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.

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Life, Things, Travel, Uncategorized

Slow Down

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Besides the people, one of the things that I miss the most about Australia and New Zealand is their speed at which life occurs. Simply stated, it is all just a little bit slower. There’s morning tea. There’s afternoon tea. There’s no clock breathing down the back of your neck. There are times where you have to be somewhere and times where things have to start/stop, but there’s not the nagging sense of I ALWAYS FEEL LIKE SOMEBODY’S WATCHING ME. Time exists, but NZ and Australia are not owned by time. It’s just something that is there. Like it should be to all of us

America has a lot of issues to resolve, but I think one of the biggest that we face is our breakneck speed at which we approach everyday life. For some reason, we need to be the best. We have to be the fastest, the first, the number one. We like to win. But it shouldn’t be that way. It’s OK to be second or third. Heck, it’s OK to sometimes not even be part of the conversation. We need to slow down. Appreciate the trees and the birds and each other. Have some tea and just sit around. Talk about shit. Think about how amazing this could be for our health, both physical and mental! We wouldn’t have to be a bundle of nerves and aching backs and knees all the time. Slow it down!

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Breakfast in NZ and Australia was something that I always looked forward to. It was always full of good food and time to just take in the beginning of the day. The workers who prepared my food and served it to me were always kind (maybe cause they were not working for tips and instead were paid a decent and honest wage??!?!) and did not rush me. This was a good start to the day. I think we all should adopt this practice.

When I got back to the States, my wife Haley started talking about a Danish concept that I was sort of familiar with called Hygge. We chatted about it, shared links about the idea (like this one: Winter Doldrums Got You Down? Have Some ‘Hygge’) and it has really been good to think about. Slow down. Practice hygge. It’s winter for most of us! It is the holiday season! Slow down and enjoy it. We only have so many in our lives. Enjoy every single one!

Travel, Uncategorized

Open Up Your Eyes

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I spent as much of my travels to New Zealand and Australia looking up, down, and all around me. I was searching for trees, birds, bugs, and signs. I was looking to see how different the world could be when you are about 9000 miles (14484 km) away from home. The little details matter.

This could’ve easily become a post about how we should all look up from our phones from time to time to see what’s around us, but it’s not about that. Our phones do help us: We snap photos! They give us directions! They connect us! I think that is great. This post is about how we can all look around and see things that will inspire us in some way.

The Edge at the State Library of Queensland is amazing place to look around. They describe themselves “as a model for the library of the future” and that’s exactly what they are. This is a space for the people. They’ve got all the fancy tools and technology everyone wants to get their hands on, but what most impressed me were the little details. I enjoyed seeing how organized their space was. It had that “in use and a bit chaotic” look but in a clean and professional manner. Equipment and information was labeled, organized, and easily accessible. The signage (like their Kombucha Lab sign seen above) had neat little touches like the science-y beeker. I also really enjoyed the colors of their seats, space, and cabinets. They stood out and made me feel happy to be there.

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Board books and picture books are beautiful. Show them off!

The way we show off our physical collections is also something to think about. Books are beautiful and should be shown off to the public. As a parent of two little dudes I’m more excited to find books just by looking at the covers than to dig through a shelf of picture book after picture book. If you’re asking “well how do we find the books if someone puts them on hold?” well just don’t worry about that right now. You don’t have to do that with everything you own. Show off the good stuff. You’ll find it if someone puts that item on hold.

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Loft space at the Katoomba Library. When I was there I counted 35 people using this small section of the library.

If you are reading this while you are at work, first off let me say that I am proud of you for doing that. Continuing education about libraries is not something you have to do on your own time. You should get paid for it. Read away and grow that brain.

Getting back to things….

If you are reading this while you are at work, get up from your desk and walk around the library. Look at how people are using your space. Look at what they’re doing. Did you take all of that in? Good. That’s the value your library is providing to your community at this exact moment in space and time and this is how it will grow in the future. I just saw four people using their own technology (mobile phones and tablets), one alternating between an iPhone and a book, and one looking at our DVD collection.

Family, Keynotes, Libraries, Library Director, Management, Presentations, Travel

Travels/Growth/Future Stuff

The past month of my life has been pretty awesome.

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I’m back from my travels, most un-jet lagged, and ready to take on the world again.

Long before libraries came into view my wife and I spoke about New Zealand a lot. We wanted to move there so that she could go to midwifery school. To us, it was a magical place full of wonder, beauty, and kind people. Well, I’m happy to report now that I’ve been there that everything we thought was true. The people, the views, and the atmosphere in New Zealand is top notch.

If you were to analyze this blog you’d see that the most frequently used word is community. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about New Zealand and the LIANZA 2015 conference. Even though there were well over 500 attendees at this conference it still felt like a family of like minded individuals coming together to share and learn from each other. It was a beautiful thing. No other conference that I’ve been to starts with a pōwhiri. Imagine about 500 people gathering outside of the conference venue and then being led into the space by Maori leaders. There was singing! There was storytelling! There was dancing! It was the coming together of amazing people to share an amazing story. I’d post a video but it wouldn’t do it justice. You had to be there.

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If you have the chance to visit New Zealand DO NOT TURN DOWN THE OFFER. Go there, soak it in, and grow a little bit. It’s even better if you can go to a LIANZA conference while you’re there. Yes, I did just say that. An actual library conference with true, genuine worth. LIANZA is it my friends.

I just have to put out some love before I move on from NZ: Jerome, Rachael, Ned, Ines, Jess, Sarah, Michael, and all of the other people who I spent a lot of my time with: FAMILY AND FRIENDS! That’s what we are now. Thank you for everything.

Next on the agenda was Australia, where I spent 8 days in Sydney and Brisbane. I was a guest of both the State Library of New South Wales and the State Library of Queensland. I gave a few talks (I’d post my slides here but what good are slides without the stories?), met a load of amazing people, saw some amazing libraries (the State Library of Queensland and the Edge are BEAUTIFUL!), and in general my head and my heart grew. I caught up with my good friend Warren Cheetham in Brisbane. It was so wonderful to see him and walk around the city. That man is my Australian brother and no matter where we are it will always be great to come together. In Sydney, I finally met my longtime Twitter friends Ellen Forsyth, Mylee Joseph, and Katrina McAlpine. In person, they were just as lovely and amazing as they were on Twitter. Authentic, real people. That’s what I am talking about. Isn’t that emerging as a theme in this blog post? That’s what this trip was about. Authenticity. The people of NZ and Australia are about as authentic as you get, and I think all of us can learn from them.

And libraries! Of course I visited libraries. The Katoomba Library was one of my favorites. Why you ask? Well because it showed me physical proof of something that I’ve been thinking about recently…public libraries need to breathe! It was refreshing to see a building that was not super heavy on packing physical items into the library and instead focused on providing PEOPLE with the space they need. Chairs, desks, tables, couches, and more were EVERYWHERE. The collections on the shelf had space…for more materials and for easier browsing. This is the way public libraries are going. They are a place for the people to visit, share, and connect.

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Traveling always leads to personal growth. If you’re not getting that out of your travels, you must be doing it wrong. You’ve gotta look around at all the little things: the signs, the trees, and the birds. You see just how small this world that we live in really is. We’re all connected. Some of the details may be a bit different but in the end you start to see that this is all the same. We are one.

 

I came back to Titusville, PA with nothing but love waiting for me inside of my home. As much as I enjoy traveling, there is no better place to be than in the arms of Haley, Finn, and Aero. Life is awesome. The biggest thing I learned on this trip? These three and our home is all that I need.

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ChurchHouse HouseChurch is now Fidelia Hall, which will eventually house the Titusville Creativity Center. Like any good idea these days, we’ve already got the Facebook page all set up and ready to go. Winter is here and it’s time to heat the building. That’s the first step. You’ll be hearing more about this in 2016.

The cold weather and snow also gives everyone a good time to hunker down, put on some pajamas, and prepare for 2016. I hope all of you reading this can do just that. Enjoy Thanksgiving and all of the other upcoming holidays. We all deserve to slow down a bit.

 

 

 

Family, Libraries, Life, Travel

8720-9657-9344 NZ/AUS/PA

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The answer to the question “Are you excited to be visiting New Zealand and Australia” is yes, I am excite. However, being a human being makes the situation more complex. I have thoughts and feelings about traveling so far away from my family. I am going to miss them a lot. Think about how much growth and fun my family will go through in 2 weeks. I won’t ever get to have a chance to experience that. I am dealing with that mentally right now.

I have also watched the entire series of the TV show LOST and I know that they’re flying into Sydney from the USA on that show. While I am open about possibly landing on a time traveling island, what I really want is to get home to my family.

What does one do on a flight that leaves the USA on Thursday and arrives in New Zealand on a Saturday? I have a list.

  • Play Animal Crossing: New Leaf
  • Possibly communicate with my family (right?)
  • Watch stuff (the list!)
  • Figure out how to sleep on a plane
  • Drink water
  • Use the restroom
  • Eat vegetarian meals
  • Select a book or two to read
  • Finish writing a piece for Information Today

I hate to get morbid and everything but if I don’t make it back to my family and my life, please take care of Haley, Finn, and Aero for me please world please please do that for me. I don’t know how but I know you can pull together and do this. Make sure they are happy and healthy and at the ChurchHouse and everything is good. This is all that I want in the world and I love all of you and I know you can make this happen.

Haley! I love you very much. You are the greatest person that I have ever met.
Finn and Aero! I love you very much. You do know that you two are gonna change the world, right?

These are the songs you can remember me by:

I know! I sound paranoid! I am!

If you are in NZ or Australia and are reading this, I do want to meet you! Let’s share ideas and have great memories and do positive things for the world.

NOTES
8720 (miles from Titusville, PA to New Zealand)
9657(miles from Titusville, PA to Sydney Australia)
9344(miles from Titusville, PA to Brisbane Australia)

Keynotes, Libraries, Travel

LIANZA 2015

LIANZA

I’m happy to announce today that I will be attending the LIANZA 2015 Conference in Wellington, New Zealand this year from November 7-11 2015 to speak about youth services, kids, tweens, teens, and everything awesome that can happen in libraries. I’m honored to be a part of this event. I’ve always enjoyed following the LIANZA conferences on Twitter (#lianza15 this year!) and cannot wait to learn and share with many librarians from New Zealand, Australia, and beyond. They’ve got a great lineup this year (Sarah Houghton, Ned Potter, David Lankes, and more!) and I am also looking forward to hanging out (and in some cases, meeting for the first time!) with some wonderful library colleagues.

November is going to be a most excellent month full of libraries and learning.I can’t wait to meet everyone. If you see me while I’m in New Zealand, please say hello and give me a hi-five! (here’s what I look like these days)