Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

Let It Grow

IMG_8749.JPG

The idea of home being the most important thing has always been a big focus of my life. My life has always been focused around my family and where we live. A lot of who I am came from my upbringing in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA and a lot of who I am now as an adult comes from the home that I’ve built together with Haley over the past 12 years.

For the last two years we’ve made Fidelia Hall in Titusville, PA our home. At almost an acre with a house and an old church on the property, we’ve got a lot of space to grow and learn about the world around us right in the middle of our little town of 5,500 residents. One of the things we’ve been learning about are gardens and what most people call weeds. We want to understand why these things grow around us and how we can make a garden that incorporates things that we love to look at AND things that are helpful to the environment. We’re getting there. In our two years at Fidelia Hall we’ve planted things that we love (sunflowers, black-eyed susan, mint, chamomile, borage, and much more) and let a lot of what comes naturally grow without interruption. Things such as purslane and dandelions may not be desired by most people in the world, but they’re welcome in our gardens at home.

Our days in the spring and summer are spent preparing and maintaining the gardens as well as sitting back and enjoying them. Sitting in a hammock or chair and doing nothing but looking at how the bees are enjoying the borage become one of my favorite activities. When your home all around you thrives and grows your life becomes just a little bit more magical.

IMG_8748.JPG

This morning as we watered the gardens our children Finn and Aero ran around and begged us to spray them with the hose (which we did). The birds all around us chirped, our dog Sonic ran around like a crazy person, and the bees enjoyed the borage. As we watered the gardens, Haley and I talked about what was growing and made plans for years to come. I collected some of those “weeds” to feed to our chickens and rabbits. Those “weeds” were their food for the day, and boy oh boy did they ever enjoy it.

When we have a connection to the world around us, our lives can be significantly better. Everyone deserves a home where they can explore the amazing world we live in. When it comes to life, I say let it grow: let the “weeds” and other plants around you grow and from their growth you will have your own personal growth.

Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Titusville, PA

Six Months in a Leaky Boat

Aotearoa, rugged individual
Glisten like a pearl, at the bottom of the world
The tyranny of distance, didn’t stop the cavalier
So why should it stop me? I’ll conquer and stay free

Ah c’mon all you lads, let’s forget and forgive
There’s a world to explore, tales to tell back on shore
I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Six months in a leaky boat

Like the wonderful Split Enz song above, I feel as if I have just spent six months in a leaky boat. However as I write this I believe that the lines “Ah c’mon all you lads, let’s forget and forgive There’s a world to explore, tales to tell back on shore” sum up where I am now. I am here to tell you a brief tale of what I learned after I had spent six months in a leaky boat.

The climate here in the United States right now is one of fear, paranoia, and anger. Everyone seems to be fed up or fixated with something and social media has all given us a chance to share those thoughts. We are all broadcasting our inner selves and right now our inner selves are kind of dark. Losing two of our most beloved (Bowie and Prince) hasn’t helped make the sun shine more, and political seasons are always bitterly divided these days. February is just kind of blech. I went blank. I got dark. It was not pleasant and I felt an achin’ in my heart.

I think the sun coming out and the gardens full of green and the birds singing and the chickens and rabbits have helped me leave my leaky boat. There is a beauty in being outside, surrounded by brightness and people that you love. It makes the larger world that we all live in ceast to exist. The Trumps and the Clintons and the Kardashians don’t exist when I’m outside enjoying the piece of land that we call Fidelia Hall. All that exists is that moment and that moment is beautiful. Those people and those things that tug at our souls and allow darkness to enter us are not really there. They are not real when we exist in our moment.

I would not trade my recent six months in a leaky boat for anything because after all, it is the tough stuff that help you enjoy the great stuff. Growth, growth, growth. That’s the reason why I’m writing here. This is a living and breathing document and an example of how a human being can change.

 

Family, Libraries

Life and Libraries and 2014

2014 is coming to an end and every blogger and writer out there is going to be writing a year end recap of what’s going on and what to look forward to in 2015. I love these kinds of posts and I usually think about writing my own at the very last minute. But not this year!  I’m gonna get a jump on this thing!

family

The first half of 2014 was busy. The team at the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library had a lot of big projects happening. We brought in some big attendance and circulation statistics to the library.  I did quite a bit more traveling than I usually do and spoke to a lot of great librarians. I visited Strathmore Alberta Canada, Baltimore Maryland, New York City, Louisville Kentucky, Nashville Tennessee, Greensboro North Carolina, and San Antonio Texas and had an amazing time learning and sharing with librarians. I found myself kind of tired at the end of it all. Yes, it was all very rewarding but the balance between libraries and general life was a bit off.  I learned about limits and how to take care of myself first and foremost before other things.  A healthy and happy Justin leads to a happy and healthier Justin The Librarian. Everything that we do affects everything else that we do.

JHFinn

In around August I decided to make some changes to achieve more of a balance. I visited family and friends twice in Pittsburgh, PA in August and September.  It was nice to go back there with Haley, Finn, and Aero and be with our extended families and take part in a few weddings.  Seeing the day to day things that happen in life makes you want to chill out and appreciate those things more.  That’s exactly the approach I’ve been taking and it has been wonderful.

JHAero

Haley and I piddle around in our yard a lot.  We take care of our home, our little slice of urban farm/homestead here in Chattanooga.  Finn, Aero, and I play with Legos and we kick around a soccer ball a lot.  We only go out to eat at a Chinese Buffet because it’s awesome and every other restaurant is average and costs way too much.  We eat a lot of vegetables at home.  We play a lot of Nintendo Wii U and have family movie nights.  We have a really cool dog named Sonic The Border Terrier. I really enjoy watering and taking care of my plants, especially our banana plants.

JHBanana

These are the things I look forward to the most these days.  2013 Justin was a bit different….there was something library related in that end of the year toppermost of the poppermost list. This year, there isn’t. That’s not to say that I’m not into libraries anymore….I am, and I still believe that the public library holds the key to unlocking an amazing future for our communities. It’s just that now, well, I have realized that I don’t need to think about them all of the time.  And I’ve also realized that the less that I think about them, the more focused I am on helping them better serve their community.

JHHaley

So that’s 2014, life, and libraries in a blog post. I look forward to everything in 2015: life, family, friends, libraries, travel, music, video games, food, and sleep.  Things are cool. Things are on the level. Life. I’m just gonna live it.

Libraries, Teens, Things

TWO Youth Services Things That I Have Been Thinking About (2014 Edition)

1. WHAT THE HECK ARE WE DOING WITH YOUTH SERVICES?
Kids? Tweens? Teens? Teen Spaces? The Children’s Library?  All of the division by ages in libraries has really been getting to me over the past few years.

Say you’re an 11 year old.  Say your Teen Library is ages 12-18. What if the 11 year old is really into the stuff you have in the Teen Library? Do you not allow them in until they’re 12? Do you make a special secret handshake with that 11 year old and let them in, thus breaking the rules that your library created in the first place?  How do you decide which 11 year old is worthy of being in the Teen Library just because they’re really into something in the Teen Library?

All kinds of ages working together. Adults, tweens, and teens. I like how we all just don't give a crap how old we are and are just really into making 3D printed objects.
All kinds of ages working together. Adults, tweens, and teens. I like how we all just don’t give a crap how old we are and are just really into making 3D printed objects.

I say let’s blow up the whole damn thing and think about how we can reimagine Youth Services. Instead of dividing up our Youth Services by ages, why not focus on interest?  Do you like Legos? OK! That’s the Lego area! Wanna play video games? Sure! Anyone between the ages of 0-18 and their caregivers (I’ll get to that later) can enjoy our video games!  We can keep books divided by age because that’s really helpful but everything else? I say let’s let them all in to explore and enjoy the library.  Think less about the age and more about the interest.

2. RESPECT FOR THE PARENT/GUARDIAN/CAREGIVER CROWD
Like any good librarian that works with folks between the ages of 0-18, I sure don’t want any random adults hanging around in the same space as these kids, tweens, and teens. First up: it’s just weird to be an adult and want to randomly hang out with kids, tweens, and teens in a library.  Second: You already have awesome services directed at your age group at the library (and if you don’t, it is time to use your voice and speak up! Tell your library what you want as an adult!). And Third: WE’VE GOT TO PROTECT THE CHILDREN. The line is stale and old and we say it all the time as librarians but it is true: we have to watch out for our kids, tweens, and teens.  We are here to make their life better and safety is a huge part of that.

A son and his father and Ms. Pac Man. In a library. Together. Sharing and enjoying. So awesome.
A son and his father and Ms. Pac Man. In a library. Together. Sharing and enjoying. So awesome.

But what if you’re a parent/guardian/caregiver? Does that mean we should take you out of the picture and not let you in our Youth Services areas? Sure, we allow adults to always be in our Children’s Libraries with their kids, but we kick them out of the teen library and other areas reserved for youth.  And I’m just not into that.  As I said above, we need to think less about the age and more about the interest. So if you are setting things up in your library by interest, why not let parents/guardians/caregivers be a part of the experiences happening in the library? Let the grandmother use the 3D printer with her 11 year old granddaugther who loves Minecraft. Maybe this 6 year old boy can teach his babysitter just how to use the button maker.  The kid/tween/teen becomes the ONLY reason that the adult can be on the floor.  You wanna see all of this stuff that we have for ages 0-18? Cool! Then hang out with your kid and do things with them in the library!

On another note: Imagine a library that offered adults a library program that did the following: You come to the library. You get to have a few drinks. You get to socialize with other adults. You get to have a great night out at a great program (author talk, maker event, workshop, class, anything!).

BUT WHAT IF YOU HAVE KIDS? You have to think about childcare. How will I take care of my kids and take care of myself? By the time you are done thinking about it all you are tired so you just give up and say “well, I’ll do that some other day when the kids are older.”

Here’s where Youth Services needs to step up our games: PARALLEL PROGRAMMING. I can’t take credit for the name. Corinne Hill (this awesome lady) came up with it during a meeting.  Give something to the parents. Give something to their kids/tweens/teens at the same time. Make everyone happy at the library. It isn’t babysitting. It’s helping out your community. It’s thinking big picture.  It’s taking care of the community you serve in every possible way. The parents/guardians/caregivers get a night out and the kids/tweens/teens get to run around in a library and enjoy some great things.

This post was a little more “soap-boxey” than I usually like but when I started writing it things just came out this way. These are all just ideas.  Recommendations.  Thoughts. Try them and see what works best for you. If you don’t like it, don’t try it. I won’t be hurt!

Family, Libraries, Management

Have Fun

10156145_10100160168817860_274626555249143030_nThe last 14 months of my life have been a blur.  

I’ve been up, I’ve been down. I’ve been to Texas, Alberta, Chicago, Baltimore, Nashville, Chattanooga, Pittsburgh, Greensboro NC, and a few others I can’t remember. I’ve worked with an excellent group of folks in Chattanooga on loads of different projects: turning The 2nd Floor into a must see destination for ages 0-18 and their caregivers, working with The 4th Floor on all sorts of future of libraries stuff, and connecting with the community to make Chattanooga an even better place to live.

It has been a lot of work. I have grown as a person. There are ups and downs.  Nothing ever goes according to plan.  You have to learn how to live in the moment and makes the best changes you can.  Despite the challenges, the one thing that I have focused on in the long run is just how much fun it has been.  That’s what my wife Haley tells me.  Don’t get bogged down by any crap. Move ahead, do what is best, and have fun.

I don’t know why I am writing this blog post other than to just put that idea out into the world: always have fun.  Every situation is unique and challenging in your life. If you see it as fun, you will enjoy it all and have a good life.

Fun is often overlooked and maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe fun should be at the core of all that we do. Perhaps that we’ll change the world through fun.

ebooks, Graphic Novels, Keynotes, Libraries, Presentations, Travel

Thank you Marigold Library System!

A big thank you to everyone at the Marigold Library System and everyone that attended their 2014 Members Workshop.  I was so honored to give the keynote for the event.  I talked about experience, community, and where libraries are heading in the 21st Century…..and I learned so much from you!

Marigold Keynote Selfie!
Marigold Keynote Selfie!
Chattanooga Public Library, Chattanooga, TN, Family, Keynotes, Libraries, Management, Music, Presentations, Social Media, Travel

Catch Up

I haven’t had the chance to give a lot of the great events/happenings/moments going on in the world around me a proper post so I’m gonna play catch up with one great giant post full of beautiful, wonderful, and awesome things.

1)  The 2nd Floor has been busy growing!  We just hired Rebecca Zarazan Dunn and Jessie Meyer to join the team.  They’ll be working with us to keep on providing awesome things to kids, tweens, and teens.  Look for more awesome things on the horizon.

2) Last Summer, the excellent Warren Cheetham visited the USA and specifically Chattanooga to learn about Ubiquitous Superfast Broadband as part of his VALA Travel Scholarship.  It was so rad to hang out with Warren and here’s a great paper written by the man himself about his travels.  I highly suggest you read it to get a glimpse into where (some) US cities and the entire country of Australia are heading.  A brave new world indeed.

3. TRAVEL!  And lots of it.  For the first time in my life I have frequent flyer miles.  I gave my first keynote for the UNCG LIS Alumni earlier this year, the Texas Library Association Conference was one of the best I’ve ever attended, the School Library Journal Think Tank in Nashville, TN brought together some of the greatest Youth Services Librarians in our field today to talk and brainstorm about our future, and I’m heading off to Strathmore, Alberta, Canada and Baltimore, MD to give two more keynotes!  It’s so exciting to chat with so many new people and share ideas.

Here’s what it looks like from the stage.  Fun and equally terrifying stuff indeed:
2014-04-09 10.22.24

4) Back to the 2nd Floor: it is rockin’!  ZZ Top style rockin’! Megan Emery keeps pushing the boundaries of what makes up a library program with her  programs on the 2nd Floor (see this and this) and Lee, Vicki, Bev, Kaye, Olga, Emmy, and Bobbi keep adding to our stellar children’s programs with new ideas like SENSORY STORYTIME and our collaboration with the most excellent  MUSE OF FIRE project. It’s getting better all the time.  The future of Youth Services looks great and it’s just gonna keep on getting better.  Here’s the secret: it’s all about providing neat opportunities to kids, tweens, teens, and families.  Gone are the days where we divided up our populations.  Together, we can offer the world.

5) Chattanooga has loads of great visitors, and I really enjoyed meeting with the team from the Aarhaus Folkelab.  They’re offering a new outlook on what libraries can be for their community.  I especially like the gifts they gave the Chattanooga staff when they visited….multi purpose tools!  This is the new library card!  Imagine that!

2014-05-05 08.26.48

6) Life is good.  We stay in our yard a lot, tending to the garden, digging with Finn and Aero, throwing the ball to Sonic, and just enjoying life.  Chattanooga is great.  The transition to life in the South has gone well.  The transition towards more responsibility, management, and other things in the library for me has gone well.  Bumps in the road?  Yes.  Minor freak outs where I don’t believe in myself?  Of course.  But like everything in life, we will all get to where we need to get to.

1549438_733514070281_8505179569538850055_n

I think that is all I have for now. I am most likely missing something big but that means I can just write another post sooner.  Everyone should listen to the first three ZZ Top albums.

Love, Justin