3D printing, Libraries, Life, Online Identity, Social Media

Writing About Libraries

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This happened a long time ago in what feels like another life.

For a website/blog called Justin The Librarian, I don’t feel like I talk about libraries that much anymore. There’s a reason for that and today I’ll try to sort out the thoughts in my head.

I feel out of touch with the current topics being talked about in the public library sphere. I’ve really never been one for political debates, and there are a lot of politics to be discussed with the current topics that are being talked about. To be honest with you I don’t have the mental strength and capacity to deal with those topics now. My focus is to put in a good day of work at my library and then go home and be the best father and husband I can be. Diving into the deeper layer of public library talk is just not something I want to do right now or in the foreseeable future. Libraries are for everyone and I think it is in our best interest to be everything to everyone that walks through the doors of the public library, but I’m not gonna be on Twitter talking about it or writing about that here. I need to be aware that I only have a limited amount of mental energy. I am learning to channel that energy in the best way possible.

The second reason is that I feel that sometimes what I’ve written and shared can be misunderstood. I am really proud of the work I did in Chattanooga TN but to be 100% honest with you I think a big reason why it was successful was because of that particular moment in time in Chattanooga TN and not much else. I wrote about the experience a lot because I wanted to share the excitement and enthusiasm that I felt every day when I went to work with people like Megan Emery, Meg Backus, James McNutt, Nate Hill, and more. That time in libraries for me was really exciting and the enthusiasm happening was infectious. But now I look back on a lot of what I wrote and say “well that was very Chattanooga specific, and I don’t know if that would be good for any other library.” I can’t tell you how many times library people have said to me that they’ve read about what I’ve been a part of in libraries and said “well I guess our public library should be doing things like you do” and specific things like “we should probably get a 3D printer like you” and “well let’s make more things with patrons that was successful for you.” That wasn’t the intended purpose of what I wrote/shared, but I guess I should have expected it. When people read something (and I do this too), they think about what they read and wonder how and if it could be applied to their lives. Nowadays there’s this thing that weighs on me…if someone tells me they were inspired by the work I was a part of there’s a bit of me that regrets even writing and sharing in the first place. What if these things they’re doing fail for them? What if these people have a miserable experience with their maker program/3D printer/code camp/etc? I think about all of that and I keep it in my head and in my heart. It brings me down. No library is alike because no community is alike. We are all so very different, yet we share the same name and idea behind what we do. So why do feel the need to copy/paste ideas? I don’t know.

So with all that said, I don’t know where I stand. I think I’ll be taking a breather away from writing about libraries in the future. I know part of that is in me: I’m just burnt out and I’m not inspired. Unfollow away if you’d like. The librarian part of Justin has gone for the time being.

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Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries

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.

DEV DEV: Summer of Code 2014

DEV DEV 2014: at the Chattanooga Public Library DAY THREE

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DAY THREE of DEV DEV: summer of code 2014 is in the history books. For a quick recap, click on the image above to follow along with our Storify.

DEV DEV: Summer of Code 2014

DEV DEV 2014: at the Chattanooga Public Library DAY TWO

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DAY TWO of DEV DEV: summer of code 2014 is in the history books. For a quick recap, click on the image above to follow along with our Storify.

DEV DEV: Summer of Code 2014

DEV DEV 2014: at the Chattanooga Public Library DAY ONE

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DAY ONE of DEV DEV: summer of code 2014 is in the history books. For a quick recap, click on the image above to follow along with our Storify.

Chattanooga Public Library, DEV DEV: Summer of Code 2013, Libraries

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I’m so happy to share this video with you. It was produced by Colt Helton during our DEV DEV Demo Day which occurred on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library on Friday August 2, 2013.

I’ve said a lot about DEV DEV over the past month but I’m gonna say it again: it was an amazing experience not only for the teens, our partners, and the library but for the community.  Many thanks from the bottom of my heart go out to every single person involved in this program. This program was the single greatest experience of my library career.

DEV DEV: Summer of Code 2013, Libraries

DEV DEV: at the Chattanooga Public Library DAY EIGHT

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Click on the image above to see what happened during the EIGHTH day of the DEV DEV: <summer of code/> camp at the Chattanooga Public Library