them but instead should be included as these new things become available. Too often do small rural libraries wait around for the innovation to come to them that by the time it does it is old and out of date.
  3. I wonder about the future of the library card and how we can make it more exciting. Everyone has so many cards that they don’t want to deal with. As a youth services librarian, I saw that kids and teens often misplaced their cards all the time. We need to give the library card some additional value.

This thinking led me to an idea I will call Library PLUS. It is just an idea and here it is: what if there was an option to upgrade your library membership and support new initiatives at the same time? Everything that came with a library membership right now (unlimited books, 4 dvds/video games/10 magazines/2-3 eBooks/free computer access) would remain the same. None of that would be touched. By paying some kind of a fee (more on that later part #1), the PLUS membership would give you access to non-tax funded things, events, and stuff in the library (more on that later part #2). The funds that the library collected from PLUS memberships would then be funneled back into the program to be able to buy more technology/offer more services or events/hire someone to oversee the PLUS program/etc.

This idea answers my three questions above:

  1. Gives the downstairs space a purpose as it becomes the PLUS area where the tools/events/etc are stored.
  2. Creates a revenue stream which allows the library to purchase new technology and items which allow innovation to happen with greater ease.
  3. Adds a new value to a library card.

So of course with any kind of thought there is the Jedi side and the Sith side:

  1. This idea creates a barrier which allows only those that can afford the PLUS membership access to certain materials/technology/events.
  2. Who will be the target audience?
  3. Can the library obtain a way to offer free PLUS memberships to the community (thinking about kids and teens here)…and if so why not just take that money and invest it in something that everyone can use?

more on that later part #1
-I have no idea how much the fee would be. That would be something that would need to be worked out once the idea was further in place. However, the person implementing this idea would need to recognize that the PLUS membership would need to be as low as it could possibly be.

(more on that later part #2)
-The PLUS membership could not have any materials/technology/events in it that were funded by tax dollars. That to me would “cross the streams” of being a free and open public library to a membership based library. The PLUS membership would only include things that were funded by private donors/foundations/etc.

And that’s it. That’s an idea. That idea spurred some great conversation on Twitter and for me personally it helped me think through this idea. The idea now sits here and it may happen or it may just sit here. But no matter what happens, the ideas and the conversations were worth it. That’s the neat thing about ideas and conversations….they always have value. I hope that we all can continue to have great ideas and conversations in 2017 and beyond!

“This is Your Library” by Gary Wasdin of the King County Library System

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(you can read the original post and the comments here)

I’ve been struggling with my place in a post 2016 election world, both at home and in my work as a librarian. I know that now (more than ever) is the time to stand up for what I believe in and what is good in the world. I totally totally totally get that. I’m shocked and disgusted at a possible world where peoples beliefs and rights may be taken away.  I’ve never been the kind of person to get louder and political over things. The message that I want to put out into the world is one of kindness and love, and to do that I believe in acting in a kind and loving way at all times. I don’t want to yell or fight. I want to get there through kindness and conversation.

CURRENT STATUS: I just don’t know how to say what I want to say anymore. If I approach things from my typical kind and loving way, I fear that I’m not doing enough. If I approach things from a louder and more aggressive standpoint, I feel as if I am no longer myself.

The message you see above from King County Library System’s Director Gary Wasdin was great for me to see because it really captured everything that I’ve wanted to say over the past few months, especially in regards to libraries. I want the library that I am a part of to remain open to everyone, and to those people who chose to enter our building a place of discovery, knowledge, and freedom. I want to be part of the human experience with you and have a conversation about the things around us in a civil and polite manner.

Thank you for listening and reading.

 

 

Library To-Do List: 2017

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EXPAND OUR LOCAL HISTORY/GENEALOGY OFFERINGS
Titusville, PA has a wonderful and rich history (for a glimpse of it, just read this). As our local public library, I believe that we should be doing as much as possible to make that history accessible to our everyone in the community. To date, we’ve done a few things to increase awareness of our great history. Jess Hilburn started up a blog to share some great local stories she digs up in the Titusville Herald Archives. We’ve got the Titusville Herald archive online for in library use. But in my opinion we’ve got to do more, and slowly but surely we are getting there.

A partnership between the library, the Titusville Historical Society, Drake Well Museum and Park, and the Titusville Alumni Association came about in 2016 and resulted in the beginnings of the Titusville PA Heritage Connection, a website/digital portal that aims to bring all of our organizations together in one online space to make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for. While the site isn’t anywhere near complete, the fact that we have it up and the framework is there is a step in the right direction. A big thank you to our Clarion University of PA intern Kerry Neely for her help in getting this set up!

UPGRADE OUR INTERNET CONNECTION
Living and working in Chattanooga, TN was pretty great and one of the big reasons for that was their gig fiber internet connection. Speeds were fast, reliable, and the excitement of having something so state of the art created such a positive buzz in the community which led to some great things being tried out to make Chattanooga TN a better place for all.

Since moving to Titusville, PA, I’ve been wishing we’ve had that kind of thing to spur some excitement. Our internet options here in town are lacking, and the ones we can connect to have average to terrible service. HOWEVER, I hope to change that in 2017. To my excitement, I discovered that the town does have fiber internet lines in a few places. After some conversations with people around the community and others in the state, I found out that THERE’S FIBER LINES SURROUNDING THE ENTIRE BENSON MEMORIAL LIBRARY. Here’s a beautiful image of that fiber line coming right down in front of the library and turning right down our alley. Wow.

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In 2017, I’m gonna do my best to get us connected to these fiber lines so that in the future we can offer better internet access to our patrons. I don’t know how this will look, I don’t know how much this will cost, and I don’t know if I’ll fully succeed, but I’m going to try. As far as I know, we’d be the second institution in Titusville to access this connection (the University of Pitt at Titusville is the first) and the first public space to offer high internet speeds. Like I said above, we’ll see, but for now I’m gonna dream big and try out something that’s potentially huge for our community.

PROGRAMS, PROGRAMS, PROGRAMS

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Yup, these are my kids Aero and Finn at a library program. They come to a lot of them because they have a lot of fun and they enjoy getting to hang out with other kids. That’s what it is all about!

One of the big things that libraries do best these days is to offer educational and fun programs for all ages. In 2016, we’re going to have offered 320 programs that were attended by over 8,000 community members. That’s not bad for a public library that has a service area of around 14,000 people.

2017 is gonna bring a lot more of that and hopefully in larger numbers. I can’t and won’t take my foot off of the gas pedal when it comes to programming in libraries. We have to constantly be offering something to our community members. Programs are unique to libraries and something that we do very well. Story times and after school clubs work best for our younger audience, while nighttime events and musical performances work well for our adult and senior citizen crowd. We plan on having more of those throughout the year.

DO MORE TO ESTABLISH THE LIBRARY AS A COMMUNITY SPACE
One of the best things public libraries have going for their is their space. Most, if not all of us, have amazing buildings in centrally located areas. These buildings are one of our biggest assets. They do some of the simplest things that a library can do: provide space, warmth, comfort, and adventure. I’ve been thinking and speaking about this idea for a few years, and in 2017 I hope to do more to make that idea more cohesive and understandable to everyone out there.

STAY POSITIVE
No matter what we face directly in front of us in 2017, we have to remember that there is love and support all around us. Take a look around at your online social networks, groups like EveryLibrary, and your local community organizations that support the library. Take a moment and look at the community members you serve on a daily basis at your library. All of these groups and all of these people believe in the work that you do. I’m going to do my best to keep that up front in my head and my heart in 2017. I urge you all to do the same.