Great People, Life

GREAT PEOPLE: Abraham Schechter

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I have known Abraham Schechter since 2010 and from that moment on we have kept in touch through letters, emails, and Facebook messages. You see, Abraham is a writer, but he’s not just that. He’s a typewriter enthusiast, a local historian, a photographer, a preservationist, an expert in book repair, an essayist, and most importantly an amazing human being.

He’s a big reason why I write on this blog. When I started justinthelibrarian.com, my main focus was on writing about libraries. In our chats, Abrahama always reminded me that life was more than just our work. It was the person that did the work and those things that made that person tick. He was one of those people that I’ve needed in my life to remind me that life needs balance and the full picture.

Abraham’s work at the Portland Public Library in Portland ME (where I worked with him between 2010-2013) is simply amazing. In my opinion, he is the heart and soul of The Portland Room and everything local history related at the library. During my time there, I saw Abraham pour hours and hours of hard work and love into the Portland Press Herald Negative Still Film Collection and the Digital Commons Collection. I may not know much about local history and digitization, but I do know quality work and I can say that this is some of the best work in this field that I have ever saw.

Abraham always said that “Literacy and learning are at the heart of the librarian’s mission” and he put that into practice every day. When he repaired books at the library he didn’t do it alone…it always turned into a performance, a mini pop up program of his own. He created an audience around him and educated them on what he was doing. When I brought teens through the library, I always had them meet Abraham. We’d learn about calligraphy, book repair, typewriters, and more. Abraham made these topics fun and amazing for all ages. He still continues to wow me with programs like his Philosophy Forum. This brings new and amazing people into the library and this is what it is all about.

Thanks for being part of my life Abraham and for being an inspiration to the world.

If you’re reading this, you should connect with Abraham on LinkedIn here

Abraham has also been very involved in the Belfast Bound Book Festival, and this year he’s organizing the whole program. Read more about the Belfast Bound Book Festival at the images below or click here:

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3D printing, Libraries

IMLS Supporting Making in Museum and Library Conversation

For the next two days, I’m in Pittsburgh, PA attending the Supporting Making in Museum and Library conversation being held at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. I’m really enjoying everything that’s being shared and want to share that with you! Below you will find my Google Doc which I’ll be constantly updating throughout the event.  You can also follow along at the #makingandlearning hashtag

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.

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries, Management, Teens

Here’s What a Kids/Tween/Teen Library Looks Like in 2014

The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library at 2pm on June 24, 2014.
The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library at 2pm on June 24, 2014.

What’s going on here in this photo taken at 2pm on Tuesday June 24, 2014 on The 2nd Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library?

  • A day camp visits the library. 30 kids and 5 camp counselors.
  • The V-Mission: Natural Disasters LiSTEM program, a partnership between the Chattanooga Public Library and the Challenger STEM Learning Center.
  • Two outside workers installing Aerohive Wireless Routers to improve wireless access on the 2nd Floor.
  • An unknown (but significant) number of walk in patrons looking for items and using library services.
  • A number of kids, tweens, and teens enjoying open and free video gaming in the 2nd Floor Arcade.
  • A group of three tweens learning about 3D printing.
  • 3 staff members located in this area of the 2nd Floor, with another 2 in the area focused on ages 0-7.

Why do I share this? Because I want to show what the modern kid/tween/teen library looks like in 2014.  It is:

  • Busy
  • Chaotic
  • Full of people
  • Noisy
  • Energetic
  • Curious
  • Messy
  • A work in progress
  • A place where all kinds of learning and literacy happen
  • A place for everyone in the community
  • Fun

This is what the kid/tween/teen library looks like in 2014. It may not look like this in 2015, but that’s OK. The kid/tween/teen library looks like what the community needs it to look like.  This is us on the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library. What do you look like?

Libraries, MAKE!, Presentations

School Library Journal Think Tank: Makerspaces and Makerculture

I’m leading a group chat about Makerspaces and Makerculture for the School Library Journal Think Tank that is happening today in Nashville, TN. I’ve collected all of the notes from our discussion and I’m sharing them here.  Thanks to the great participation from everyone involved!

I’ve embedded the Google Doc below, but if you can’t access this you can click here to read it

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries, Management, Presentations, Teens

(UPDATE 4/10/14) TXLA Making Stuff with Teens

Quick post to share my slides!  I’ll update later with more context.

UPDATE: I wanted to add a bit more to this post since all that it is are a bunch of photos that really make no sense unless you were there.  Here’s the deal: the makerspace movement isn’t new.  Youth Services librarians have been making and creating for years.  It can be as simple as duct tape and construction paper or you can take it all the way to the 3D printer.  What’s true is this: Youth Services librarians have been doing it for ages in a variety of forms and this is a good moment for our population to stand up and say, “yes, this is what we’ve done and this is how we’re leading the change.”

Why is this important?  In my 8 (!) years in this profession, I’ve heard a lot of librarians who work with youth (ages 0-18) say that they don’t feel like they get the respect they deserve for the things they do, that so many people brush off their work as “well, they work with the kids and they love the kids and that’s who they are and that’s who they’ll always be.”  I’ve never bought into that in my career.  I’ve always believed that Youth Services librarians have been leading the change and pushing forward with innovation.  I believe that this is a great moment for youth services librarians: this is our moment to grow up a little bit and change the way we’re seen and the way we work.

Keynotes, Libraries, Presentations, Teens, Video Games

Thank you University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Many thanks to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro LIS Alumni Association (and Lynda Kellam) for having me at their event today.  My slides for my speech are above and if you have any questions please feel free to contact me!