Category Archives: Libraries



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!)


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!


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


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.


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.


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

Let’s Talk About Approach


Every blog post should have an image and I couldn’t think of anything for this topic other than the approach of shaking hands.

I’m not that into the idea that “first impressions last a lifetime.” For me, I believe we should always be neutral and kind when we approach someone for the first time. From there your interactions with a person can increase and after about a year of knowing someone you can really tell who they are and how they’ll act in certain situations.

One of the things I’ve learned a lot while working in libraries over the past 10 years is how important it is to approach an event/situation/interaction with a positive attitude, kindness, and an openness to hear all sides of the story. When you do that, your chance at success greatly increases and all sides will have a pleasant experience.

I’ve found this website to be most helpful when it comes to kindness: Random Acts of Kindness. Sometimes when I am overwhelmed or in need of some guidance I turn to this page, give it a quick read, and let the ideas fill up my soul.

As we work with our community in both our day to day interactions and our long term projects, it is important to remember how we approach all of our situations. Fill them with positivity and kindness even in trying situations. Be patient with the other side of the story.


Social Media, 2016



Facebook has become one of the, if not THE, main form of communication. Sharing, messaging, and now live video are the way that we communicate with each other. It is our email, texting, and our own little website. I have ups and downs with Facebook myself. I recognize and respect how important it is, but at the same time have a strong dislike for the service. Sometimes I just don’t want everyone and everything to be in my life. Over this past year I’ve gone from around 1500 “friends” to 770. I want Facebook to be the space I share with the people that I really know, value, and need to have in my life. Gone are most if not all the librarians who I just know because we’re both librarians and gone are the fringe “I think we met once we should connect on Facebook” type of people. I need my net of close friends and family and this is where that happens.



Twitter has become a news platform and I am happy to see it accepting that role. This is where anyone can go to share links, ideas, and real time events. Periscope, which was acquired by Twitter in 2015, seems to be the future of social media. There is an excitement around Twitter for me these days that I haven’t felt since I first joined the service back in 2008.



I’ve started and deleted about 5 Instagram accounts. I appreciate what it does and I love seeing beautiful photos that everyone posts, but I just don’t want another place to post my photos. My Facebook profile documents everything from 2005-Present and I also have about 20 years of photos in my Google Photos. Instagram just feels like another step that I should cut out. I do, however, recognize how neat it is for a business. As Haley and I start Fidelia Hall we have used Instagram to share the messages we are putting up on our sign in front of the building. It’s been really neat.



Yahoo seems to have sucked all of the fun out of Tumblr. I wasn’t very much into Tumblr in the first place, but I have really come to love how it brings together fringe and passionate groups of people. If you have an interest but you can’t fine a community around that interest…well, try Tumblr. For myself, I use it to “collect” things that make me happy.



Miitomo was the big thing for 3 days and then everyone forgot about it. I can’t blame them, as the experience of using Miitomo is kind of clunky at best. This is something that I hope Nintendo really works on (it has gotten better). I probably keep coming back to it because I love all things Nintendo, but I also really enjoy seeing some folks answers to the questions. I feel a close connection to these people and I look forward to reading what they have to say every day.


I still believe in the power of blogs and blogging services like Medium. I love how they give everyone who decides to invest time in them a chance to develop their writing and share their ideas.


I mostly miss Branch and Potluck, as I loved the communities that sprung up around those services. I found myself talking to different people and I think it was great for expanding my world view. I know that most of those teams are now at Facebook and I am curious to see what they can bring to the table there.

Destroy Your Idols

I will destroy your idols and your sacred stones from among you; you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands. -Micah 5:13


The bible has some amazing quotes about destruction. This is a pretty good one.

Think about everyone that you’ve admired at some point in your life, be it a relative, a musician, author, a friend, or someone else. Now think about yourself. Think about all of the times you’ve fucked up. Maybe you’ve said or done something wrong, or maybe you’ve put something out into the world that just wasn’t up to your standard level of quality. There is a chance out there that someone looks up to you. Now think about your idols. Smoosh all of this together and what do you have? You have the realization that idols are false and that we should destroy our idols.

Simply stated, we are all just hunks of flesh and DNA that are randomly smooshed together. We do some good things and we do some bad things. At no point in time should we believe ourselves to be greater than others or that there are others out there that are greater than us. Sure, Brian Wilson wrote some of the best goddamn music on the planet (IMHO) but at the same time all that I can think these days is that this dude is the same as me and the same as you. We all breathe, we all piss, we all shit, we all go to sleep, we all laugh, and we all cry. At no point in time should any of us be put on a pedestal and worshiped as something more than a typical average every day human being.

When we create idols, what we’re really doing is creating a false reality where some people are better than others and that it is the goal of those “lesser” people to become “as great as” those idols. This goal is unrealistic and totally unnecessary. We should be ourselves and go about doing our things without comparing ourselves to anyone else. You’re not better than this person or that person, nor are they better than you.

Destroy your idols. Live in the moment. As KISS says in their 1983 song “Lick It Up” It ain’t a crime to be good to yourself