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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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

Family, Life, Technology, Titusville, PA

Bluetooth Headphones

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A few weeks ago I wrote one of my THREE THINGS posts that included a section called OPINIONS ON THE INTERNETIt basically boiled down to this: my family and I enjoyed the Justice League film and the internet hated it so much and were very loud about it and that made me think about how the internet has become a really horrible and tiring place.

Those thoughts about the internet, coupled with what may be the end of the internet as  we know it with the repeal of net neutrality, have been on my mind recently. These thoughts came up even more so after seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi and reading about the wave of negativity that ensued on the internet after the movie had premiered. And then these thoughts came up a third time because I went on a nice holiday break away from work and basically the rest of the world. In other words, I didn’t leave the house once (except for a family holiday get together) between Thursday December 21-Wednesday December 27.

Being away from people who are not in my immediate family for that long was refreshing. Don’t worry: if you’re reading this I’m not saying I don’t like you. I like you a lot actually. It’s just that as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate time away from other human beings a lot more than time with other human beings. In my twenties I was the opposite. If someone rang me up and wanted to do something of course I’d be out the door ASAP.  These days, I want to get up, weigh myself, brush my teeth, take a shower, put on some comfy clothes, and drink tea, hang out with my family all day. I’ll also dabble in some video games and write/record some music. That’s just the way things are right now.

And that brings me to bluetooth headphones, yes the ones you see me wearing in the photo above. Those bluetooth headphones were a gift from my mother in law, and a gift that I treasure so very much. I had a bad year with headphones in 2017; I lost them, I broke them, and I dealt with the horrible Apple Lightning to Headphone input jack dongle doo-dad. I love listening to music and podcasts as much as I can. They help me function and grow as a person. Art and conversation are two of the greatest things we have in this world. So this gift was more than just a pair of headphones. It was something that allows me to be more present in the real world. It gives me the chance to not have to plan long periods of time where I stay inside. It allows me to go out there, go shopping, and take walks. It gives me a way to be around people while at the same time staying in my own world.

I went to Wal Mart on December 27 to pick up a few things that we needed in the house. A trip to that place usually fills me with dread. Who will I run into this time? What kind of awkward conversation will we have? Why are at least half of the 5,000 or so residents of Titusville in this Wal Mart right now? However this time I had my bluetooth headphones on my side. I listened to Sunshine Tomorrow Volume 2 by the Beach Boys as I made my way through the aisles, grabbed what I needed, paid and left. The absolutely wonderful gem “Little Pad” from 1967’s SMILEY SMILE filled my ears, and for the first moment in a long time I felt pretty happy being in my own place while at the same time being surrounded by other humans.

This is the way that I will continue to exist in a world where more and more I feel like I don’t want to be a part of. These bluetooth headphones are my 2017 saviors. I hope yinz y’all find your own saviors too.

FYI: I liked The Last Jedi. I’ve seen it twice now and I think that despite one or two hiccups that it was an enjoyable film because the characters were all so great and WHO REALLY CARES it is just a film. 

 

Libraries, Life, Technology

Sensory Overload

Jonny Nintendo, I like this tweet and you know what? I can’t prove you wrong because I agree with it so very much.

I’ve never seen the show Rick and Morty but someone tells me it is about time travel. I really like time travel. But you know what? I read about what their fans did after they didn’t get some special sauce at McDonald’s and you know what? I don’t ever wanna watch this show.

I struggle with being a Weezer fan, and a big part of it has to do with the band’s fan base. Sometimes it is great and sometimes it sucks. It is a thing that now weighs on me heavily when I listen to this band.

This is the way of the world these days. Fans believe that passion should be brought to the table at every moment. Coupled with the internet, a place where people feel the need to be as loud and obnoxious as they can dream of being, and what you have is a hot mess. Things just don’t feel right these days. The world feels a bit off, and I just can’t help but to point a finger towards fandom and being loud on the internet as one of the things contributing to this feeling.

Of course I still have social media accounts. We all do and we’re not getting rid of them anytime soon. These feelings have been brewing in me a long time. Facebook has basically replaced email with Messenger as one of the defacto ways to communicate with another human being (texting being the other). The Facebook News Feed however, is a mess of rubbish, noise, and advertising. Twitter seems to be the place to figure out a way to wittily relevant things in 140 characters or less. It used to be my favorite social media channel that would inspire me endlessly. Now I just want to close the window and log out.

Things are moving so very quickly. Things are so very loud. Sensory overload has taken us all over. We need a break from the fans, from social media, from the world. We need to learn what how to be human beings again.

 

Benson Memorial Library, Community Building, ebooks, Libraries, Library Director, Technology

When The Circulation Has Gone: Helping Your Community Understand the Worth of the Public Library in the Modern Age

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What’s this that you see above? I call this the Benson Memorial Library circulation scorecard. What this circulation scorecard is doing is keeping track of our overall circulation from January 2010-Present. I could go back even further (we have the records) but I kept it at 2010 for the time being. I use it as guide to see what we’ve done, what we’re doing now, and how it relates to each other. Is our circulation up? Is our circulation down? If either one of these situations is the case, why is that? This scorecard is a nice and handy way to check up on all things related to circulation.

I don’t think that any library’s circulation number should be the number by which the library is judged, ranked, understood, etc. Every library’s circulation number by day, month, or year will first depend on the library that community serves. Is your community one that loves to visit the public library? If so, you can expect your circulation to represent that. In our service area of 14,904 (based on 2016 State Library stats), having 5,269 circulations in the month of September was a good month for us. A total circulation number of 5,269 for one month may look horrible to another library that serves a larger area or it may look shockingly amazing for a smaller area. That number looks just about right for us. This number will look different for everyone. It is up to you at your own level to interpret and understand that number.

As I said above, I don’t think that any library’s circulation number should be the number by which the library is judged or understood, but here’s the kicker. This circulation number is a big deal to a lot of people. To those people, a public library is a place which loans out materials to people in the community. When a person has this belief, the best way they can understand how their public library is doing is to see this number. With that said, yes, the circulation number is an important number for the public library.

But as the world changes and the way we read, watch, and look for information or media moves towards the internet or something digital, our circulation numbers are set to look like they’re decreasing. They are. Let’s face it: people don’t come in and borrow books on how to do things/fix things/research things anymore. They Google it or they go right to YouTube where they can get a step by step video. I’m a librarian, and this is exactly what I do. Why do I do this? Because this is the quickest, easiest, and probably the most efficient way of doing things these days.

So, as the title of this post asks: what do we do when the circulation has gone? If our circulation numbers decrease, we need a different way of sharing the value of the public library with the community. With that said, here are some ideas that I’m having these days.

CIRCULATE OTHER STUFF

This seems to be the big thing of the moment: fishing poles, museum passes, and gadgets galore, libraries are branching out and lending out things that you may not have seen in libraries before. One library in my region, the Oil City (PA) Library is doing just that. They call it the Cool Stuff Collection. Adding these unique items to your collection may draw more people into the library and help boost your circulation.

THE PUBLIC LIBRARY AS AN EVENT SPACE

This is a great one. Public libraries all around the world have amazing spaces, and one of the best ways we can show off that space and bring people into the library is by offering great programs. There are so many libraries out there doing this and I could provide hundreds of examples. Here’s one of them: the Darien Library in Connecticut. Their schedule is always packed full of great programs any day of the week. When a library focuses on public events, the attendance at these programs as well as the number of events held at the space becomes a great statistic to share with your community.

THE DIGITAL STUFF

The digital stuff, most of which is probably offered through your website, is another way to show the value of the library. While they’re no longer all the rage, eBooks are still around and are used by a segment of the population. Showing off the circulation of eBooks can boost your circulation number but it can also be used to show your community the changing nature of how we read.

My favorite “digital stuff” statistic these days is the number of connections we have to our wifi network and the number of logins we’ve had on our public computers. What have I noticed? That our wifi connections are going up while our public computer logins are stagnant or going slightly down. Yes, there is still a very strong need to offer public computer access, but as the cost of devices (laptops/tablets/and the big one, phones) comes down and more people are able to access them, I think we’ll see the public library become more and more of a spot in the community that offers free (and hopefully reliable and safe) wifi for everyone.

The title of this post was inspired by this most excellent jam

Benson Memorial Library, Books, Chattanooga Public Library, Community Building, ebooks, Libraries, Library Director, Management, Technology

Ditching The Hype and Focusing on The Community

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This is where I live. This is the community I serve.

Like a computer our brains need to be restarted every once in awhile. Events and shifts over the last few years of my life have made me realize this. I no longer work to only serve kids, tweens, and teens. I no longer live in an urban area. I no longer live in a world which I fully understand. My life these days is very different than what it used to be, and with that I feel the need to reset myself. This post is an attempt to put this reset into practice using words to coalesce my thoughts into one coherent belief that moves me forward in my work as a librarian.

I believe that a strong part of the future of public libraries will be in focusing our efforts and services on a hyperlocal level. This differentiates from where I believe public libraries are focusing their efforts now, which is looking outwards towards everyone else in the profession to see what they are doing before acting themselves. No more is this apparent to me than the recent effort for public libraries to shift a lot of focus towards STEM/STEAM/Makerspace/Coding efforts. Please do not get me wrong: I believe in teaching and exposing citizens to things such as these, yet at the same time I do not believe in a one size fits all solution that can be applied to every public library. This is the case here, as it was with eBooks and any other “trends” in recent history.

The idea that we should be focusing our efforts and services on a hyperlocal level instead of looking outwards towards everyone else in the profession is doing became clear to me when I was completing a survey sent to me by our State Library. In that survey, participants were asked about STEM/STEAM/Makerspace in public libraries and nothing else. I understand that the point of the survey was to better understand the libraries in my state, but while reading it I thought of the following scenarios as I imagined another librarian in my state reading the email:

  1. The State Library is focused on STEM/STEAM/Makerspace in public libraries and we’re not doing this at all so we must be very behind.
  2.  The State Library created a survey about this, so it must be very important and I must get behind this trend even though I do not know if it is right for my community.
  3. I need to learn more about all things related to STEM/STEAM/Makerspace in public libraries and if I do not I risk losing patrons and support.

I understand that not everyone will follow one of the paths that I laid out above, but many will.  Human beings are creatures of habit and enjoy following the leader. There is probably something embedded into our DNA that makes us this way.

The problem with following the hype and trend of the moment is that it is usually fixated on something that worked well for one particular library and that it does not translate well to other libraries. When I lived in Portland, ME I felt like my library was focused on what happened everywhere else and the idea that “if they’re doing, we should be heading that way too.” In reality, Portland was its own very unique community that needed a specific set of programs and services. A huge part of why I moved to the Chattanooga Public Library in 2013 was because they were looking (and still do) at their programs and services on a hyperlocal level. Programs like DEV DEV, The 4th Floor, Makeanooga, and many more worked and continue to work because they are programs for that community, not programs that were copied/pasted from what someone else in public libraries was doing.

Why are we at where we are now? I believe that social media, large organizations, and large publications have led the charge towards public libraries focusing outwards towards everyone else in the profession instead of inspiring those in the profession to think for themselves and focus inward on their communities. A culture of “here’s how to be successful with your public library in 5 easy steps” combined with ego boosting catchphrases like “rock star librarian” have not helped us but instead presented public libraries with the path of least resistance.

How do we change the conversation? 

  • We need more public librarians out there willing to share their stories about how their focus on a hyperlocal level is benefiting their public library and their community. To start, I recommend following the work of librarians and libraries in New Zealand and Australia. You can do that by starting here with this Twitter list that I have compiled. The work done by the people and organizations is focused, inspiring, and uplifting.
  • Share through any platform that you feel comfortable with. I personally would like to see an increase in public librarians writing more and maintaining their own blogs or Medium profiles
  • Remind each other that our communities come before everything and to keep the message positive. Support and reminders from other public librarians is one way that we can spread the message that we need to focus our work locally.

Ditch the hype. Don’t copy and paste. Focus on your Community. This is what I believe to be the path forward.

Family, Libraries, Life, Technology

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.