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.

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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.

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Family, Libraries

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.

YOU’RE GOING TO BE OK
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.

GETTING OLDER IS PRETTY AWESOME
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.

HAVING A FAMILY IS NOT THIS HUGE TIME/MONEY/PERSONALITY SUCK
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.

YOU’RE NOT A SELL OUT
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.

BE YOURSELF
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.

Libraries, MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY, Music

MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY 2012

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.

 

 

Libraries, MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY

MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY (Tracks 1-5)

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…

 

 

Libraries, Social Media, Technology

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.

Libraries, MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY, Music

MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY 2012 (Week 2)

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!

MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY

MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY 2012 (Week 1)

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.