Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Life, Titusville, PA

Smart Communities by Suzanne W. Morse


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.


Family, Libraries

The Next Few Months

Over the next month of my life, I will be visiting some amazing places to talk about libraries. Next week, I’ll be in Lake Placid, NY for a few days to present at the New York Library Association Conference. After that, I’m home for a week and a half or so and then I’m off again. I’ll be speaking in Wellington, NZ at the 2015 LIANZA Conference and then after that at the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney Australia and then at the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane Australia. I’ll return home right before Thanksgiving, eat a great meal with my family, and that’ll be that.


I’m posting this picture because I think it is a good example of how my brain feels right now. I am here but I am not here. I am staring into space but at the same time very grounded by the things, people, and places around me. I am very happy but at the same time not happy at all. What is going on?


I think this is it for me…”it” being a librarian who travels, speaks, goes to conferences, and does all things library outside of their own library. I do like Twitter and this website, so I ain’t giving that up. I like to share ideas and have conversations. But it just feels like the library speaker/conference attendee jig is up. I’ve done it, I’ve enjoyed it, and it is time to move on. I’m at this place mentally where I feel happy about this decision. I’ve been some awesome places, made some awesome friends, and I’ve said what I can say about libraries (tldr: they are awesome, we should focus on our community, and we should continue to try new things that best suit our community).

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I want to be at home more so I don’t miss moments like these: Aero going on a 2 week “I’m going to be a hockey player like my cousin Andrew so I’ll wear hockey outfits everyday” and Finn in his “Five Nights at Freddy’s scares me but all I want to do is play it, watch videos of people playing it, and come up with my own Five Nights at Freddy’s stories while at the same time attempting to play trombone.” These are the days of our lives and I do not want to miss them.


I think libraries have done a great job at reinventing who they are. People still see us as the place to get books but we’ve also managed to expand our palette. We are community centers where people come together to share. We are lifelong learning centers, committed to helping everyone in our communities grow. We still have some work to do, but when I look back on things I see just how far libraries have come. We are doing it! We still have a ways to go on reinventing ourselves in many other areas: funding, how we organize our staff, our governing bodies, and how we just simply do our work. These are great things for libraries to focus on next. Libraries will get there. I just won’t be as a big part of the conversation.

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This website, my Twitter, and these other “outlets” that are in my name have changed over the years anyways. It’s called Justin The Librarian, but read back and you’ll see just how much the main topic has deviated from libraries. These days it is more about looking at life as a whole, understanding myself, being present in the moment, and being the best human being that I can be. If I were to do it all over again it would be Justin The Human Being or something like that.

Stay tuned. This isn’t the end because it never really ends. It just changes a lot.

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.


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.

Libraries, Technology, Teens

Thinking about the future of Teen Services

Recently, I was asked what my thoughts on the current state of Teen Services in the library were.  I replied:

So I’ve been a teen librarian since 2007.  At that time, it felt like teen services were really a one person show.  Libraries found someone who were passionate about working with teens, breaking down boundaries, and just wanted to do exciting things.

However, there’s only so far one person can go.  After that, you have to start collaborating and building a team.  I think that’s where it’s heading right now.  Teen Services will be less about one teen librarian working alone and doing amazing things and instead we’ll see Teen Services become something bigger…more people working together to do awesome things.

Less solitary teen librarians doing amazing things, more teams of amazing people coming together and doing amazing things for teens!  Seriously, I think collaboration is key.  Look at The Beatles.  Of course, all of their solo careers were super awesome.  They made some great music.  But think about the music they made together as The Beatles.  I mean, they’re THE BEATLES!  Great things can happen when you get amazing people together.  Libraries should bring amazing people together and see what happens.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I’ve pretty much convinced myself that this is the best way forward.  But just saying these things is one thing and doing them is another.  You’ve gotta come up with a plan.  Here’s my attempt at a plan:

One of the big reasons why I chose to join the team at the Chattanooga Public Library was because the library and the city are focused on investing in awesome things.  Let me tell you a bit about that:

To quote The Gig City website:
Chattanooga is the first city in the Western Hemisphere to offer one-gigabit-per-second fiber internet service to all residents and businesses. At 200 times the speed of the national average, the Gig opens the door to unimagined ways of learning, playing and conducting business.

Investing in the infrastructure to create a one-gigabit-per-second fiber internet service shows that the people in this community care and want to make the most of the place they’re living in.

This is the approach that the Chattanooga Public Library is taking as well.  Our director Corrine Hill is bringing together amazing people from all around with one simple goal: do awesome stuff for the community.  One of the greatest things about my new job is joining the team in place in Chattanooga and working together to do something really amazing.

Investing: To me, that’s key.  Surround yourself with the people you want to work with and…

Fiber internet service doesn’t happen overnight.  It took a lot of thought, planning, and a big gamble on Chattanooga’s part to have this in place.  So where do you want your teen library to be in the next few years?  Think about that and set yourself on that path.  Work with what is best for your institution and your community.

Don’t think that the future of the teen library is one sided.  It isn’t all about JUST making stuff, reading, hanging out, playing video games, and more.  It’s about all of these things together.  Don’t forget about any group of patrons.  Each one of them need us.

Always remember to smile and have an open heart.  We work in libraries, one of the most awesome places in the world.  We get to surround ourselves with great people and we get to do great things.  Remember that!

Libraries, Social Media, Technology

Statistics: Blogging VS Medium

Here are the stats for a post I made on Medium two days ago (click to enlarge)
Here are the stats for a post I made on Medium two days ago (click to enlarge)
Here are the stats for the 15 most popular posts on this blog from Nov 2009 to Present (click to enlarge)
Here are the stats for the 15 most popular posts on this blog from Nov 2009 to Present (click to enlarge)

In two days, my post on Medium about Teen Tech Trends has been viewed 926 times and read 589.  Based on my crude mathematics, that’s 295 views per day.

In three years, my most popular post on this blog was viewed/read 15,045 times.  Based on my crude mathematics, that’s 14 views per day.

I don’t know what this means.  There are lots of variables that could be factored into this like tracking how many times these stories have been tweeted/liked/+1’d and more.

It could mean absolutely nothing or it could be a sign of a shift in how we write/share things on the internet.

No matter what, I thought that these statistics were pretty interesting.


Help Today, Help Tomorrow

Help today, help tomorrow…

For the next week, I am organizing a fundraising drive for EveryLibrary in collaboration with Kate over at the most excellent Lifeguard Librarian Tumblr. It’s a bit of a friendly competition between us, a twitter vs tumblr kind of thing. Who can get to $1000 in donations for the most excellent EveryLibrary PAC first? The friendly competition between social media librarians begins!  Each day this week we’ll be talking about how important EveryLibrary is to the future success of libraries at the ballot box. And each day we’ll also highlight a specific way that you can help libraries that were hit by Hurricane Sandy.

By next Tuesday we’re aiming for $1,000 to help EveryLibrary make it possible to win more library ballot measures in 2013 and 2014, which means better local libraries. If 10 people can help with $10 each, we’re 10% of the way there.

If you haven’t heard of EveryLibrary, you can read more about the political action committee here

Libraries need to talk to voters directly about the bonds, levys, milliages, and referendum that build, renovate, or expand library services for the next generation. Any library initiative anywhere matters to every library everywhere. Make your pledge today.

Why am I doing this? Because I believe that for libraries to work better this PAC is the best way librarians and our communities can support the future of libraries.

So, I ask you to please consider donating EveryLibrary if you have the ability to this week. You can visit the donation page by clicking here to go to and follow the simple steps to donate

If you don’t have the ability to contribute now, I urge you to contribute to one of the most excellent drives happening below:
for cash donations
for materials donations
New Jersey Library Association relief project

Twitter: @everylibrary and #ELPAC



Aiming for Balance

When I embarked on the teen librarian career path in 2007, I never understood what the possibilities were, where it would take me, and just what I’d be doing five years later. Thinking back to that moment in time, I imagined a career where I’d work in a library, buy new materials for the teens in the library, put on programs, and that was about it.  This way of thinking made me see librarianship as a job, not a career.  

But as we all know things never go as you think they will and all that you can do is do your best to keep up with the change that surrounds you.  Plus, I knew there was more to working in a library than just showing up, doing your thing and leaving.  No matter if you were on the clock or not, you always wore your librarian hat in the community.  This lead to me seeking out ways to share ideas, programs, and more with other librarians. Twitter, blogging, and Facebook were the tools that gave me the opportunity to reach out to a larger audience.  And it worked…I wasn’t just going to the library and doing my thing.  I was sharing and writing with a much larger audience than just my community.

Things changed for me professionally quite a bit in 2010.  I became the Teen Librarian at the biggest library in the entire state of Maine.  From what I understand, there was a national job search and I was the one they picked.  Wow.  That’s heavy.  I remember driving up to Maine one winter day for my interview, spending the night in what I’d describe as a fancy hotel overlooking all of Portland, ME, and that same day being asked to become a contributor for a blog that had changed the way I thought about libraries when I was back in library school.  After accepting the job, I was tasked with building a teen library from the ground up, putting on programs for the teen community, and meeting and collaborating with many different groups around the community.  All of a sudden I didn’t just have a job…I had a career.  That’s where the pace of the change surrounding me ramped up quite a bit.  The next thing that came was that I was asked to write pieces for professional publications.  Then I was invited to speak at conferences and share what I had been doing in our teen library with a greater audience.  This was a career path different than anything I had imagined.  While happy (and very humbled!) to be sharing knowledge and inspiring people in my professional network something felt a bit off to me.  This way of thinking made me see librarianship as a career, not a job.  This change in thought made me realize the need for balance.

This brings us up to the present.  I write this piece with mixed emotions, not knowing exactly what the future holds, not knowing exactly why I’m writing this in the first place.  Maybe it’s to collect my thoughts.  Perhaps it is to signal the beginning of the end of the “Justin The Librarian” phase of my life.  I do not know.  I will know someday though.

But in the meantime, all that I can aim for is balance…balance between having a job or having a career, being a husband and father, and just being Justin.  Life gets really interesting as you get older.