Smart Communities by Suzanne W. Morse


I just started reading Smart Communities by Suzanne W. Morse as part of a local book group here in Titusville, PA and I have to say that I am really enjoying how this book is making me consider my place in the community and to also think about where things are headed.

I decided it would be silly not to share my notes from my reading and the book group with a larger group of people because even though we’re talking about Titusville PA, these ideas and discussions can be applied to pretty much anywhere else. We are really all in this together and a lot of us are facing similar obstacles. My hope is that in opening up what I am learning through this book and the group someone can pull something from this to hopefully help them in their own community. Here goes…

“Small cities connect to other small cities to create a regional presence”
This line stood out to me in my first read through of Chapter 1. When I think about community, I first and foremost think about the place where I live and largely forget about another town that may be 15-20 mile away. I don’t believe that I am trying to leave other areas out intentionally but this sentence has given me more awareness to include those others areas. While their town may not be my town, collectively we all make up a region. If we view ourselves as a region, perhaps that can strengthen the communities all around us.

Another thing that was brought up was that there are lots of great things are happening through our local organizations, but there is not a unifying connection at the top. Who becomes that unifying connection? And that’s a good question to ask! When I was thinking about it, I came to the realization that this unifying connection would most likely be in the form of a person, someone who specifically acts as a community connector. In the past, I’d gladly nominate the library to be this but now that I have had years to think about it I see that it would take proper funding and preparation to do so. Does your community have someone who is in a paid position that acts as a “community connector” whose job it is to organize what everyone is doing at all levels (government, non-profit, education, etc) and communicate those clearly to everyone?

What is the way in which Titusville PA wants to move forward?
We have all of the elements that people want in their town: small town feel, everyone knows everyone, a large amount of pride in who we are and where we came from, and great schools and neighbors. But how can we get people here when there are not many jobs for those looking? How can we connect what we have to the modern world?

In thinking about this, I have come to my own answer: high speed internet. After seeing what 1GB (and now they’re up to 10GB) fiber internet did for Chattanooga TN I am convinced that very similar things could happen in any region that attempted something similar. Like it or not, I believe that high speed internet and access to all things digital is our generation’s industrial revolution. This stuff is important. It connects us to anyone around the world at the click of a button and allows us to accomplish work that before we didn’t think was imaginable. In my own life, it has sent me to New Zealand, Australia, Germany, and so many other places around the USA. When it comes to opportunities and jobs that high speed internet can create, in my eyes there is nothing quite like it. Digital Assistants and working from home could become a big thing around here if we had high speed internet. Jobs would be created, and people who are looking for communities to live in like Titusville, PA would then be more attracted to move here and stay here.

How do you deal with apathy towards your town? A good point was brought up during our group that so many people ask “why would you want to live here?” when they should already be aware of the great things our community offers. Apathy towards your community is something that happens everywhere. It is easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day rumblings and gossip and lose track of the bigger picture. How can we all deal with apathy in our communities and turn the conversations towards the positive? I know this is something that I think about a lot and am always working on. I try to be positive and forward thinking in all of the things I am involved in with the hope that will rub off on someone and cause them to start framing things in a positive light.

To end, I would like to bring up this quote that someone (Leah Carter?) brought up in the meeting. “Titusville is not in the middle of nowhere…Titusville is in the middle of everywhere”. I love this because it does just what I said above: it is positive and forward thinking and I believe it helps re-frame our conversations. And it is true! Titusville is around 1.5-2 hours away from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo, and we are about 1 hour away from Erie. It is a great place to live and get away from all of the big city hub-bub, yet at the same time close enough that you could enjoy a day or a long weekend away in the city.


THANK YOU Pioneer Library System

Last week I drove up to Canindaigua NY to speak at the Pioneer Library System Meeting. I won’t bore you with what I talked about and I won’t share those slides here because honestly who gives a crap about blog posts like that. Instead, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank those at the Pioneer Library System for being super kind and to also share some of their stories and their amazing librarians. I took notes as the meeting went on and found myself blown away by what many of the individuals in their area have accomplished. I scanned these notes and I wanted to share them with you here.

Here are four people that matter very much:




An Idea for Coca Cola On How To Support Public Libraries

I had a dream last night that there was a 1 cent tax passed on all sodapop sales and that all money from that tax went to public libraries. When I woke up this idea stuck with me but since then I’ve refined and focused it. Why I chose Coca Cola I have no idea.

The answer? Well here is what the internet told me: (at


And how many public libraries are there in the USA? The internet told me this: (at


EDIT: I math’d wrong and now I update. Thank you for pointing this out Eli N.

Now I will apply my basic math skills:

If Coca Cola gave  .01 cent of every sales per day (1.8 billion bottles sold per day, 657 billion bottles sold per year), we’d have $6,570,000,000 in the fund.

If Coca Cola then took that$6,570,000,000 dollars in the fund and spread it out over the 119,487 public libraries in the USA, each library would get: (thank you Google)




What could a library do with $54,985.06?

That’s a question that every community and their library would have to answer themselves. I know at the Benson Memorial Library I’d love to have that $54,985.06 to start repairs on our building. It was built in 1903 and is a glorious building but…having been built in 1903 there are things that need updated and fixed. They made awesome buildings back then but at the same time they didn’t always do work that would allow these buildings to thrive 113 years later. I’d focus the first few years of the Coca Cola Public Library Fund towards repairing and improving our building. I would fix our groundwater issues and move all groundwater away from our building. Once that was fixed, I would then focus on fixing and revamping our downstairs Community Room. First, our walls would be repaired so that the previous damage from groundwater would no longer be there. Once that was done, the room would get a nice makeover and update to bring it up to date to the standards that our community needs in the 21st Century.



I will call this idea the Coca Cola Public Library Fund, or we can refer to it by its longer name: An Idea That Has Probably Has Already Been  Presented Somewhere Else And No One Did Anything About It And The Same Thing Will Happen Again But Guess What I Am Gonna Put That Idea Right Here On This Blog.



LJ/SLJ Tweet Clarification


Earlier this morning I half-jokingly sent this tweet out into the world. It seems like some people agree with me!

Now don’t get me wrong: I think Library Journal does some great things. I like their digital events, SLJ’s Day of Dialog, their professional development opportunities, some of the columns that they offer, and pretty much every staff member that I’ve met that has come through LJ/SLJ. I’m not too into most of the opinion pieces, the awards, and most of the features. They just feel a bit tired and fall flat once the latest issue comes across my desk and I feel a lot of disconnect from the features. A lot, if not all of the ideas and initiatives in the features are great but I have trouble seeing how they could relate to the library where I am: and this isn’t just with my current library but the three others I have worked at full time.

What I think I am trying to get at (and thanks to Meredith Schwartz for nudging me to think on this for a bit. She is one of the awesome people at LJ) is something that is a lot more immediate and comes in mini daily bite sized packages (no, not a Tumblr or a Twitter). If money was not an object and everyone could get this zapped right into their mailbox everyday, I’d love the LJ Mini Daily to be a zine like thing that was just slapped together and packed full of great things that may otherwise be overlooked. LUCKILY! We have the internet and these things can be slapped together and sent out like BOOM BAM DONE IT IS THERE RIGHT IN YOUR EMAILS OR ON THAT WEBSITE!

LJ Mini Daily (I’m just gonna call it that instead of “that thing I thought of”) would be just one page and it would be full of neat little things that would’ve get a mention any other way. For example, take these things that came through my feed today and smoosh them into something and share:

We've been having a blast racing Lego cars on the last Cranberry Community Day! #cranberrylibrary #cranberrytownship #cranberrycommunitydays

A photo posted by Cranberry Public Library (@cranberrylibrary) on

Top that all off with a few words of encouragement, a few neat and easy to do ideas, and boom. You have LJ Mini Daily.

Thanks for listening.


Arbacarba Records


I am making an attempt to organize and restart the musical part of my life. To do so, I’ve created Arbacarba Records as the banner under which the three musical projects I have been a part of can exist together. Like every single thing that exists these days, there is a website and a Facebook page.



From these two pages you can get to one of the three musical projects which I have been involved in so far in the 36 years of my life:

Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine

Do whatever you would like with this information and if you feel like listening to some music you can do that to I really don’t give a crap.


Library Stuff That I Am Proud Of

I don’t blog much about what I’ve been up to at the Benson Memorial Library because every time I sit down to do it everything ends up sounding so boring that what I was up to in libraries in the past. I mean, what can top The 2nd Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library? We had a freakin’ arcade there!

When it comes to being a library director, my life is very different than it was when I was involved in Youth Services yet at the same time there is a whiff of familiarity in this job. No matter what I’m doing in libraries, I find that the common thread that connects everything is that I am advocating constantly for services for our community members. That’s really the core of it all….trying to get a safe and fun spot for teens is the same as figuring out a way to get my employees better pay and benefits. No matter what I’m doing, the end goal is always to make the community where I live a stronger place.

All of this hit me when I was putting together our yearly fund drive. You’ll see the end result of that work in the two images at the top of this post. While I was in Chattanooga I learned a lot about the value of the numbers we collect and how they help tell our story to the community. Our numbers at the Benson Memorial Library so far this year (Jan 1-Aug 31) blew me a way so I shared those with our community. It was great to finally send out these Patron Fund Drive letters last week and I look forward to seeing what the community thinks about the Benson Memorial Library once they read up on what we’ve done recently.

Here’s a few other things that we’ve done that I am most proud of. It may not be as fancy as getting a 3D printer in the library or something like that, but I think that the work we’ve done here so far is pretty awesome and I sure am proud of it.

  • June 2015-August 2016: 82058 items have been circulated
  • January-September 28 2016: 40698 visitors to the library
  • June 2015-Present: 313 free events held at the library
  • Renovated the front steps: The sandstone steps were in dire need of repair, and this summer we did just that; we not only got them fixed, but we made some repairs to them that will help them last for many more years.
  • Weeded the entire collection (yes, all of it) in order to reorganize most of the library and give the shelves space so that we can update our collection to fit the needs of the community today.
  • Got some grants to help with quite a few things: building improvement, Youth Services, programming, and more.
  • Updated most if not all of the library policies
  • Updated our Employee Personnel Policy and got 2 months maternity/paternity leave for employees.
  • Decreased our yearly health care costs by $5000-$8000 and increased benefits for the individuals on our plan (they went from a $500 deductible down to a $0 deductible)
  • Kind of sort of restarted the Friends of the Library group (it’s a long story, but we’re getting there very slowly) and ran 3 successful book sales.
  • Hired 3 new employees (two youth services folks, one all purpose staff member who I’m hoping will become our future local history guru)
  • I was asked to join two boards: Titusville Regional Literacy Council and the Titusville Senior Center. These help the library keep in touch with two key demographics and gives us a great chance to work with these organizations to make sure we are helping out everyone in our community.

The Platform


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.