Be Kind. Be Positive. Make a Difference.

Over the past week I have been thinking about how every weekday at around 2:20pm EST between 2010-2013 that the Portland Public Library would fill up with anywhere between 30-70 teens. I recall the dramatic change in the library, and no I’m not talking about how the sound level would increase. What I’m talking about is the energy, the passion, and the kindness that came into the library every day with these teens. These teens needed the library to connect, to share, to socialize, and to learn. The library gave them a safe and welcoming space to do all of that, and that space continues to thrive and offer the same wonderful and excellent services to many new teens today. It is a beautiful thing.

Around 75% of the teen population that came into the library back in those days were not born in the USA. They came from countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, and Sudan to name a few. They came from countries where their lives were torn apart, their families were displaced, and in the words of a former co-worker “they came from places where one of the first things they learned to say was “please don’t kill my family.”” The people that came to us needed the library but more importantly they needed the United States of America, a place where they had the opportunity to live their lives and pursue their dreams.

I have been thinking about about the teens I worked with at the Portland Public Library today all this weekend and today as I take in all of the news about the travel bans enacted by our government here in the USA. I think about those teens and their families and hope they are safe and well. I worry about them a lot these days. I also think about the future teens and their families from other countries that might come to the USA someday seeking a place to live their lives and pursue their dreams. I want to help them, but how?

It is a time of great unease and there is a lot going on is very troubling. Sometimes it gets to a point where it wears me down, but then I realize that I can’t let it defeat me. I have to stay strong….we have to stay strong. The way we can do that is to continue to promote kindness and positivity in all of our actions.  Kindness and positivity go a long way. This is one way we can help those that we care about.

Andromeda Yelton’s latest post (quoting the ALA Code of Ethics) reminds me of what I need to do every day as a librarian….I need to “provide the highest level of service to all library users.” I need to be there for everyone in my community. And I need to continue to be there for those that I worked with in the past and those that I will work with in the future. This is another way that we can help those that we care about.

We each have our own way of making a positive and kind impact on our own world. I urge everyone reading this to think about what they can do to make someone else’s life better these days. You can have an impact!

(title from Andromeda Yelton’s post, read it here: We provide the highest level of service to all library users. Thank you Andromeda for this post)

Play Video Games With Your Family

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My son Finn turned 8 on January 17 and one of his gifts was his very own copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf. My wife Haley and I have been playing the game for over three years and haven’t stopped enjoying it. In those three years, Finn has created his own character in each of our towns and dabbled in the game here and there. As he got older and started learning how to read, one of the things we told him was that he could get his own copy of the game. His eighth birthday seemed like the perfect time to get him his own copy: he’s a pretty great reader, he’s got his own Nintendo 2DS, and it just felt right. We snagged him a copy of the new Animal Crossing: New Leaf Welcome Amiibo game and last night dove into starting up a new town for Finn.

He decided to call his town “Finntopia” and that his in game character would be known as Finnix because “I just like the letter X.” We cozied up on the couch as a family (minus his younger brother Aero, as he went to bed and this was a special Mom/Dad/Finn night) and helped him through the setup process of getting into his own town, finding where to put his house, and more.

Once  all of the setup was complete, Finn opened his town gates and invited Haley and I into his town. It was like the “Mom and Dad, I’d like to invite you to my first apartment/home” moment, but this time it was when he was 8 and it was in Animal Crossing. He showed us around his town, pointed out that he had some pear trees, and introduced us to some of his villagers. We then headed back to the train station but before we left did the parent thing and left him with some gifts and money to help him start his new life in Finntopia.

After playing for about an hour, it was 10pm and we told Finn we were getting tired. He said he was getting tired too. But he had a glow on his face that I will never forget: he finally got his own Animal Crossing town and he also got to spend some time with his parents playing video games. It was a great night where we all got a chance to enjoy something fun, learn something together, and best yet….hang out as a family.

Video games can be awesome family and community building tools!

I’ve written about how fun, learning, and community can happen during gaming in the past. You can read all of those here or head on over to Medium and read this collection on Nintendo games.

Smart Communities by Suzanne W. Morse

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I just started reading Smart Communities by Suzanne W. Morse as part of a local book group here in Titusville, PA and I have to say that I am really enjoying how this book is making me consider my place in the community and to also think about where things are headed.

I decided it would be silly not to share my notes from my reading and the book group with a larger group of people because even though we’re talking about Titusville PA, these ideas and discussions can be applied to pretty much anywhere else. We are really all in this together and a lot of us are facing similar obstacles. My hope is that in opening up what I am learning through this book and the group someone can pull something from this to hopefully help them in their own community. Here goes…

“Small cities connect to other small cities to create a regional presence”
This line stood out to me in my first read through of Chapter 1. When I think about community, I first and foremost think about the place where I live and largely forget about another town that may be 15-20 mile away. I don’t believe that I am trying to leave other areas out intentionally but this sentence has given me more awareness to include those others areas. While their town may not be my town, collectively we all make up a region. If we view ourselves as a region, perhaps that can strengthen the communities all around us.

Another thing that was brought up was that there are lots of great things are happening through our local organizations, but there is not a unifying connection at the top. Who becomes that unifying connection? And that’s a good question to ask! When I was thinking about it, I came to the realization that this unifying connection would most likely be in the form of a person, someone who specifically acts as a community connector. In the past, I’d gladly nominate the library to be this but now that I have had years to think about it I see that it would take proper funding and preparation to do so. Does your community have someone who is in a paid position that acts as a “community connector” whose job it is to organize what everyone is doing at all levels (government, non-profit, education, etc) and communicate those clearly to everyone?

What is the way in which Titusville PA wants to move forward?
We have all of the elements that people want in their town: small town feel, everyone knows everyone, a large amount of pride in who we are and where we came from, and great schools and neighbors. But how can we get people here when there are not many jobs for those looking? How can we connect what we have to the modern world?

In thinking about this, I have come to my own answer: high speed internet. After seeing what 1GB (and now they’re up to 10GB) fiber internet did for Chattanooga TN I am convinced that very similar things could happen in any region that attempted something similar. Like it or not, I believe that high speed internet and access to all things digital is our generation’s industrial revolution. This stuff is important. It connects us to anyone around the world at the click of a button and allows us to accomplish work that before we didn’t think was imaginable. In my own life, it has sent me to New Zealand, Australia, Germany, and so many other places around the USA. When it comes to opportunities and jobs that high speed internet can create, in my eyes there is nothing quite like it. Digital Assistants and working from home could become a big thing around here if we had high speed internet. Jobs would be created, and people who are looking for communities to live in like Titusville, PA would then be more attracted to move here and stay here.

How do you deal with apathy towards your town? A good point was brought up during our group that so many people ask “why would you want to live here?” when they should already be aware of the great things our community offers. Apathy towards your community is something that happens everywhere. It is easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day rumblings and gossip and lose track of the bigger picture. How can we all deal with apathy in our communities and turn the conversations towards the positive? I know this is something that I think about a lot and am always working on. I try to be positive and forward thinking in all of the things I am involved in with the hope that will rub off on someone and cause them to start framing things in a positive light.

To end, I would like to bring up this quote that someone (Leah Carter?) brought up in the meeting. “Titusville is not in the middle of nowhere…Titusville is in the middle of everywhere”. I love this because it does just what I said above: it is positive and forward thinking and I believe it helps re-frame our conversations. And it is true! Titusville is around 1.5-2 hours away from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo, and we are about 1 hour away from Erie. It is a great place to live and get away from all of the big city hub-bub, yet at the same time close enough that you could enjoy a day or a long weekend away in the city.

 

LJ/SLJ Tweet Clarification

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Earlier this morning I half-jokingly sent this tweet out into the world. It seems like some people agree with me!

Now don’t get me wrong: I think Library Journal does some great things. I like their digital events, SLJ’s Day of Dialog, their professional development opportunities, some of the columns that they offer, and pretty much every staff member that I’ve met that has come through LJ/SLJ. I’m not too into most of the opinion pieces, the awards, and most of the features. They just feel a bit tired and fall flat once the latest issue comes across my desk and I feel a lot of disconnect from the features. A lot, if not all of the ideas and initiatives in the features are great but I have trouble seeing how they could relate to the library where I am: and this isn’t just with my current library but the three others I have worked at full time.

What I think I am trying to get at (and thanks to Meredith Schwartz for nudging me to think on this for a bit. She is one of the awesome people at LJ) is something that is a lot more immediate and comes in mini daily bite sized packages (no, not a Tumblr or a Twitter). If money was not an object and everyone could get this zapped right into their mailbox everyday, I’d love the LJ Mini Daily to be a zine like thing that was just slapped together and packed full of great things that may otherwise be overlooked. LUCKILY! We have the internet and these things can be slapped together and sent out like BOOM BAM DONE IT IS THERE RIGHT IN YOUR EMAILS OR ON THAT WEBSITE!

LJ Mini Daily (I’m just gonna call it that instead of “that thing I thought of”) would be just one page and it would be full of neat little things that would’ve get a mention any other way. For example, take these things that came through my feed today and smoosh them into something and share:

Top that all off with a few words of encouragement, a few neat and easy to do ideas, and boom. You have LJ Mini Daily.

Thanks for listening.

 

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.

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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THREE THINGS 2016.10 (Deluxe Edition)

  • I enjoy the simplicity of late 1950’s/early 1960’s rock n’ roll and pop music. I can put on the Sirius XM 50’s and 60’s channel and really enjoy every song that comes up. Simple chord progressions, easy to sing melodies, and generic lyrics lead to good music.
  • I enjoy seeing vegetables and flowers grow around our home in our gardens.
  • The circus at Drake Well in Titusville, PA on August 27, 2016 was amazing. Top Hat Side Show is awesome.
  • Scott toilet paper is hands down my preferred toilet paper. Good price, good texture, and nice on the butt. All in all though, get a bidet and a squatty potty for the best experience.
  • I recently discovered the band Against Me! and I really enjoy their style. I wrote them off originally as just another punk band but they have this folky, jangly thing going on that is really impressive. Their lead singer sings with such great power.
  • I enjoy sitting around in the hammock that my father installed at the bottom of our son’s tree fort.
  • I want to learn more about the universe and would like to obtain a proper telescope to use to do so.
  • This summer Haley has been identifying so many “weeds” on our property and wow they are so amazing. Purslane is a great thing and I enjoy eating it while I’m sitting around outside.
  • I enjoyed the time I got to spend relaxing after my umbilical hernia surgery. There should be no such thing as a schedule, no such thing as an alarm. We should just be able to exist in the moment. It took a minor operation to make me realize this. I think our world could be stronger and much more patient if we all didn’t have something to do or somewhere to be.
  • I believe we are coming up on yet another turning point for libraries where we present ourselves first and foremost as cultural and learning institutions that make communities stronger. I believe that this is the identity that we must present to the public. Our time to advocate for our budgets and funding is now.
  • Tonight my family will go see KISS perform live. This will be Aero’s first concert and I could not think of a better choice for him.
  • The end of summer and the beginning of fall are magical times here in Northwestern PA and I am really going to enjoy it while it lasts.