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!

 

Library To-Do List: 2017

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EXPAND OUR LOCAL HISTORY/GENEALOGY OFFERINGS
Titusville, PA has a wonderful and rich history (for a glimpse of it, just read this). As our local public library, I believe that we should be doing as much as possible to make that history accessible to our everyone in the community. To date, we’ve done a few things to increase awareness of our great history. Jess Hilburn started up a blog to share some great local stories she digs up in the Titusville Herald Archives. We’ve got the Titusville Herald archive online for in library use. But in my opinion we’ve got to do more, and slowly but surely we are getting there.

A partnership between the library, the Titusville Historical Society, Drake Well Museum and Park, and the Titusville Alumni Association came about in 2016 and resulted in the beginnings of the Titusville PA Heritage Connection, a website/digital portal that aims to bring all of our organizations together in one online space to make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for. While the site isn’t anywhere near complete, the fact that we have it up and the framework is there is a step in the right direction. A big thank you to our Clarion University of PA intern Kerry Neely for her help in getting this set up!

UPGRADE OUR INTERNET CONNECTION
Living and working in Chattanooga, TN was pretty great and one of the big reasons for that was their gig fiber internet connection. Speeds were fast, reliable, and the excitement of having something so state of the art created such a positive buzz in the community which led to some great things being tried out to make Chattanooga TN a better place for all.

Since moving to Titusville, PA, I’ve been wishing we’ve had that kind of thing to spur some excitement. Our internet options here in town are lacking, and the ones we can connect to have average to terrible service. HOWEVER, I hope to change that in 2017. To my excitement, I discovered that the town does have fiber internet lines in a few places. After some conversations with people around the community and others in the state, I found out that THERE’S FIBER LINES SURROUNDING THE ENTIRE BENSON MEMORIAL LIBRARY. Here’s a beautiful image of that fiber line coming right down in front of the library and turning right down our alley. Wow.

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In 2017, I’m gonna do my best to get us connected to these fiber lines so that in the future we can offer better internet access to our patrons. I don’t know how this will look, I don’t know how much this will cost, and I don’t know if I’ll fully succeed, but I’m going to try. As far as I know, we’d be the second institution in Titusville to access this connection (the University of Pitt at Titusville is the first) and the first public space to offer high internet speeds. Like I said above, we’ll see, but for now I’m gonna dream big and try out something that’s potentially huge for our community.

PROGRAMS, PROGRAMS, PROGRAMS

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Yup, these are my kids Aero and Finn at a library program. They come to a lot of them because they have a lot of fun and they enjoy getting to hang out with other kids. That’s what it is all about!

One of the big things that libraries do best these days is to offer educational and fun programs for all ages. In 2016, we’re going to have offered 320 programs that were attended by over 8,000 community members. That’s not bad for a public library that has a service area of around 14,000 people.

2017 is gonna bring a lot more of that and hopefully in larger numbers. I can’t and won’t take my foot off of the gas pedal when it comes to programming in libraries. We have to constantly be offering something to our community members. Programs are unique to libraries and something that we do very well. Story times and after school clubs work best for our younger audience, while nighttime events and musical performances work well for our adult and senior citizen crowd. We plan on having more of those throughout the year.

DO MORE TO ESTABLISH THE LIBRARY AS A COMMUNITY SPACE
One of the best things public libraries have going for their is their space. Most, if not all of us, have amazing buildings in centrally located areas. These buildings are one of our biggest assets. They do some of the simplest things that a library can do: provide space, warmth, comfort, and adventure. I’ve been thinking and speaking about this idea for a few years, and in 2017 I hope to do more to make that idea more cohesive and understandable to everyone out there.

STAY POSITIVE
No matter what we face directly in front of us in 2017, we have to remember that there is love and support all around us. Take a look around at your online social networks, groups like EveryLibrary, and your local community organizations that support the library. Take a moment and look at the community members you serve on a daily basis at your library. All of these groups and all of these people believe in the work that you do. I’m going to do my best to keep that up front in my head and my heart in 2017. I urge you all to do the same.

Library Stuff That I Am Proud Of

I don’t blog much about what I’ve been up to at the Benson Memorial Library because every time I sit down to do it everything ends up sounding so boring that what I was up to in libraries in the past. I mean, what can top The 2nd Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library? We had a freakin’ arcade there!

When it comes to being a library director, my life is very different than it was when I was involved in Youth Services yet at the same time there is a whiff of familiarity in this job. No matter what I’m doing in libraries, I find that the common thread that connects everything is that I am advocating constantly for services for our community members. That’s really the core of it all….trying to get a safe and fun spot for teens is the same as figuring out a way to get my employees better pay and benefits. No matter what I’m doing, the end goal is always to make the community where I live a stronger place.

All of this hit me when I was putting together our yearly fund drive. You’ll see the end result of that work in the two images at the top of this post. While I was in Chattanooga I learned a lot about the value of the numbers we collect and how they help tell our story to the community. Our numbers at the Benson Memorial Library so far this year (Jan 1-Aug 31) blew me a way so I shared those with our community. It was great to finally send out these Patron Fund Drive letters last week and I look forward to seeing what the community thinks about the Benson Memorial Library once they read up on what we’ve done recently.

Here’s a few other things that we’ve done that I am most proud of. It may not be as fancy as getting a 3D printer in the library or something like that, but I think that the work we’ve done here so far is pretty awesome and I sure am proud of it.

  • June 2015-August 2016: 82058 items have been circulated
  • January-September 28 2016: 40698 visitors to the library
  • June 2015-Present: 313 free events held at the library
  • Renovated the front steps: The sandstone steps were in dire need of repair, and this summer we did just that; we not only got them fixed, but we made some repairs to them that will help them last for many more years.
  • Weeded the entire collection (yes, all of it) in order to reorganize most of the library and give the shelves space so that we can update our collection to fit the needs of the community today.
  • Got some grants to help with quite a few things: building improvement, Youth Services, programming, and more.
  • Updated most if not all of the library policies
  • Updated our Employee Personnel Policy and got 2 months maternity/paternity leave for employees.
  • Decreased our yearly health care costs by $5000-$8000 and increased benefits for the individuals on our plan (they went from a $500 deductible down to a $0 deductible)
  • Kind of sort of restarted the Friends of the Library group (it’s a long story, but we’re getting there very slowly) and ran 3 successful book sales.
  • Hired 3 new employees (two youth services folks, one all purpose staff member who I’m hoping will become our future local history guru)
  • I was asked to join two boards: Titusville Regional Literacy Council and the Titusville Senior Center. These help the library keep in touch with two key demographics and gives us a great chance to work with these organizations to make sure we are helping out everyone in our community.

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THANK YOU TECHNOLOGY

Brief shout out to computers, the internet, and technology in general. It’s easy to be negative about technology and computers, especially since they are a bit confusing and sometimes don’t work properly. But in the long run, wow, technology helps us out quite a bit. A large portion of my summer has been spent working on budgets, grants, and building maintenance and without technology it would have been much more difficult. Google Drive allows me to keep everything I write related to grants and budgeting in one place and gives all of my proposals and work a continuity that is much needed. It is also really helpful to communicate project updates and changes with my board and the community via email and social media. Conversation and communication are key!

KISS

Thank you to KISS for all of their music and their makeup that my son Aero seems to love oh so much. Over the weekend he wanted to dress up as Paul Stanley aka Starchild from the 80’s version of KISS. That’s the version of him you’re seeing in this video. He was amazed that KISS could take off their makeup. Even neater is that he think that their song “Lick It Up” is actually titled “Pick It Up” and is about picking up toys.

SUMMERTIME

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I hope everyone reading this is enjoying their summer. We’ve been spending a lot of time with our rabbits and chickens and also watering our plants and gardens. Just last week we got to eat our first crop of the season, radishes. It feels great to live in what basically amounts to our own little semi urban farm. It fits our family.

Hire awesome people, make rad stuff

Yesterday I was reading Breaking Up With Libraries by Nina McHale.  I had a few thoughts.  First and foremost, I was bummed that our profession was losing such an amazing and talented person.  Nina has done amazing work for libraries and she will be sorely missed in this field.  Secondly, this one passage of Nina’s hit me really hard:

Also in the mix is my general frustration with library technology. We pay BILLIONS to ILS and other vendors each year, and for what? Substandard products with interfaces that a mother would kick to the curb. We throw cash at databases because they have the periodical content our clients need locked up inside them, and over a decade after the failure that was federated searching, we STILL do not have an acceptable product that provides a user-friendly interface and makes managing the data behind the scenes as easy as it needs to be for library staff. – See more at: http://ninermac.net/breaking-up-with-libraries#sthash.F7Wn43FP.dpu

 

I had been thinking about this same thing for the past few years when I made an attempt to look into a digital product for teens.  My thoughts with that product were:

1) Wow, I don’t know any teens that would use this.
2) Wow, this is so expensive and there is no way I could ever afford this.
3) Wow, this product has such horrible design.

The outcome?  I did not buy that product.

It was not until a few days ago that while under the influence of Nina’s post and seeing the amazing work that Dan Eveland (Web Developer, Chattanooga Public Library) and Mary Barnett (Social Media Manager, Library) did on the Chattanooga Public Library website that I had it hit me: we really need to start investing in employees who can make amazing things that do what we want them to do.

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The calender over at chattlibrary.org. Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett. It looks great and the back end (where we do our work) is easy to use and well put together.

Like these calendars, databases, and whatever else that we buy from vendors, hiring awesome people to build stuff just for us is an investment. Sometimes your investment may not work out.  But don’t think about that.  You can always try again.  But what if the investment in awesome people works out?  You get awesome things that were built for what you need them for.

Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett with input and ideas from myself. I think it turned out pretty awesome.

A good example is the website you see above, teens.chattlibrary.org.  About one month ago, the team started talking about what we wanted to do with this site.  We got some ideas and Dan put up a template and we slowly worked on it.  Mary gave the project a deadline and said “let’s get this done” so all last week we put our hardhats on and did it.  Dan and Mary built teens.chattlibrary.org to reflect what I thought teens would be looking for: quick awesome tidbits of information, news of big things going on for teens at the library, a hub for the Teen Advisory Board (TAB), and a contact page.  All built with Drupal on The 4th Floor in about one month by some amazingly talented people on the Chattanooga Public Library team.  The best part?  It’s works super well, is easy to manage, and it is exactly what I was hoping for with the teen site.  Another great part?  If it needs fixed or modified, I only have to head up two floors to talk to Dan and Mary and it’s done.

Hiring awesome people to help you realize your library dreams?  To me, that’s the way forward.  Not only do you get amazing products that you can actually use for what you want, but you get to surround yourself and the library staff with talented and kind people who contribute to the positive vibe of the community.  A win in every area.

A possible layout for a one floor library

One Floor Library Plan

As I child, I used to love to create maps. I think a lot of it stemmed from my love of video games like Sim City. But in those moments where I couldn’t build a virtual world, I always had a pencil, a ruler, and a piece of paper to map out some city or kingdom.

I thought it would be neat to revisit this hobby but instead of building a city I’d look at how I’d build my own library. What I’m posting here is just my idea for what I’d like a one floor library to look like if I could build my own public library. I chose to focus on the overall theme of the building instead of dwelling on the specifics. If you were gonna build your own one floor library, what would yours look like?

1. Seating/Atrium
A key element for me with modern public libraries is seating. Whether it be to sit down to read, use wifi, play a portable video game, or more, seating is key to making any of these functions work. I like the idea of having an area dedicated to this right in front of the library (an idea I borrowed from my own place of work) where people can relax, use their devices, make phone calls, and more. There’s nothing neater than walking into a library full of bright and vibrant people.

2. Security/Maintenance
Security in a public library is key to making things run smoothly. I have come to have a lot of respect for library security since I started at my place of work in 2010. No matter the size of your library, you will most likely run into your own unique set of security related issues. Sometimes libraries can handle these issues with a staff of one, and other times it takes more of a team to make thing work. No matter your situation, I believe it is a wise idea to dedicate a space to library security related issues. It can also be used as a lost/found area and more.

3. Circulation
The library circulation department is the heart of the library and without it functioning properly everything else will stop. Perhaps my belief in the importance of circulation stems from the fact that I started out in libraries working behind the circulation desk, but its significance cannot be downplayed. Returns, holds, information, and everything else in between, circulation does it all. That’s why I dedicated such a large space to this particular area. Personally, I’m into self pickup shelves for holds, open desks which the community can come up behind the ask questions, and a combination of self checkout machines and staff present for check outs. To me, the circulation department should be open for staff to interact with the community and for the community to use the area alone if they wish.

4. Returns
Consider this an extension of the circulation area, yet at the same time it’s own mini area. I was really impressed by the returns section at the Erie County Library (Erie, PA) when I worked there between 2006-2008. It was set up like a backroom where all of the items that were returned to the library came via conveyor belt for check in, inspection, and to be placed on carts that could be taken away for reshelving. It was a very efficient and organized system, so I incorporated that into my plans for this one floor library.

5. New and Popular Materials
For this area, I was influenced by supermarkets and the trend to place items that they consider their most popular (I always notice these sections having milk, eggs, butter, bread, etc) up at the front of the store. Mix in the newest items that the library has purchased (which are also usually very popular items) and with that you have a section in your library dedicated to the items that will get the most circulation.

6. Other materials
Where do you put all of the other materials in the library? My plan is to keep them all together. One of the things I’ve noticed working at a public service desk over the years is how patrons generally dislike moving from section to section in order to find what they’re looking for. Do you want Lord of the Rings in print, audiobook, and Blu Ray? Why not put those materials in one handy location for people to browse?

The only downside to having this type of area is how library staff will need to be on their toes more to make sure the area reflects what the community really wants. Weeding will need to occur on an ongoing basis, and the collections are going to need to be in tip-top shape in order to remain relevant.

7. Meeting/Study Rooms
I have seen the two study rooms in my teen library become THE PLACE to be at my library over the past few years. They’re reserved for teens ages 12-19 and their mentors/tutors (if they are working with an adult). One of the biggest questions I face at the teen services desk is “where are the meeting/study rooms for adults?” I see the demand for these types of rooms just increasing in the next few years.

That’s why I’ve included eight of these rooms in this library plan. The more space dedicated to giving the community a place to meet, the better. In my opinion, these rooms should be open to the public for free (unless there are special events, in which case, the rooms could be rented to help the library with maintaining the rooms).

8. Quiet Area
Every library should have a quiet area. Part of my belief in this is steeped in library tradition, and the other part of it comes from knowing that there is (and will always be) a section of your community that desires a quiet area. This is the place for that population.

9. Teen Library
10. Children’s Library
I’m writing about the Teen and Children’s Libraries together because there’s so much in common with these two areas: they both serve a very distinct population, they both work together in helping a new generation become literate (reading, writing, playing, and more), and they both always operate best when they’re considered to be “mini libraries in a library.” I’ve always viewed the teen libraries that I’ve managed as being part of the library system as a whole but also at their own mini branch. I see the Children’s Library that way as well. When you have this kind of focus, you’re able to best meet the needs of the people that are using you. In my teen library, only teens ages 12-19 are welcome to use the area. Other age groups can come into the teen library to browse and borrow materials, but the space remains reserved for just the specific group. It’s the same way for our children’s library.

Setting aside space for these two very important groups is key, not only in helping the library best serve these populations but also for the sake of the rest of the library….as anyone knows, children and teens can be loud! Giving them their own space in the library lets these groups do what they do best…act like kids and teens!

11. Technology Help Center
A few days ago I posted about this topic (you can read about it here) and in this plan I’m taking what I said to a new level. I’d like to create my own Technology Help Center in the library. Eli Neiburger said that “libraries need more geeks” back in April 2011 and I still agree with him. With this space, I hope to develop two things. The first part is a help center where the community can visit for help with any technology that they are using (for the pros and cons of this approach, I recommend this great discussion on Branch). The second part is to fill the library staff with, as Eli Neiburger puts it, a bunch of geeks. This staff could be used to help the library move ahead digitally. They could develop programs and tools for the library to use (and possibly license to other libraries). They could also teach classes on programming, digital literacy, technology help, and more.

12. Library Cafe
I never understood why libraries didn’t allow food and drink in the library. Once I became a for real librarian, I did understand (why? Those reference books are so expensive and hard to replace!) but I still don’t agree. Anyone could borrow our materials, take them home, and for example, cover them in bacon. Yet we do not ask patrons to keep food and drink away from our materials at home. With that, I’m all for a library cafe that serves food and drink to the community.

I never drank coffee until I started working in a library, and now I usually have one cup in the morning and a banana when I start my work day. It’s oddly comforting and relaxing. This is something I wish every library patron could do in every library building, hence the inclusion of a library cafe. Better yet, the profits from the library cafe could be used to fund a number of other library related things (programming! materials!).

13. Printing Center
If libraries wanted to take on Kinko’s, we could. We’ve got pretty much everything they offer in regards to copying and printing, and usually, we’re a whole heck of alot cheaper. Why not take advantage of this? With this idea in mind, I’ve decided to create a Printing Center within the library. This is the place where all printing from the library would be paid for and picked up. There would be a number of copy machines and scanners that patrons could use.

14. Library Store
What’s a library without a library bookstore? Everyone loves browsing through library bookstores, hoping to find something really great and unique that they can take home. This is where the store would be, and it could also be used to sell other library related items. Take Patrick Sweeney’s Library Advocacy Store and apply it to a local level. Sell library swag and have your community be promoting you with t-shirts and more.

15. Programming Space
In order to have technology classes, music events, author talks, movie nights, and more, you’ve gotta have a great space that attracts your community to the library. A hole in the wall won’t do…you’ve gotta step up and have a venue that people enjoying visiting. With this in mind, I’ve set aside some space just for this purpose. Think about this area as being something that’s totally ready to go for any kind of programming. It’s gotta have a great sound system, a nice and welcoming layout, and enough space to accommodate any size audience. With this in your library, you will have no trouble bringing the community in for great programming.

16. Technology Center
And finally, we come to the technology center. Right now, I can imagine this space being set up with a fair number of desktop computers. However, as time moves on we may see a shift away from needing many desktop computers (doesn’t it seem like everyone is starting to get a smartphone or tablet these days?). With that in mind, part of the technology center would be dedicated to other types of technology, namely maker/hacker spaces, gaming areas, digital media labs, and more. Think of the technology center as the place where the community will visit to meet any of their technology needs.