I walked by a public school today (a really great one!) and I saw about 30 kids playing at the playground. They seemed to be in very specific groups: those playing basketball, those playing on the playground equipment, and those around the teacher. They were all nicely fenced in by a giant 12 foot tall fence (I totally understand the need for this by the way) and it hit me: I wouldn’t change our lives as homeschoolers for anything in the world. I’ll eat nothing but ramen every day for the next 10-13 years of my life and be as poor as poor can be to keep this happening. I think about the past week that we had together and what we did and it makes me happy:
Wrote and drew a graphic novel (Finn)
Created his own guitar/keytar (Aero)
Went to swimming lessons (Finn)
Visited the library twice (Finn & Aero)
Worked on our gardens (Finn & Aero)
Went on some side quests in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Finn & Aero)
Did some dress up and role playing (Finn & Aero)
Read some books (Finn & Aero)
Learning happens all the time and I love being able to live a life with Haley, Finn, and Aero where we can explore this together at our own pace. There should be more freedom in our world. There should be less schedules. There should be more curiosity.
Even though we’ve really only been playing THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD (combined playtime for Justin+Haley+Finn=over 125 hours) we have been having a wonderful time with the system. First up, Zelda: the game is amazing, fun, and sparks great curiosity and exploration in all of us at the Hoenke house. Every time one of us plays it we have discussions about what we’re doing and who we’re encountering. We’re telling each other so many stories about what we find in the game and in turn we’re inspiring each other to try new things. Second, the Nintendo Switch system itself is glorious. At times it can feel a bit more delicate than previous Nintendo systems. The amazing thing about is the ability to take it from the TV to wherever you want without any interruption. While Finn and Aero were inside using the TV yesterday afternoon after being outside all morning I spent my time in a hammock outside playing Zelda. It was glorious.
I wrote two articles about the Nintendo Switch for InfoToday recently and you can read those here:
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
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
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
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)
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!
I am very uninspired with library work. I have two major projects in my mind for the Benson Memorial Library but I feel stuck. The projects are: bringing high speed fiber internet into the library and repairing and renovating our Community Room. Both of these projects are much needed and would be well received by the community. I am having a hard time finding the funds to pull these projects off which then leads to a general malaise inside of me that festers with time. Money and the lack of it really holds things back. My brain then reacts to being held back in a negative way. I want the path forward to be clear and positive, yet money is always standing in the way. I’ve researched grants, foundation money, and other paths but nothing is clicking. Maybe it will click soon enough. In the meantime, I am right here sitting at my desk feeling like the end of libraries is right around the corner.
I have signed a contract to provide a library related news platform with 6 articles/pieces from now until June 2017. Writing is something that I enjoy doing and the challenge to come up with a 2,000 word piece has been tough but ultimately rewarding. I’d love to write more of these. Heck, maybe someday I would like to be my full time job. I enjoy the opportunity to craft all of the thoughts inside my brain into well structured sentences. I also enjoy talking to others, getting their insight into the topic I am writing about, and sharing their story. There are so many good people out there.
One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is to do our laundry.I have developed a system in which I tackle certain segments of the laundry one at a time. It helps me manage the flow of work to be done and provides a good feeling once each segment is done.
I am not happy with my weight. I am over 200 lbs for the first time in my life and my body does not feel good. While I do not have the world’s best eating/exercising regiment, I feel as if I’m doing pretty well. There is room for improvement and I will get there.
I am well over 50 hours into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the Nintendo Switch and I still cannot recommend this game enough. It is what I’d call a perfect video game: a marriage of great gameplay, visuals, sound, and experience. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or where you are headed in the game. You will be amazed every step of the way.
And finally, the rehabbing of Fidelia Hall continues. At a recent auction, we acquired 8 radiators, 3 steel doors, 1 set of track lighting, and 1 hot water heater for $125. My mother and father also made one of the nicest donations to us: they got a furnace for our downstairs space. Both of these things were so very inspiring in the restoration process. The next steps look something like this: repair and paint the tin ceiling downstairs, repair and varnish the floor downstairs, install and hook up gas pipes to our new downstairs furnace, build a bathroom downstairs, repair/install new outlets and light switches downstairs, and finally rip out the upstairs radiators and install our newly acquired radiators. The work never ends, but the end product will be glorious for our family and the community so I am OK with the process.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.