Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Local History & Genealogy

The Fabric of Our Families: Our journey in Local History & Genealogy Services

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Local History & Genealogy services were definitely not on my mind when I arrived at the Benson Memorial Library in 2015. To me, those services were something that local historical societies excelled in, not the public library. I have, like most things, been proven wrong the more time went on and this wasn’t any different. What I discovered shortly after I arrived in Titusville was that not only was this something that this public library excelled at but it was something that was much needed in this community. From that point forward, Local History & Genealogy services became one of the main focuses as I lead the Benson Memorial Library towards the future.

Almost one year ago my library hired a full time Historian. With this position, the goal was to expand these Local History & Genealogy services to a wider audience. And in that year, we’ve done quite a bit. NWPA Stories was started and in one year had 5,799 views, pretty great for a niche blog in a time where many people consider blogging to be dead. NWPA Stories was an important step for our library. Instead of the library being a place that connected individuals to the stories, the library became a place that researches, writes, and shares these stories. One of the things I’ve always found amazing about blogging is that when you write and share via a blog that you’re basically your own publisher, so in a way our library became a niche publisher when NWPA Stories began in 2016.

You can read more about this specific project here: Blogging at the Library

The next step was to expand our services beyond the traditional obituary listings and complete microfilm collection of our local newspaper. While that stuff still has tremendous worth and value (and is still very much utilized by our guests), we wanted to expand. That expansion meant taking what I consider to be a big step in genealogy with our subscription to Ancestry Library Edition. There’s now not a day that goes by where I hear a staff member talk about census records or some other amazing find that they came across in Ancestry. We’ve also been able to expand our programs at the library and now host 1-2 evening workshops where people can learn more about the service.

You can read more about this specific project here: A Neat Local History & Genealogy Story.

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This brings me to our latest project, a Photo Scanning Station, a VHS Conversion Station, and the seeds of a hopefully robust Digital Local History Collection. This concept and idea isn’t new by any means (The Memory Lab at DC Public Libraries is the first example of this that jumps out in my head). It is a tried and true idea to offer these tools to users in public libraries. Where it stands out to me is in how it gives a rural small town with a rich local history a chance to be a part of that history. The best parts of history come from the stories that we all share. It is through those stories that we all learn the little nuances that come with every family or every community. History is so much more when it comes from the heart, and what better way to get at that heart than through working directly with your community members. Our Historian Jessica Hilburn really hit home when she said this to me: “At the Benson Memorial Library, history isn’t just an abstract concept, but the fabric of our families”. The library is the place where we can grow our families and learn more about them. In turn, we build a stronger community because our roots become stronger. That’s why having these digitization stations at our library are so important. They’re building the future of this community by better connecting us to our past.

You can read more about this specific project here: Building a Digital Local History Collection Together.

 

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Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Local History & Genealogy

A Neat Local History and Genealogy Story

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Every library out there has their specific “things” that they’re good at. Those things are the core of who you and and what you do, and no matter what path your library takes you should always have you focus on them. At the Benson Memorial Library in Titusville, PA, we’ve got three things: excellent small town library customer service, great and plentiful programs for youth, and a local history and genealogy focus. That focus on Local History and Genealogy is our big thing in 2018. Just this month we added free access to Ancestry.com Library Edition for (at least) the next two years at our library. In just 26 days, that free service has been used quite a bit, garnering 611 searches so far! Plus, our Historian Jess Hilburn has been running workshops to teach people about Ancestry and the different things you can find using it and those have been a tremendous success. It has been good to see people learn about their past at our library.

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This photo comes from one of those workshops and attached to it is one of my favorite library stories. Jess (on the right) was helping this library guest during one of our Intro to Ancestry.com Library Edition classes. After a basic introduction this library guest was able to find some really interesting information about her Grandmother. She already knew that her Grandmother remarried later in life, but when she found her Grandma in her high school yearbook she made a very interesting discovery….the man who shared the page with her Grandmother was in fact that man that her Grandmother ended up marrying late in life! That’s the neat photo you see on the screen behind them in the picture. Just imagine how neat that must be….a little interesting slice of history that was a preview of what was to come!

These types of things that happen in libraries are magical and the thing that warms my heart the most is that they’re happening every day in so many libraries all over the country! This may not be the big boost in budget you’ve been waiting for or the major construction project that your building needs, but these stories are the ones that matter the most. As I’ve said before, it is the little things in libraries that keep them humming along. When grouped together, the little things don’t seem so little anymore and in fact come together to form something big and possibly life changing for a person, a community, or a library.

Please continue to share your stories! More information on Local History and Genealogy at the Benson Memorial Library can be found here and here.

 

A New Career In A New Town, Libraries

A New Career In a New Town: Communication Between Employers and Job Seekers

I so very much enjoyed writing my last post titled A New Career In A New Town: Librarians On The Move and I really loved the conversation that it generated so what I’m gonna do is start up a new category on this website focused on all things job hunting, moving, and growth as a librarian. And with that, here we go.

COMMUNICATION is something we always need to keep open. I understand that sometimes it is hard to do so. Sometimes there are layers to an organization or group which makes communication difficult. Sometimes it is difficult to deliver the bad news to someone who has applied for a job. There are many things that can make communication between a potential employee and a library looking to fill a position difficult, but no matter the situation communication should always be timely, open, and clear.

An employer who is looking to hire someone should be checking their inbox (or snail mail) at least once a day for new resumes/cover letters. When an employer gets something from a job seeker, they should send them an email/letter back letting the job seeker know that they have received their application and would be getting back to them by a certain date.

This is an excerpt from an email I received 5 minutes after sending in my resume and cover letter for a job opening.

What you see above is an excerpt from an email I received 5 minutes after emailing my resume and cover letter to an employer looking to hire someone confirming that they got my application. Getting this email back from an employer will do something amazing for the job seeker: it cuts down on the stress and anxiety that usually comes with applying for a new job. Let’s face it: finding a great job that inspires you, applying for that job, playing the waiting game, and to top it all off doing the interview thing is tough stuff on a human being. There’s so much excitement, worry, and anticipation with this song and dance. Anything that an employer can do to make it a less stressful experience for the job seeker is welcome. Remember, there are two sides to this employment story. Someone needs a job so that they can live, but at the same time you need a candidate who is not only qualified but full of energy, ready to tackle the work ahead.

This is an excerpt from an email I received 5 minutes after sending in my resume and cover letter for a job opening. (1)

What you see above is an example of how not to do communication with someone who has applied for a job at your organization. First and foremost, the “we got your resume and cover letter” email came SEVEN days after applying. Those seven days were spent worrying “did my email get lost in the internet?” and also “well when is it an acceptable time to email them back?”. This is a stressful game to be playing in your head as a job seeker, and potential employers should try to help minimize this stress. Digging deeper, we see a 24 day lack of communication from the potential employer to the job seeker after they had an interview. Remember that it is OK to say to the job seeker that, while we enjoyed our interview with you the organization has decided to pursue another path.  This is not the easiest thing to say but it helps the job seeker move on and attempt to find another job that they can apply to and focus their energy on.

Open and honest communication between an employer and a job seeker starts off a potential relationship in a good way.. This kind of approach to hiring and job seeking does two things:

  1. It allows the employer to better understand who the job seeker actually is and where they are coming from.
  2. It minimizes the stress and anxiety on the job seeker, which allows them to give the employer a better interview and idea of the kind of person that they are.

Stress and anxiety can change a person drastically. Think of minimizing or eliminating the typical stress and anxiety of the job hunt/interview as a way for you to get the best possible fit for your organization.

 

 

A New Career In A New Town, Chattanooga, TN, Family, Libraries, Life, Portland, ME, Titusville, PA

A New Career In a New Town: Librarians on the Move

I make an effort to check into LinkedIn at least once a week. As a social network, it is pretty pitiful but as a place where you can update and display your resume it works like a charm. I mostly use it as a way to track what I’ve done in libraries in case I need my resume or to put something I’ve done into an official document/grant/etc.

I’ve been going on there recently because I’ve been updating my resume. Right now I’m in this head space where I am seeing what else is out there when it comes to library jobs and, if it fits some very specific parameters, I am applying to those jobs. I figure this: why not, I’ll only live once, and if something inspires me why not give it a shot? So…I’m applying to some jobs. We’ll see what happens. Maybe it will be my next step, maybe it will just be an interview experience, or maybe it will be nothing. It doesn’t hurt to try something new.

I’ve also had to come face to face with my work history as I update my resume. When I moved to Chattanooga, TN a lot of people told me I was nuts because it was another job and that my resume was growing to look like I go from job to job. This always irked me. To me, it wasn’t about moving from job to job. To me it was all about getting the  experience I craved and moving up into roles which challenged me. I guess it could be an age thing. The people who doubted my moves were also people who had been at the same library for 10+ years. At some point in my life I may like that, but for the moment (and I guess it continues to this day) I crave growth, learning, and adventure.

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“RESUME STUFF”

A new job at a new library in a new town is just that: a way to experience the world, to grow as a person, to learn more, and to give back something to a community. When I was younger I used to think this a lot: “if I’m not growing, then I must be dying” and as I write this post that comes back to me.

I also think about the librarian profession and how screwed up it can be for those searching for jobs or looking for experience in their current job. Not every library and not every state are created equally, and you’ll see this in the details of every state library organization page and their job opportunities page. For example, the Pennsylvania Library Association recommends a salary of $59,791/year for a “Full-time librarian who supervises at least three professional librarians”. At my current job I am the director who supervises 7 employees and I make $35,000 /year. Go ahead and browse the other jobs on the PALA Library Job Openings and see what else is out there. I see a Part Time Teen Librarian job that pays $30,000/year and a Children’s Librarian job that pays $32,000-$37,000/year. And let’s not forget how hard it might be to “level up” at your current place of work. What if there’s no way to get into management at your current library but all you want to do someday is be a director? What can you do? In both of these cases, you look for your next adventure, a new job at a new library in a new town.

To end, I bring it all back around to my experience and my time in libraries. Despite what others have said, I am not hopping from job to job because I’m discontent. What I’m doing is looking for that next challenge and that next growth opportunity. If I ain’t growing, I must be dying. In the name of complete honesty and transparency, here’s where I’ve and why I’ve made a move. Have fun. And remember, if someone tells you that you need to stick around just so it looks good, give them the truth. You wanna grow. You wanna learn. You wanna go on an adventure. Trust you gut. Follow your heart.

  • 2 years in New Jersey? I was an entry level teen librarian who wanted to gain management experience, plus I couldn’t afford to live and buy a house in New Jersey.
  • 3 years in Maine? I was a teen librarian who got basic management experience and was not able to move up in that library system so I left for a job who really wanted me to come work for them AND which gave me a lot of management experience.
  • 2 years in Chattanooga? I was a Youth Services Manager but I felt the urge to move into a Library Director role, plus life in the South just wasn’t what my family and I were looking for (too hot and muggy for us east coast people).
  • 2.5 years in Titusville? I am a director but I get paid $25,000 below state average and I am looking for work that pays me a better living wage so that my family and I do not need to be on food stamps. I also crave challenge, be that as a director of a bigger library or in a leadership/administrative role at a larger library.
Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Music, Titusville, PA, Video Games

2017 Year In Review

PAST YEARS: 20162015, 2014, 2013

First and foremost, love and happiness and positivity from all of us to you.

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The collective masses seemed to have had a miserable 2016 but for some reason I felt like I was spared. But oh wait! Quickly around the corner came 2017 and with it came what I imagine to be the baggage, pain, and confusion most everyone else had felt in 2016.

It was a long year. I doubted myself a lot I spent a lot of this year confused about my place in all of this. I looked around at the world, both what surrounds me in the community where I live and what surrounds me everywhere else, and I just felt so lost and tired. At the core of all of this what I realized was that I just don’t feel the connection I had felt to the world that I had felt before. All of this is OK. Things change, people grow, and learning is a big part of the process we all go through during our time here on earth. It was a long year full of some tough moments, but instead of letting it get me down too much I’ve decided to adopt the idea that 2017 was a year of learning and growth. These two things are never tidy. They’re messy but the end result is always positive. That’s how I’m heading into 2018: with the thought that I did some hard work in the previous year and that in the new year that work will pay off.

Now that all of that has been said, here’s some stuff I did and some stuff I enjoyed in 2017:

  • Spent as much of my time awake with the amazing Aero, Finn, and Haley.
  • Continued to work on rehabbing Fidelia Hall. The plan with the space is now this: we will be moving into the downstairs space in early 2018. That space has heat and is in the process of having some electrical work done as well as rehabbing the bathroom and kitchen. The upstairs space (the chapel) will be getting a heating system installed starting on December 26 2017. Once we move over to that space, we will figure out what to do with the house. We envisioned Fidelia Hall as a community space, but have refocused and decided that it’s now more of a space for our family and our closest friends.
  • I recorded and released two albums: Either Way I’m Fine and Prozac Is The Dam & I Am The Dynamite
  • I finished my second full year as a library director. I’ve been doing this for 30 months now. I really enjoy it.
  • I listened to a lot of music and I wish I could keep better track of it, but Apple Music hasn’t done any kind of year in review recap like Spotify did this year. I hope they do that soon. I do know that as my father and I worked on Fidelia Hall we really enjoyed listening to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown 1970’s edition every Saturday.
  • My most played video game was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It was also my favorite game this year, with Super Mario Odyssey coming in at a close second. I played a lot more Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp than I expected to play. And I finally got into Picross…The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Picross was the one that did it for me.

Love to you and all of those that you care about this holiday season from me!

Family, Libraries, Life, Video Games

Play Video Games With Your Family

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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’ve written about how fun, learning, and community can happen during gaming in the past. You can read all of those here or head on over to Medium and read this collection on Nintendo games.

Family, Keynotes, Libraries, Library Director, Management, Presentations, Travel

Travels/Growth/Future Stuff

The past month of my life has been pretty awesome.

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I’m back from my travels, most un-jet lagged, and ready to take on the world again.

Long before libraries came into view my wife and I spoke about New Zealand a lot. We wanted to move there so that she could go to midwifery school. To us, it was a magical place full of wonder, beauty, and kind people. Well, I’m happy to report now that I’ve been there that everything we thought was true. The people, the views, and the atmosphere in New Zealand is top notch.

If you were to analyze this blog you’d see that the most frequently used word is community. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about New Zealand and the LIANZA 2015 conference. Even though there were well over 500 attendees at this conference it still felt like a family of like minded individuals coming together to share and learn from each other. It was a beautiful thing. No other conference that I’ve been to starts with a pōwhiri. Imagine about 500 people gathering outside of the conference venue and then being led into the space by Maori leaders. There was singing! There was storytelling! There was dancing! It was the coming together of amazing people to share an amazing story. I’d post a video but it wouldn’t do it justice. You had to be there.

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If you have the chance to visit New Zealand DO NOT TURN DOWN THE OFFER. Go there, soak it in, and grow a little bit. It’s even better if you can go to a LIANZA conference while you’re there. Yes, I did just say that. An actual library conference with true, genuine worth. LIANZA is it my friends.

I just have to put out some love before I move on from NZ: Jerome, Rachael, Ned, Ines, Jess, Sarah, Michael, and all of the other people who I spent a lot of my time with: FAMILY AND FRIENDS! That’s what we are now. Thank you for everything.

Next on the agenda was Australia, where I spent 8 days in Sydney and Brisbane. I was a guest of both the State Library of New South Wales and the State Library of Queensland. I gave a few talks (I’d post my slides here but what good are slides without the stories?), met a load of amazing people, saw some amazing libraries (the State Library of Queensland and the Edge are BEAUTIFUL!), and in general my head and my heart grew. I caught up with my good friend Warren Cheetham in Brisbane. It was so wonderful to see him and walk around the city. That man is my Australian brother and no matter where we are it will always be great to come together. In Sydney, I finally met my longtime Twitter friends Ellen Forsyth, Mylee Joseph, and Katrina McAlpine. In person, they were just as lovely and amazing as they were on Twitter. Authentic, real people. That’s what I am talking about. Isn’t that emerging as a theme in this blog post? That’s what this trip was about. Authenticity. The people of NZ and Australia are about as authentic as you get, and I think all of us can learn from them.

And libraries! Of course I visited libraries. The Katoomba Library was one of my favorites. Why you ask? Well because it showed me physical proof of something that I’ve been thinking about recently…public libraries need to breathe! It was refreshing to see a building that was not super heavy on packing physical items into the library and instead focused on providing PEOPLE with the space they need. Chairs, desks, tables, couches, and more were EVERYWHERE. The collections on the shelf had space…for more materials and for easier browsing. This is the way public libraries are going. They are a place for the people to visit, share, and connect.

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Traveling always leads to personal growth. If you’re not getting that out of your travels, you must be doing it wrong. You’ve gotta look around at all the little things: the signs, the trees, and the birds. You see just how small this world that we live in really is. We’re all connected. Some of the details may be a bit different but in the end you start to see that this is all the same. We are one.

 

I came back to Titusville, PA with nothing but love waiting for me inside of my home. As much as I enjoy traveling, there is no better place to be than in the arms of Haley, Finn, and Aero. Life is awesome. The biggest thing I learned on this trip? These three and our home is all that I need.

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ChurchHouse HouseChurch is now Fidelia Hall, which will eventually house the Titusville Creativity Center. Like any good idea these days, we’ve already got the Facebook page all set up and ready to go. Winter is here and it’s time to heat the building. That’s the first step. You’ll be hearing more about this in 2016.

The cold weather and snow also gives everyone a good time to hunker down, put on some pajamas, and prepare for 2016. I hope all of you reading this can do just that. Enjoy Thanksgiving and all of the other upcoming holidays. We all deserve to slow down a bit.