Tag Archives: Happiness

To the Teens

Much of the writing that I do on this blog centers around teen library stuff…cool things that are going on, input on how to pull off projects, and more.  It’s meant for an entirely librarian audience.  Recently, a few teens in my community recently asked me about my blog (they found it through a Google Search) and why I only write about library stuff.  My response was: “Well, that’s what I do.  I’m a librarian and I like to share the cool things we do in the library.”  He came back with this: “Why don’t you ever write anything for teens that tell us about what life is like and all that, you know, stuff about growing up? That’s what I thought you’d write about.”  So that got me thinking about a post for teens.  And this is that post…

Hey teens that have used the library in the past, present, and future:

Hello from Justin The Librarian.  First up, let me say this: thank you.  Without you coming into the library to explore, hang out, and keep me on my toes, I wouldn’t have much to do in life.  I’d be pretty boring, lazy, and not that exciting.  You challenge me to be a better person.  Yes, even those times where you give me crap and try to annoy me…those are good times.  I dig those. 

A lot of you have asked me through the years what it’s like to be an adult and how you can get through this whole growing up thing.  I don’t have a magical answer for you, but I can share what it’s been like for me in hopes that you can borrow something from that and go ahead on your own path.

So you’re stuck in a crazy moment in your life and everything feels pretty shitty.  It’s like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel or something like that.  Give it time, because you’re going to be ok.  Even when things are at their worst, there is someone out you that cares for you.  It could be a parent, a sibling, a relative, a friend, a librarian, or just some random person.  They care.  Time has this awesome way of moving forward and making everything better.  It’s like magic.

You’ve probably heard an adult say that getting older is a pain in the butt.  They may say things like “my body always aches, there’s never enough money, you kids cost me so money, there’s never enough time to do this or that” and more.  Well, don’t listen to that because it’s not true at all.  Getting older is actually pretty awesome.

In your teens and twenties, a lot of people will look at you and your ideas and think they’re a bit bizarre and out there.  However, when you get into your late twenties/thirties something interesting happens…now that you’re older, people start to understand that you’ve had the experiences and matured enough that what you’re doing must be legit.  It’s kind of awesome.  Remember how I helped bring video games into the library for people to play and borrow?  When I talked about how libraries should be doing that when I was younger, people thought I was crazy.  When I got older and did it people thought it was a really great move.  Being 28 years old and having gone through years of video gaming helped me get to do that “crazy thing.”  So, yes, your bones may hurt a bit more (it happens) but you get to do a lot of cool shit when you’re older.

I’ve heard “I don’t want to have kids or a family because it’s too much time, money, and you lose a part of yourself” so many times.  That’s all a bunch of crap.  Having a family is one of the best things that you can choose to do in this life.

Family makes you stronger.  They challenge you to be a better person and to rise above any laziness or selfishness that you may have inside of you.  They make you smile.  When someone in your family does something amazing, you can’t help but smile and be filled up with joy.  You don’t lose who you are when you have a family.  You become more of yourself than you’ve ever been before.

That’s not to say that family doesn’t take a lot of time.  It does.  Anything that you love takes a lot of time.  But it’s all good time.  The time and love put into your family is one of the best things you can do while you’re here on earth.

I used to have long hair.  I used to dress a bit cooler than I do now.  I used to go a lot more places and do a lot more adventurous things.  I had a part time job at a thrift store.  These days, my hair is shorter, I wear what feels comfortable to me, and I like to stay at home a lot. I also have a full time job. That’s not lame at all and I haven’t lost my cool or sold out or anything.

As you get older, you change, you slow down, and you start to enjoy every little thing a lot more.  You’re not a sell out.  In fact, everything is going to plan.  You’re growing more into the person that you’ve always wanted to be.

I think you know what I mean here.  It’s a funny thing in life, but it’s very true: people can totally tell when you’re faking it.  Don’t be one of the people that fakes it.  Life is too awesome to spend all of your time pretending that you’re something other than yourself.


It is with GREAT honor that I present to you the MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY 2012 album. This album was created at the Portland Public Library in our Teen Library Study Room #119 over four weeks in July 2012 and mixed and edited in August 2012.

For this program, we used:
1 Tascam Portastudio 424 Mark III
1 Casio CTK-450 Synthesizer
1 Shure PG58 Microphone

Many thanks go out to all of the teens that participated in this project, specifically Richard, Ilhan, Chrispo, Jordan, and everyone else.  Thanks for lending your talents to the album and sharing this music with the world.

Also, thank you to Michael Whittaker, my coworker who lent his audio mixing wizardry to the project and showed some teens that really cool music can be made with a cassette tape, a microphone, and some cool ideas.




We continue to tweak/manipulate/twiddle/mix/master with the teen music made in the library this summer.  We filled up three tapes of music, so the next step for myself and my cohort Michael has been mixing down the tracks to digital files.  We’re using Audacity to edit the music on the computer.  We’ve simply hooked up our cassette four track machine to the computer in mono and we’re going from there.

(the mixing room, aka my office)

Here’s a small update of the tracks we’ve worked on with the teens.  The best is yet to come…



The Collective Ugggh

Over the past month, I’ve been really down on social media to the point where I’ve been paranoid to log in, comment, or post anything for fear of being overwhelmed.  I believe they call it social media fatigue and I’ve read about it here and here in the past.

I’ve given this a lot of thought and if you’re reading this looking for a cure all or something like that to fix social media fatigue, I don’t have it for you.  I’ve done a number of things to help myself get over this and the downward spiral it can throw someone into (“I’m a horrible person.  I want to sleep all day. I hate people.”) and few things have stuck and few things haven’t.  But one thing that I’ve noticed is what I’m calling The Collective Uggggh.  In fact, I fell into it today.

It makes you feel like this

The Collective Ugggggh is what I’m calling when you log into a social network or read an article on a news site and you see the following filling up your feed:

  • Complaining about something work/life related
  • Reposting about something horrible that was said/did and then scrolling and scrolling to see pages upon pages of commenting that goes nowhere

It’s called the The Collective Ugggggh because it makes you feel that way inside. We’re all guilty of it.  In fact, like I said above I was guilty of it this morning (that’s when I had the A-HA! moment, decided to stop and wrote this post about it).

So what’s the solution?  I could say that you could unfriend/unfollow everyone, not comment, delete everything, and a number of other tricks like that but will that work in the long run?  I highly doubt it.  You’ll miss it.  Why?  Because social media is pretty awesome despite all of its flaws.  It’s great to share, read, and connect with people.

Instead, what I’m going to focus on going forward is positivity.  Sure, I may be having a hard day and want to let off some steam, but from now on I’m going to ask myself is it really worth posting about and then spending the next few minutes of my life reading and commenting on?  To me, it isn’t.  I’ll take that moment, deal with it in my own way, and move on.  I’ve decided that chorus of The Collective Ugggggh isn’t worth it anymore.


Michael works with a group of teens on a sound collage.

We gathered back in Teen Study Room #119 today to record some more music with our teens.  This week, however, we had Michael Whittaker helping us out.  Michael’s part of our Teen Library team and has a pretty awesome past history of dabbling in all sorts of cool music things.  He’s also really good at twisting knobs and making recordings sound pretty.  This week we started out with our drums machines roaring in the background, hitting buttons and making a sound collage.  The recordings happening this year are little pieces of music: a sound here, a voice there, and some spoken word and organ in between.

Laying down some spoken word

Adding some organ sounds to the spoken word

An idea being tossed for the recordings happening this summer is to compile everything into one long piece…a sound collage of teens…that tells the story of the teen community who visited the library in 2012

I’ll be back next week with some more information about MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY 2012 and hopefully some music!


One of my favorite things to do is make music.  It gets even better when you work with really cool people to create something.  To top that, it makes it the best when you work with some really talented and neat teens who just want to try something new.

Last summer, we had our first MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY program.  Local artist Sontiago led the group and in the end the teens recorded two hip hop tracks which you can listen to here:

For the 2012 MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY program, I was unable to get Sontiago back due to scheduling (she’s a super busy person!) and this year I thought it would be neat to try something new.  Earlier in the year I bought an old Tascam Portastudio machine that looks like this:

The machine was very similar to the four track that I started recording my own music on back in the day.  I remember it taking some time to learn how the thing worked but I look back on my time with the machine fondly and am happy I got that experience.  I also wanted to show the teens that music is totally possible with a computer.  Don’t get me wrong…I am a HUGE band of Garageband and other digital tools that can be used to make music but I wanted to show the other side of the story.  Just to try something interesting.

And yesterday we began our journey.  I camped out in one of our study rooms with the Portastudio, my guitar, one mic, and my iPhone which we’d use Garageband to make drum loops.  For our first day, it was just myself and Richard in the study room making noises into a mic.  We clapped, we hummed, we made a beat, we made blips on a synthesizer, and Richard rapped a story in Acholi.  It was so much fun making these little bits of music with Richard.  It reminded me of when I was 15 and twisting knobs and strumming on out of tune guitars and humming into mics in my bedroom.  The difference was that I was alone back then…this time Richard and I shared the experience.  It was really cool.

Here’s a brief clip of some synthesizer noodling that we did yesterday.

I’ll be back next week with some more information about MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY 2012.

Ebooks, again

Every blog post should have a good image. I don't have a good image for ebooks, so this sloth will have to do. They're really neat animals. Carol Schaffer took this picture, and you can find the original picture here: http://goo.gl/eQX0A

Now that Penguin has pulled out of lending ebooks to libraries, that leaves 2 of the 5 big publishers left in the library lending ebook game.

I don’t know about you, but the whole situation depresses me.  It’s not because there are less and less ebooks and not many way other ways to get ebooks into libraries, but because it feels like every time something happens in regards to ebooks and libraries, the same thing happens over and over again.  People involved with libraries recommend that you:

  • Cancel your subscription to Overdrive
  • Quit buying physical books from these publishers
  • Write the publishers and voice your concern
  • Talk to your patrons about what the publishers are doing
  • BoycottTweet/Blog/+1/Facebook a lot about it

And I’m not saying that any of these things are wrong.  I’m a firm believer in people doing whatever they feel is best for them to do at that moment in time.  But it all just feels like we’ve had these discussions before and it’s led to…the same thing happening.

I don’t have a clear answer of what libraries should be doing, but what I keep coming back to is this: The ebook wars have given us an excellent opportunity to forever change the idea of what a library means.  Long before ebooks came along, we were doing so much more for our patrons (reference, the library as a space, programming) but we were still known as the “place where all of the books are”.  Now that we can’t have ebooks, we can work towards getting rid of that stereotype.  We can change our image to include everything we do: we provide space, we make stuff, we inspire people, and we lend out a lot of neat things.

To me, this is a beautiful way forward.