The Power of Kindness

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The local YWCA in Titusville does a great job of spreading a positive message to all in our community.

I believe in the power of kindness. I believe that no matter what kind of evil or injustice we may face directly in front of us that the thing that’s gonna win out in the end is kindness. My statement may sound a bit naive, but after 36.5 years on this planet I haven’t found anything better than kindness. I’ve tried being angry, I’ve tried throwing punches, and I’ve tried to tapping into the dark side of things (you know, like Star Wars kind of stuff) and while those methods have produced results, those results did not last and actually cause more harm than good. With that acknowledged, I pledge allegiance to power of kindness.

With that said, I’d like to share a recent piece that I wrote for the LIANZA (Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) Library Life publication titled Libraries: A Global Necessity (click here for the PDF and scroll to page 21). It nicely sums up my approach to the current state of the USA and public libraries in general and how I believe that through kindness and great customer service we will provide for our citizens.

I highly suggest you take the time out of your day and read the rest of the current issue of Library Life as well. This is my favorite Library related publication out there. It does a great job of inspiring me to be both a better librarian and a human being with every issue that is published. This month’s issue has some great pieces by Cath Sheard and Fiona Kerr to name a few.

 

Be Kind. Be Positive. Make a Difference.

Over the past week I have been thinking about how every weekday at around 2:20pm EST between 2010-2013 that the Portland Public Library would fill up with anywhere between 30-70 teens. I recall the dramatic change in the library, and no I’m not talking about how the sound level would increase. What I’m talking about is the energy, the passion, and the kindness that came into the library every day with these teens. These teens needed the library to connect, to share, to socialize, and to learn. The library gave them a safe and welcoming space to do all of that, and that space continues to thrive and offer the same wonderful and excellent services to many new teens today. It is a beautiful thing.

Around 75% of the teen population that came into the library back in those days were not born in the USA. They came from countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, and Sudan to name a few. They came from countries where their lives were torn apart, their families were displaced, and in the words of a former co-worker “they came from places where one of the first things they learned to say was “please don’t kill my family.”” The people that came to us needed the library but more importantly they needed the United States of America, a place where they had the opportunity to live their lives and pursue their dreams.

I have been thinking about about the teens I worked with at the Portland Public Library today all this weekend and today as I take in all of the news about the travel bans enacted by our government here in the USA. I think about those teens and their families and hope they are safe and well. I worry about them a lot these days. I also think about the future teens and their families from other countries that might come to the USA someday seeking a place to live their lives and pursue their dreams. I want to help them, but how?

It is a time of great unease and there is a lot going on is very troubling. Sometimes it gets to a point where it wears me down, but then I realize that I can’t let it defeat me. I have to stay strong….we have to stay strong. The way we can do that is to continue to promote kindness and positivity in all of our actions.  Kindness and positivity go a long way. This is one way we can help those that we care about.

Andromeda Yelton’s latest post (quoting the ALA Code of Ethics) reminds me of what I need to do every day as a librarian….I need to “provide the highest level of service to all library users.” I need to be there for everyone in my community. And I need to continue to be there for those that I worked with in the past and those that I will work with in the future. This is another way that we can help those that we care about.

We each have our own way of making a positive and kind impact on our own world. I urge everyone reading this to think about what they can do to make someone else’s life better these days. You can have an impact!

(title from Andromeda Yelton’s post, read it here: We provide the highest level of service to all library users. Thank you Andromeda for this post)

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

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.