Benson Memorial Library, Libraries

Plant a Garden

This week we installed a new native species pollinator garden on the alley side of my library. Expanding and enriching the space outside and around our building has always been on my to do list, but when you have quite a to do list in front of you sometimes you set things aside for later. This is one of those projects. I still have quite a to do list in front of me at the library, but this year just felt like the right time for this garden.

What’s a pollinator garden you ask? A pollinator garden is a garden that is planted predominately with flowers that provide nectar or pollen for a wide range of pollinating insects. What makes me the most happiest about this garden is that all of these plants are native to Pennsylvania and will attract butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds native to the garden.

What did we plant in the space? Here’s a list:

  • Annabelle Hydrangea
  • Borage
  • Bee Balm
  • Tiger Lilies
  • Violets
  • Creeping Butte
  • Blazing Stars
  • Creeping Buttercups
  • Milkweeds
  • Day Lilies
  • Coneflowers
  • Spicebushes
  • Columbine

Many thanks to Carolyne Frycke and Haley Hoenke for their work in designing and planting our Pollinator Garden. Without them, this project would not have happened.

I think it is important for libraries to not only take care of what’s inside the library, but also to consider taking care of what’s outside of the library as well. My hope is that this garden, its purpose, the plants that live in it, and the various pollinators that visit it will educate our community about the importance of gardens and pollination. And you know what else? It’s gonna be so beautiful for everyone to enjoy.

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A New Career In A New Town, Libraries

A New Career In A New Town: Close The Curtain

 

For the first time in a few months I can say that I currently have ZERO resumes submitted to libraries for possible new jobs. Right now, I’m going to close the curtain on this part of my journey. Let’s get more into the reasons why.

My big goal this time around, one that I knew was going to be a long shot, was to attempt to secure a job in New Zealand. I tried for quite a few. Sometimes I heard nothing back from the library, other times I got the cookie cutter rejection letter, and twice I got personal messages that more or less summed up what I was thinking would happen with this search: you’re a great candidate, but our HR/organization just can’t hire internationally right now. A big part of me gets it…it is tough to immigrate a whole family to another county and also the financial and paperwork side of it is probably a huge task as well. So for now, I am setting the NZ dream aside. I have learned something in this process…..that things take patience and sometimes a bit of luck. I have to keep my heart and head open for a possibility and then leap on it. We’ll get where we need to go.

When I was looking for jobs in New Zealand, I couldn’t help but take a peek at what else was out there in the USA. I saw some good jobs scattered throughout the country. Our idea as a family was that if we were going to relocate in the USA we wanted to be in a place where we really wanted to live. For us, that meant looking at the middle of the country (Colorado, Utah) as well as New England and maybe who knows just maybe if it was the ideal job, California. Salary was also very important to us, as after almost 3 years of having a job that paid a lot lower than other roles in the state and having to rely on food stamps to make ends meet we wanted to get to a level where we were not struggling anymore. Being poor is difficult and a major stress on an individual and a family. It feels a lot like having an extended illness…you keep trying to get better, but no matter what the illness continues to eat away at you because the root issue isn’t being fixed. (FYI: I make $35,000/year as a Library Director, and the average in Pennsylvania for a library with a similar service population is around $42,000/year. I’ll get to that more a bit later).

There was one job that I applied to where I made it through two interviews. After the first interview I felt a little better about the job, but there was something off in my heart. The second interview went really well, but that lingering feeling was still there. It took me a day of serious thought to realize that, yup this path was not for me. I messaged the board, thanked them for the interviews and conversation, and moved on to the next step in my life.

To the jobs that I applied for who kept me updated at every step of their path: THANK YOU. As I said in an earlier post, good communication is key on both sides of the story. That communication 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.

To the jobs that I applied for who didn’t say anything or only offered cookie cutter responses: YOU HAVE SOME WORK TO DO. I think that we can all do better when it comes to giving feedback and open communication to the job seeker. (***)

To myself: STAY POSITIVE, CONTINUE TO BUILD AND UPDATE YOUR RESUME, AND DON’T GET TOO UPSET. Humans beings can’t help but feel  down or a little angry when things don’t work out. Haley tells me and our sons this all the time: it is OK to feel your feelings and in this case she is once again right. Overall, I feel pretty good where I am at despite this job hunt not ending up with the Hoenke family living and wandering around New Zealand.

So what is happening right now? Here are a few projects and ideas that are very exciting to me.

It is time to remedy the low salaries at my library. As I said above, being poor is difficult and a major stress on an individual and a family. My situation is where I did not think I would be at age 37 as a library director and a husband and father: educated, employed, qualified, and in the prime adult stage of my life but having to rely on food stamps and paycheck to paycheck to stay alive. I’ve dove into the PA State Library data from 2016 to look at salaries and see where we are when measured against others of similar sizes. I’ve already met once with some members of our finance committee to discuss this and once budget season comes up we can discuss this in more detail.

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Imagine all of these bushes gone and in their place lots of beautiful flowers, bees, and butterflies.

It is spring and pretty soon summer will be here. These months bring birds chirping in the air, vegetables and plants growing, bees in the borage, and so much other natural joy to the world. At the Benson Memorial Library, we are also planning a pollinator garden on the side of the library. It is going to be BEAUTIFUL.

As tough as it has been to restore and build Fidelia Hall, we will continue to make progress on all of our projects. Much like the garden project I mentioned above, I can see that our family future this summer being one where we work on and enjoy the gardens of Fidelia Hall as much as possible. We remain committed to transforming our land into a place that produces beautiful vegetables and flowers. We welcome bees, butterflies, birds, and all sorts of nature into our living space. This will be our 4th summer in our home and each year has brought many beautiful surprises as we’ve let it grow all around us. Eventually, we’ll get the money we need to finish up things in the hall. Right now, we need to get the funds to put in water lines and finish wiring the space for electricity. Good things come to those who wait.

Thank you to everyone who read this series. For now, this is the last piece in the A New Career In A New Town series, but if I ever look for another job in the future I’ll be sure to continue this series.

(***): Yeah, I know my words were harsh and if you read them you probably thought “why in the hell would I hire this guy?”. That’s OK. I’ve made my peace with the fact that anything that anyone says, especially on the internet, can and will be used against a person at some time in the future. All that I can say is that my words/thoughts/actions are always coming from an honest and pure place. I’m not trying to hurt anyone. I’m just trying to ruffle up some action in order to promote change. In 99% of every situation that has ever existed on Earth, this kind of behavior is looked down upon because human beings crave order and want to keep things the same. I think we have a lot to fix and in order to do so have to ruffle up some action. I’m just doing my little part in an area that I think could use some change. Thank you.

 

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Titusville, PA

“May 31, 1944,” by Isabella Leitner and illustrated by Gus Leiber at the Benson Memorial Library, May 2018

 

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In the month of May the Benson Memorial Library is proudly displaying the poem “May 31, 1944,” by Isabella Leitner and illustrated by Gus Leiber in the Wentz Reading Room at the Benson Memorial Library. Many thanks to Lynn Cressman of the Titusville School District Board of Directors for arranging this for our library. I love it when public libraries are filled with art, and even more so when a small rural library like ours has a chance to bring a wonderful work by a internationally known artist to their community. Libraries are great connectors, and in this case we’re connecting our community to not only some great art but also to an important subject matter. I hope to do more of this kind of stuff for Titusville, PA while I’m the director here.

PRESS RELEASE
“May 29, 1944, the day after Isabella Katz’s twenty-third birthday, she, along with her family and all the Jews in the ghetto in Kisvarda, Hungary, were rounded up by the Nazis, loaded into rail cars, and transported to Auschwitz. Her mother and younger sister were immediately gassed upon arrival at the camp. Three of her siblings survived their days in Auschwitz by supporting each other with determination. Her father managed to get to the United States and tried to obtain visas for them. Eventually she was reunited with her father, who, although he had escaped the concentration camp, lived the remainder of his life feeling he had let his family down. Isabella used her experience to write two accounts, Fragments of Isabella and The Big Lie.

Titusville native Gus Leiber has, in his modern style, illustrated a poem by Isabella Leitner entitled “May 31, 1944,” which is the day she arrived in Auschwitz. This poem hits very close to home because Gus’s wife, Judy, a Hungarian, was at one time on the list to be sent to the concentration camps. Instead, a friend added Judy’s name, as well as her sister’s and mother’s names, to the schuss pass (travel pass). A teenager, Tommy Baroth, hunted until he found a typewriter whose font matched the type on the schuss pass. He carefully added “and family,” to Mr. Peto’s pass, saving the family from a horrible fate. Tom and his sister Agnes reside in New York City today.

Sadly, both Gus and Judy Leiber passed away Saturday, April 28th within six hours of each other. Their art and love will be missed by many. Read their obituary here.

The poem by Isabella Leitner, “May 31, 1944,” illustrated by Gus Leiber is on display from May 1 until May 31 in the Wentz Reading Room at Benson Memorial Library. The public is invited to visit the library to see this special exhibit.”

Gus Leiber

ABOUT Gerson “Gus” Leiber (1921-2018)
Gerson Leiber, of the Titusville High School Class of 1939, was a Modernist painter who resided in New York City with his wife, Judith. As a student in Titusville, he showed great artistic promise; however, WWII took him to Hungary, where he met his future wife, Judith Peto, who was a handbag master. Upon the conclusion of the war, they moved to New York City, where Gerson attended art school while Judith pursued the design and creation of handbags. She eventually founded Judith Leiber, Inc., creating exquisite handbags, ranging from alligator leather bags to dazzling beaded clutches.

Mr. Leiber has exhibited in over 300 national and international exhibitions as well as 20 one-man exhibitions. He is past president of the Society of American Graphic Artists and a member of the Audubon Artists, the National Academy of Design and the Art Student’s League. He is also the recipient of many awards, including Tiffany Fellowships in 1957 and 1960.

Several years ago, Mr. Leiber donated a considerable number of his art books to the Titusville High School library for student use, furnishing the library with a fine collection. He followed with a piece of his own entitled The Smoking Man, as well as high quality prints of the work of Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer, and a Picasso portfolio. He went on to purchase a collection of Japanese prints by artists Kunisada and Hiroshi for study and display at THS. He has also donated beautiful collections of Persian miniatures and French prints of various subjects.

Currently we have approximately fourteen different collections by different artists. We hope to use this artwork to help educate students and give the entire community a chance to experience very different types of artwork. Both Gus and Judy Leiber passed away on Saturday, April 28th, 2018. For all of the Leibers’ contributions we are deeply and sincerely grateful.

Leitner Leiber Display

Read more about The Leiber Museum here

Libraries, Pittsburgh, PA, Presentations, Technology, Video Games

THIS SATURDAY! I’ll be speaking at the Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention 2018

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I’m pretty excited about this. I hope you can make it. Even if you don’t wanna hear me chat about video games and libraries, attend the convention, play some great games, and make some new friends. This is my first presentation in well over a year and I am really excited to dive back into how video games, libraries, and communities can all smooooosh together and make exciting things happen.

Here is a description of my presentation:
If you’re reading this, chances are that you are attending the Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention, an event that brings the community of video game lovers together. You know what else brings community together? Libraries! The days of the old, quiet, and musty library are gone. Nowadays, libraries are vibrant community centers, full of life, all kinds of literature, and events for all ages. And guess what else? They have video games too! (well, at least the really good ones do). In this presentation, Librarian Justin Hoenke will share his experience about bringing video games into libraries. You’ll learn about how he created video game collections in public libraries all over the country and also how he created events that centered around gaming for all ages at the library. Gamers who are looking to take video games out into the community and do some community building should attend this event.

Follow along on Twitter at https://twitter.com/PghRetroGaming
Like and follow along on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PittsburghRetroGaming

And for those that can’t attend or for some reason look at presentation slides, well here you go:

A New Career In A New Town, Libraries, Life

A New Career In A New Town: The Rejection Letter

“WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOU WERE NOT CHOSEN FOR THIS PARTICULAR ROLE. WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR APPLICATION AND WE WISH YOU THE BEST OF LUCK IN YOUR FUTURE.”

Every single person reading this post who has applied for a job has received these two sentences or some variation of them at some point in their career. Be it through email (the preferred choice of employers these days) or the postal system, these two sentences are never what a job seeker wants to hear. But if you want to find a job, you have to face the fact that you will see these two sentences at some point.

My recent job search has found me encountering the many wonderful variations of the two sentence rejection email quite a bit. I’ve gone through all of the emotions that someone who didn’t get the job will go through: sadness, a dash of anger, a lot of confusion, some conspiracy induced paranoia (convince me that there’s not a library cabal made up of folks that get together at conferences and have huge Facebook message threads where they gossip about everyone), and a whole lot of introspection. Here’s what I’ve told myself about all of those emotions: I’m totally supposed to be having them. No emotion is better than the other, and all of them together are part of the whole picture. I’ve found this approach to life in general to be quite exhilarating. When you give yourself permission to feel, you get the full experience of what it means to be a human being in the modern world.

But I’m getting off topic here. What we’re talking about today is the rejection letter. And once you’ve seen a few of them over the course of a few months, you start to have ideas about how you can make them better. I’ve only got one idea on how we all can make the rejection letter a better experience for the job seeker. It’s a big idea, but here goes:

WE SHOULD BE OFFERING FEEDBACK, NOT FORM LETTERS

The two sentence, cut and paste cookie cutter language, ending with the logo of the library that you just applied to rejection letter needs to die. We are not helping anyone but ourselves and our own time when we hit send on these types of rejection letters. I get it…time is precious, we only have so much of it, and there’s so much to do. But for a profession that believes so much in the power of sharing and mentoring we’re doing quite a poor job of it when it comes to communicating with those who we did not select for the job. Instead we’re giving them even more fuel for their sadness, anger, confusion, paranoia, and introspection and while emotions are healthy, direction and guidance is needed.

Job seekers will often wonder for hours on end why they didn’t get the job. Was there one little spelling error that threw off the person reading the cover letter? Was the candidate just not qualified for the job? Was there something else underneath it all that led the job panel to pass on this applicant? Instead of a cookie cutter rejection letter, try to imagine a rejection letter that was clear and direct on why the person did not get the job ending with some feedback from the panel. Here’s an example that I’ve cooked up.

Dear Sally Struthers, 

Thank you for your application for the Librarian opening at the Everytown USA Library. The panel has concluded reviewing applications and has decided to move ahead with another candidate. We are sorry but your application was not selected for this role. 

Your resume was very detailed and your experience in libraries shows a great deal of unique situations which have no doubt helped you develop into the librarian that you are today. For this role, Everytown USA Library was seeking an applicant with more customer service management experience, whereas the experience detailed in your resume was more rooted in behind the scenes administration. We specifically liked the Tater Tots For Fines initiative that you led at Busytown Library. That initiative was very inspiring and specific for the community you served, but it has helped us think about what we could do for our own community.

Once again thank you for your interest in the Everytown USA Library. If you would like further feedback on your application, please feel free to contact us via email.

Sincerely,
Scott Baio
Human Resources
Everytown USA Library

I probably didn’t nail it in the example above, but it gives a brief idea of what I’m thinking about when it comes to beefing up the rejection letter. Something more than just two sentences, and something that acknowledges that the panel did indeed read everything you put together and gave it the thought it deserves goes a long way. There’s still gonna be a little bit of sadness for the person that did not get the job, but all of those other emotions can either be minimized or all together avoided if there was just a bit more communication, guidance, and kindness from the employer. Take a moment, write some thoughtful worlds, and that energy you put into the world can go a long way.

Libraries, Management

Three Things You May Not Know About Your Manager/Library Director

It is so bizarre for me to vocalize this, but coming up in June I will have been a library director for 3 years. When I accepted this job, I knew that I was up for challenge and I was pretty sure I could do it. Three years into it I can say that I’ve enjoyed parts of it, loathed some of it, and have realized that I’m still not 100% sure that I can do it. One of the other things that I’ve learned along the way is what it feels like to be a manger/library director. I’ve worked for two really great directors in the past and one not so great and for each of them I always wondered what was going on in their head. Their ideas and decisions always made me so curious. Why did this make this decision? Why did they side with this person and not that person? Where do they think the library is headed? I always tried to understand things but in the moments I didn’t have a full picture so there’s no way I could understand it at all.

But now that I’ve been a director myself I can understand the fuller picture of being a manager/library director. I know that there’s a lot going on and that there are many complex thoughts, ideas, and emotions behind everything. While these three things I’ve learned may not apply to every manager/library director in the world, I’d like to think that they do apply to most of them out there.

No Matter What You Think, I Can Confirm That Your Library Director/Manager Has A Soul

Your manager/library director told you “no” or didn’t side with your input in a situation. This has all happened to us. In my opinion, the best directors always say yes or let you run with your wildest idea, but in some cases they say no. Hearing no or not having your input considered is tough. I’ve been through it many times and each time afterwards I have always had a day or two where I was down in the dumps, thinking that my manager/library director would always be against me or was simply out to destroy everything that I came up with. Boy was I wrong.

From my experience, I believe that no matter what the situation is that every library director out there is trying to think of the best possible solution for every issue that arises. While you may not agree with the end result, I can tell you that your preferred outcome was at least considered. A good manager and library director considers all sides of the story. For the things I’ve done and changed around at the Benson Memorial Library it has always been me pondering every possible side of the story for a few weeks and then once I’ve done that coming to a conclusion that best fits the needs of the library (we’ll get to the library and its needs soon enough). I’m not out to get anyone, I’m not out to give anyone a bad day, and you should know that I’m always thinking of the best possible way forward for everyone.

Your Library Director/Manager Is Thinking Of You

The best library directors and managers are always thinking of their employees. Y’all may not agree on every step of the way, but through the ups and downs I can confirm that they are thinking of you. They’re thinking about where you’re at and where you’re going. You may feel like you and your manager/library director don’t have a connection, but you do. A good library director has a connection with every single one of their employees. It may be small, sometimes almost non-existent, or it may be a bigger connection, but in all cases there should be some kind of connection. No library director or manager wants to make an individuals life miserable or tough. I believe that at our core all of us human beings are looking out for each other, and managers and library directors are the same.

Your Library Director Has To Look Out For The Library First

This is the one big one that I have learned. I believe it was Corinne Hill who told me that her first responsibility as a Director was that she had to look out for the present and future of the library as a whole at all times. Up until that point, I didn’t realize that “the library” was another employee that the library director/manager had to look out for. The library wasn’t just a ethereal thing to the library director…it was a living breathing organism who needed the utmost care and attention. Its existence was greatly depended upon not only by the people it employed, but the entire community.

With that in mind, I’ve come to understand that my first big job as a library director is to look out for the library as a whole. I need to maintain that heating system. I need to update our windows. I need to make sure we have a well rounded collection covers all of the different kind of information that our community needs. I need to make sure that the staff are trained and are doing their work. I need to make sure I lead in a positive and community first way. All of these things, when lumped and smooshed together, are best summed up in the phrase the library director needs to look out for the library as a whole first and foremost. When the manager/library director looks out for the whole of the library, everything that I mentioned above and much, much more can hum along nicely.

Libraries, Presentations, Technology, Video Games

Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention 2018

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I’m happy to share that I’ll be speaking at the 2018 Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention in Pittsburgh, PA on April 21, 2018 this year. Video games have always been a big part of who I am, and I’ve always loved bringing them into public libraries so this presentation will be a neat marriage of two things I really love. If you’re attending this convention, say hello and let’s chat about video games and libraries!

Here is a description of my presentation:
If you’re reading this, chances are that you are attending the Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention, an event that brings the community of video game lovers together. You know what else brings community together? Libraries! The days of the old, quiet, and musty library are gone. Nowadays, libraries are vibrant community centers, full of life, all kinds of literature, and events for all ages. And guess what else? They have video games too! (well, at least the really good ones do). In this presentation, Librarian Justin Hoenke will share his experience about bringing video games into libraries. You’ll learn about how he created video game collections in public libraries all over the country and also how he created events that centered around gaming for all ages at the library. Gamers who are looking to take video games out into the community and do some community building should attend this event.

Follow along on Twitter at https://twitter.com/PghRetroGaming
Like and follow along on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PittsburghRetroGaming