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.

Libraries

“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

Social Media, Technology

Social Media, 2016

FACEBOOK

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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

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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.

INSTAGRAM

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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.

TUMBLR

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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

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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.

BLOG

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.

THINGS I MISS

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.

Family, Libraries, Life, Online Identity, Social Media, Things

A New Way of Connecting

I like to read. I’ve always liked to read. The Beatles Recording Sessions by Mark Lewisohn. I like to share. I’ve always wanted to share neat things, ideas, photos, and more. Social media enables us to do that.

What I don’t like is how much time I seem to spend on social media. I am one of those people that has to reply to every comment, like, or mention. I don’t like the idea of a comment not being properly recognized! And with that idea in my head, I go a little bit crazy. If my career was to be on social media to communicate and share with the world all the time, I would gladly do it. However this is not my career so I can’t do it all the time.

I think a lot about the David Weinberger piece Library As PlatformNate Hill was really the dude that introduced me to that piece. It was really his drive to turn the Chattanooga Public Library into the working example of the Library As Platform piece. But anywho…

I think about how much I’ve changed over the years and have started to see the online version of me as a very authentic platform. I am Justin Hoenke who is also Justin The Librarian who is also @justinlibrarian. These are all platforms which are used to share with the world. They’re all like my own TV station. You tune in and read and view the things that I share. TV stations don’t talk to you unless you in the moment. You have to make the motion to reach out to them. In the end, all of these things tie back to the physical form of Justin William Hoenke.

CONSUME
I will be sharing ideas, links, photos, and more through my platforms.

  • Facebook: facebook.com/justinhoenke
  • Twitter: twitter.com/justinlibrarian
  • This website, justinthelibrarian.com

 

CONNECT
I would still like to connect with you and talk about things! There are a few ways to get in touch with me:

  1. Email me at justinthelibrarian@gmail.com
  2. Facebook Message: facebook.com/justinhoenke
  3. Twitter DM: twitter.com/justinlibrarian

This is an interesting experiment and I am curious to see how it works. Try it out now! Send me a message. I really do like talking with you.

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Libraries, Presentations

Thank You University of Maryland!

Many thanks to Lindsay Sarin at the  College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland for having me be part of their workshop on Personal Branding today.  My slides are above!  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.