Fidelia Hall (Winter/Spring 2017 Update)

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Photo by Nadine Byers

When we decided to buy a 144 year old church building and a house that’s most likely also over 100 years old, we knew that we would be looking at nonstop home repairs, upgrades, and more. We knew that once we completed a project that it would be onto the next one, and that each project would help us “discover” what the next project would be. All of that has been true up to this point. Fixing the back roof led to us discovering just how much water damage had occurred to a certain area of the community room. Fixing the boiler led us to discover just how many of our radiators were damaged beyond repair. These things happen. Even though it’s not usually the best news to hear that you’re gonna have to find more money and time to fix something else, we’ve decided to take another approach: everything we discover we fix, and every little fix gets us one step closer to our goals. It is a slow process for sure, but we feel that a positive outlook on things makes the process go a whole lot smoother.

And now….onto the updates:

PART ONE: Downstairs at Fidelia Hall 

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This winter we made a big choice: that our family would be moving into the downstairs space at Fidelia Hall. Why? As with so many parts of our story, it starts with water. We found that there is most likely some kind of a leak behind a few of the walls in our house. Small water leaks are never great, as they are hard to pinpoint and then there’s always the possibility of mold (especially in a house that’s over 100 years old). With all of this in mind, we evaluated where we were at and what we wanted to do and….we’re moving into the downstairs of the old church building.

But there was (and still is) work to be done, and some of that is in the photos above. What you’re seeing is the downstairs space, now free of carpet and a drop ceiling! Underneath the carpet and drop ceiling were two great unpolished gems: a hardwood floor and the original tin ceiling. Both the floor and the tin ceiling are in need of some love, but we’re getting there. Over the last few months, we (Haley and I) have been using an air compressor to blast away any of the chipped and flaking paint on the ceiling. We’ve got one room left and after that we’re onto painting the tin ceiling. That should happen soon! All of the carpet has been pulled up and soon we will head to the local True Value to rent a floor sander and get that hardwood floor back to looking beautiful.

There’s a lot more to do with the downstairs and I’ll just post that here: my parents have been extremely kind and helpful to us with this project and a month ago they purchased a new furnace for the downstairs space. This week we will begin installing that furnace, and after painting the ceiling we will move onto the duct work that will heat the downstairs. A few other projects involve building a downstairs bathroom, fixing up the electrical wires and switches, and then moving onto fixing the kitchen ceiling. Like I said above, everything we discover we fix, and every little fix gets us one step closer to our goals. We will get there.

Once we move into the downstairs space at Fidelia Hall, we will then move onto the next project: gutting the house. Why gut the house? A lot of what exists in the house today was something that was built on top of something that was built on top of something, and so on. You have to remember the history of the space: it was always the home of the pastor of the church and their family. With that in mind, we like to think that all of the repairs done to the house were part of a deal we call the “parishioner’s special”, where the pastor asked members of the church to volunteer their time to help fix up the pastor’s house. A lot of the repairs we’ve seen in the house are totally DIY work, and while these are fine over the years they haven’t held up so well. We want to fix that. With that said, if we dig deep in the house during this process and find that the damage to the bones of the place have been compromised, we may end up tearing down the house. I don’t think it’ll come to this, but who knows. On the plus side, we’ll have more space for gardens and chickens and all of the things we love.

PART TWO: All the other little things

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While the downstairs space at Fidelia Hall has been our major focus at the moment, we’re also thinking about everything else. In February, my father, my brother, and I got to visit an old convent in Pittsburgh, PA that was in the process of being torn down. From that convent, we got 10 radiators, 3 fire safe doors, 2 fire safe door frames, a water heater, and a few other odds and ends. It was a day full of a lot of work, but we got what we needed at a really cheap price (only $125!) and we are sure that all of this great recycled stuff will eventually find its way into Fidelia Hall. The radiators will be installed in the upstairs space we’re calling The Great Hall and with a few tweaks they’ll be heating that space up next winter. Finding this stuff second hand was quite an amazing moment for us: while all of this stuff isn’t brand new, it works and it gets us one step closer to our goals.

We hope to complete these repairs by the winter of 2017-2018. Moving into this new space and having heat in the upstairs of Fidelia Hall will allow us to focus on cutting down our utilities (electric/heat for two buildings can get expensive).

PART 3: Spring and Summer and Gardens and Chickens

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We love spring and summer and we know you do too. At Fidelia Hall, we really love building gardens, feeding all of the birds around the property, and building flower gardens for the bees and butterflies who live all around us. This year, Haley has come up with some great ideas for the gardens. Expect to see us dabbling in growing some kiwi, apples, and other fruits as well as our standard vegetables. Last year’s straw bale gardens were a success, but this year Haley is interested in hugelkultur for the gardens. What’s hugelkultur? It’s basically the process of taking rotting wood, twigs, branches, and other things and using that to build your gardens. It basically will look like this (image from http://permaculturenews.org/2012/01/04/hugelkultur-composting-whole-trees-with-ease)

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And for now, that’s all we got. Thank you to everyone for keeping up with our family, Fidelia Hall, and more. We’re getting there!

 

The Platform

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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.

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This is Happening

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Community members entering Fidelia Hall at the ORCA event “Musicians in the Raw”. Photo Credit: ORCA

The past few weeks have found Fidelia Hall buzzing with excitement and energy. This is exactly what Haley and I are want at the space, so it has been a great time to be alive!

First up, we hosted a Rummage Sale over two weeks in June that brought in enough money to allow us to repair the roof and downspout over our handicap accessible ramp. Thank you to all who attended and volunteered their time helping us out. We really appreciate your kindness.

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The roof/downspout we will fix with the funds raised at our rummage sale. Woo!

Second, we were happy to be the host for the ORCA (Oil Region Coalition of Artists) event titled Musicians in the RawThis event, which showcased the great photography of Kari Nickole Taylor, brought in around 50 community members to the space. It was great to see Fidelia Hall full of artwork, music, and community members.

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ORCA (Oil Region Coalition of Artists) Members with artist Kari Nickole Taylor. Thank you for your time and dedication. This was a great event!

 

It is amazing to me that this is happening, and that it is all happening so fast. I love the energy and excitement that this space is (and will continue to) bring into the community. When you boil everything down to the simplest form, it is really all about people,  specifically bringing people together to share kindness and support each other. This is something that I’ve learned to love about libraries and now I hope to bring that into Fidelia Hall as well.

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Fidelia Hall Spring 2016

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Life at the Hoenke home aka Fidelia Hall is very good. Spring is very much in the air, the birds are out and chirping, the plants are growing, and everything just feels pretty darn great.

Most of what Fidelia Hall is now and what it is becoming is due to my excellent partner Haley. Since the weather became favorable this spring, Haley has spent every day outside on the property working on a number of things: planting herbs, teas, and vegetables, moving plants around, putting up fences, planting trees in our fruit orchard, getting our rabbit and chicken area ready, and much more. The idea is to create a property that is magical to us, our friends and family, and our guests. Plants, gardens, and animals help add to a vibe that makes people feel welcome. When people feel welcome, they tend to come back. That’s the goal.

Here’s a list of some of the things that are happening around Fidelia Hall these days:

  • Preparing straw bales gardens that’ll provide our family with vegetables throughout the year.
  • Setting up a bird feeder area so we can watch birds from the kitchen in the morning.
  • Digging up and landscaping a tea garden that will provide us with tea leaves so that we can make our own teas.
  • Managing our animal area, which is home to our three chickens and two rabbits.
  • Putting up a fence around the eastern side of the property and then eventually finishing the fence so that it helps better define our home/work areas.
  • Maintaining our fruit orchard, which is home to apple and cherry trees as well as blueberry bushes and more.
  • Stripping away old, flaky paint from the tin ceilings we recently discovered in the Fidelia Hall building and repainting it.
  • Refinishing the old wooden floor in the Gallery in our basement.
  • Tearing down and rebuilding the roof above the handicap ramp entrance in the back of the building (it suffered some bad water damage before we owned the building).
  • Restoring heat the The Great Hall (aka the chapel) section of the Fidelia Hall building.
  • Loaning out The Great Hall to a local band so that they can practice for their Summer 2016 performances.
  • Getting Fidelia Hall ready for the June 11 2016 Rummage Sale. All proceeds from this event will go towards funding one of the projects listed above!

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Thank you all for your love and ongoing support. We really appreciate it as we continue to embark upon this slightly crazy and terrifying journey that is totally worth it and fun.

 

 

THREE THINGS 2016.4

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A glitch is a beautiful thing. I look at glitches and I feel like I am looking at my life. It is something that happened but at the same time may not have happened if things were just a little bit different. I am a glitch and I am OK with that. You are a glitch as well. We are all glitches. This whole damn thing is a glitch. This is alright.

WINTER BLUES
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My Dad calls it the winter blues. I call it depression and I think everyone else in my generation does as well. I think there is a big gap in how generations view depression.

Am I in the middle of “the winter blues” right now? Yes! This year feels different, as it is nowhere near as bad as it has been in the past.

Most of us are probably in the middle of this right now as well. Just know this: there’s a world of amazing people out there that are here for you.

BREATHE
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I owe the library world that still reads this blog a proper post about my experience in collection management at my new place of work. I’ll get there, I promise.

We’ve been in the thick of it for pretty much 9 months now and we’re making progress. The space is able to breathe. We have a smaller collection but it is easier to browse. The library looks like it exists in the modern world a bit more. It looks like less of a warehouse. I like this. I believe in the work that we’re doing and know that in the long run it will improve the health of this very wonderful organization.

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BOWIE

I never met the dude in real life but his passing has really had an effect on me. I think it comes from one simple thing: the man created honest and pure art that genuinely brought happiness and excitement into the world. Bowie’s final album ★ is a brilliant piece of art that should be enjoyed/examined by everyone. I hope that when I am 68-69 years old I am still capable of creating such amazing things.

SPLIT

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I am a Gemini and I have talked about that before. The older that I get the more I see that I am really two ideas living inside of one body. I am becoming very ok with this! I think the best thing that I have attempted to do is split myself into those two ideas and have outlets for both of them. You can’t suppress who you are! You just gotta be.

SOCIAL

Social media is a big thing for me and wrestling with identity in social media is something I think about a lot. I aim to be as authentic and available as possible in this life. I think there are some struggles with that! I found this post by TotalBiscuits (who I was not familiar with until I saw this post) to be very inspiring and spot on when it comes to what social media is/can do to someone. While I am not in the same situation as TotalBiscuits (he has cancer, I do not), I do find what he is saying to be very honest when it comes to social media:

Look, let’s be real here about the reality of what could happen over the next few years. In a few years, I could very well be dead—two to three [years to live] average is what I’m given for this particular form of this disease. I intend to outlive that by a significant margin, but if it ends up being the last few years of my life, I want to spend them not being fucking miserable. And if that involves disconnecting from everybody, so be it.

My family is gonna come first, my fucking mental health is gonna come first. The expectation that everyone who ever made it on the Internet’s gotta be constantly connected to their fans all the time 24 hours a day 24/7 is insane. It’s unreasonable. Nobody can fucking handle it. Nobody. [sighs] God. You have no idea how many of my friends are in therapy just because of this job.

Read the full post here and think about things.

564 Days (or, the story of THE 2ND FLOOR thus far…)

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The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library has been in its current state, a place for ages 0-18 and their caregivers, for 564 days, or 1 year, 6 months, and 16 days as of today. If you’re visiting The 2nd Floor for the first time today or have visited us over the past 564 days, you’ve probably wondered what it’s all about up on the 2nd Floor.  This post is my attempt to explain all of that and more to you.

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The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library is all about people.  It is a place where the community, library employees, out of town guests, and more can connect, share an experience, and learn something. It is a place where lifelong learning and fun meet in the middle, get all messy, and create something awesome.

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The 2nd Floor is a constant work in progress. Repeat visitors to the 2nd Floor always remark how “things have changed quite a bit” and that there’s “a lot more” than there was the last time they visited. Their observations are spot on. We may not have the newest furniture, shelves, tools, and more around (it’ll come), but we change everything around enough to keep it fresh and exciting for the community. We use what we have to make this place a great experience for the community.  If something works, we keep it around and refine it. If it doesn’t work, we let it go and try something new. To be the best library for our community, we have to move forward and meet their needs.

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When you visit the 2nd Floor, you won’t see endless rows of books in the space. Instead, you’ll find a well groomed collection that represents what the community wants. You may see two rows of The Hunger Games on the shelves, but they are there because the community asked for them. You will find our books arranged and presented in a way that best reflects the needs of the community. The picture books are as low to the ground as we can get them at the moment to allow for little hands to find what they want. The graphic novels have their own unique areas.  Our non-fiction shelves for middle aged readers are overflowing because that’s what the community wants.

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As I said above, the 2nd Floor is all about people. But we have to remember that a library is also made up of the people that work in it as well. The 2nd Floor is home to some of the most amazing colleagues I have ever had the chance to work with. Some have been here 15 years and some have been here 6 months. No matter how long they’ve been there, one thing connects us all: a passion for what we do and a great care for our community.  All of our 2nd Floor employees bring different attributes to the table: creativity, reliability, organization, energy, and more.  All of these attributes meet in the middle and create something amazing. Simply stated: the 2nd Floor staff are awesome.

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3D Printers, iMacs, button makers, video games, and more are just things that live on the 2nd Floor.  Yes, they are nice tools to have in the library and it is great that we can give our community access to them.  I am fully aware that not every library can have the same tools that we have in our library. But here’s the thing: they are just tools. The 3D printer will stop being the cool and popular thing over the next few years. The computers will need to be replaced. Items will break.  These are all ok scenarios. They are all just items. They are all just things. Without the community coming into the library to use the 2nd Floor, they are just empty, unused things. It is what the community does with these tools that makes their place on the 2nd Floor so special.

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The tools that your library offers to the community should reflect what the community needs. Does your community not want a 3D printer? That’s ok. You don’t have to get a 3D printer. It can start simple: pens, pencils, and paper. That’s an art and writing station. It can grow to include some hand-me-down or donated items, like a sewing machine. If it needs to, it can grow from there. In the picture above, one of our frequent library users is using an older sewing machine brought in by one of our library employees. They used it together to make a robe just like Hermione wears in Harry Potter.  It was a great experience using tools and items that we had all around us.

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The 2nd Floor is flexible. It has rules because it needs rules in order to survive and function properly. But the 2nd Floor is open to interpretation. The community will make it what they want it to be at that moment. In the photo above, the 3D printer has become the test subject for a teen’s interest in learning how to do time lapse photography. Flexibility and the desire to take a chance on something new allows your community to thrive and grow.

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The 2nd Floor is unique in that it doesn’t push kids, tweens, teens, and their caregivers into age specific corners. It’s about following your interests and sharing a positive interaction with someone…a family member, a friend, or someone you just met.  When you open up your library to interests and interactions like these, some great moments can occur. Instead of checking the IDs of everyone that enters the the library, the library employees are free to then interact with the community and develop relationships. They are able to chat and connect. This is where something magical happens and what I consider to be the best part of the modern public library experience: The library as the place where the community connects.

2014-05-03 12.54.56Sure, we have all this great stuff you can borrow. We have loads of programs and experiences for you if you visit our physical locations. We have loads of downloadables that you can enjoy on your device. All of that is great. But what makes the library magical is when people connect: all ages, all genders, all races. They come together to learn and have fun. They put everything aside and enjoy a moment together. From those moments, bonds and connections are made. Some last minutes. Some last a lifetime. Those connections are what helps our communities grow.  Healthy communities lead to happiness.  Happiness is something global. Happiness is something that spreads everywhere. It all starts with one interaction and it grows.