3D printing, Libraries, Life, Online Identity, Social Media

Writing About Libraries

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This happened a long time ago in what feels like another life.

For a website/blog called Justin The Librarian, I don’t feel like I talk about libraries that much anymore. There’s a reason for that and today I’ll try to sort out the thoughts in my head.

I feel out of touch with the current topics being talked about in the public library sphere. I’ve really never been one for political debates, and there are a lot of politics to be discussed with the current topics that are being talked about. To be honest with you I don’t have the mental strength and capacity to deal with those topics now. My focus is to put in a good day of work at my library and then go home and be the best father and husband I can be. Diving into the deeper layer of public library talk is just not something I want to do right now or in the foreseeable future. Libraries are for everyone and I think it is in our best interest to be everything to everyone that walks through the doors of the public library, but I’m not gonna be on Twitter talking about it or writing about that here. I need to be aware that I only have a limited amount of mental energy. I am learning to channel that energy in the best way possible.

The second reason is that I feel that sometimes what I’ve written and shared can be misunderstood. I am really proud of the work I did in Chattanooga TN but to be 100% honest with you I think a big reason why it was successful was because of that particular moment in time in Chattanooga TN and not much else. I wrote about the experience a lot because I wanted to share the excitement and enthusiasm that I felt every day when I went to work with people like Megan Emery, Meg Backus, James McNutt, Nate Hill, and more. That time in libraries for me was really exciting and the enthusiasm happening was infectious. But now I look back on a lot of what I wrote and say “well that was very Chattanooga specific, and I don’t know if that would be good for any other library.” I can’t tell you how many times library people have said to me that they’ve read about what I’ve been a part of in libraries and said “well I guess our public library should be doing things like you do” and specific things like “we should probably get a 3D printer like you” and “well let’s make more things with patrons that was successful for you.” That wasn’t the intended purpose of what I wrote/shared, but I guess I should have expected it. When people read something (and I do this too), they think about what they read and wonder how and if it could be applied to their lives. Nowadays there’s this thing that weighs on me…if someone tells me they were inspired by the work I was a part of there’s a bit of me that regrets even writing and sharing in the first place. What if these things they’re doing fail for them? What if these people have a miserable experience with their maker program/3D printer/code camp/etc? I think about all of that and I keep it in my head and in my heart. It brings me down. No library is alike because no community is alike. We are all so very different, yet we share the same name and idea behind what we do. So why do feel the need to copy/paste ideas? I don’t know.

So with all that said, I don’t know where I stand. I think I’ll be taking a breather away from writing about libraries in the future. I know part of that is in me: I’m just burnt out and I’m not inspired. Unfollow away if you’d like. The librarian part of Justin has gone for the time being.

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3D printing, Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Technology, Titusville, PA

CURIOUSITY

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Today’s the day where we unveil our maker-type things at the Benson Memorial Library. We’ve got the 3D Printer, iMac, Snap Circuits, iPads, Ozobots, and more. It’s an interesting moment for both me personally and for the library.

For the library, it’s a neat step into some stuff that is rather way out there new and exciting for this community. Titusville is a unique place. It’s a small town with a great deal of history behind it that really hasn’t fully come into the 21st century. At times, it feels like it’s in the 50’s or 60’s. That’s not entirely a bad thing…this kind of feeling gives the community a really enjoyable relaxed feeling. It is something I really love about living here. Most people around here don’t know what a 3D Printer is and if they do it almost seems like a dream to them, something that could not come true. But here it is, right in front of everyone now! We’ll see how they use it. We’ll see what they think of it. Every time we try something new in our library it is a great experiment where we learn stuff as we go along. It is not unlike any other library that I’ve worked at, but at the same time it feels different.

For me personally, it’s a weird moment because I’ve been through the whole makerspace/3D Printer/creation thing at the Chattanooga Public Library and with this project at Benson Memorial Library it’s a bit of déjà vu. To do something very similar to that here in Titusville feels….well it feels like I’m repeating myself, and that’s not something I’ve ever wanted to do with the things I am involved with. But it’s not about me at all…it’s about the community, and as I said above this is something very new for them. I’ve gotta keep that in mind as I move ahead.

All in all, we’ll see what happens. Innovation is different everywhere that we go, and I thak Chantel, whom I met at LIANZA 2015, for reminding me of that.

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!

Chattanooga, TN, Libraries, Technology, Teens

Pac Man cookie cutters made on a 3D Printer

I have to something to admit: I had very little interest in 3D printing one month ago.  Then, I tried it shortly after I arrived at the Chattanooga Public Library.

Now it’s all I can think about.

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I made these Pac Man cookie cutters on the 3D printer and gave them to my wife Haley for Mother’s Day.  Earlier today, she used them to make cookies with our sons Finn and Aero.

Photo May 16, 4 45 31 PM Photo May 16, 4 45 55 PM Photo May 16, 4 45 27 PM Photo May 16, 4 45 22 PM

Libraries can do some awesome stuff.

You can find the 3D files for the Pac Man cookie cutters here

Here’s a link to stuff I like on Thingaverse

 

Libraries, Presentations

Great tweets from the OCLC “Made in a Library” Online symposium

Yesterday, I had the honor of being a twitter moderator (along with Lisa Carlucci Thomas of Design Think Do) for the OCLC Online Symposium Made In a Library.

We had a great twitter conversation throughout the whole program which Lisa has collected for everyone to follow along here.  I’ve also collected a few of my favorite tweets from the event which you can read below (yup, one of mine is in there.  It was my favorite Joseph Sanchez quote from the program)

Thanks to everyone for coming to this program, and many thanks to OCLC and the presenters for the awesome job that they did in putting everything together.

Libraries, Things

SEVEN THINGS LIBRARIES SHOULD BE DOING

BUY LOCAL, COLLECT LOCAL
Libraries have money to spend.  Some have bigger budgets than others, but the point I’m trying to make we have money and a big part of our job is to spend it.  Where should we be spending this money?  Sure, it may be very easy to place orders through big material distributors (and sometimes that is really nice to do!) but libraries, being an important part of the local community fabric, should also be doing all that they can to support their local economies.  And a lot of that can be done by buying local.

One of the other perks about buying local?  You not only keep the money local and support your community, but you get to interact and talk with experts.  I try to do as much of my graphic novel and video game/movie purchasing through two local stores.  The people working at these stores help me build solid collections.  They take the time to look at my teen graphic novel and manga collection and fill in the gaps, make recommendations based on what we have, and just generally make the collection stronger.  With video games and movies, they take the time to locate not only the best prices they can give me, but they also track down hard to find and rare items that my patrons request.  Sure, these items may not come to the library pre-processed with labels, call numbers, and other things all ready to go on the shelf, but where they make up for that is the local businesses attention to detail.  This is something you can’t put a $ sign on, but is something so valuable we cannot forget about it.

MAKE STUFF WITH YOUR PATRONS
This summer, I worked with a local hip hop artist named Sontiago and 5 teens to create 2 original hip hop tracks.  The beauty of the project was not only were they made IN THE LIBRARY but they were MADE BY TEENS WHO USE THE LIBRARY.

This project really sums up 2011 as a librarian for me and has helped me form ideas about moving ahead in libraries.  Instead of us being the place that collects popular media, we have to be the place that helps our community create things.  Be it a painting, a graphic novel, a locally published book, music, or a movie, libraries should become the community hub for creativity.  Librarians should become the mentors for the community, the people that help empower the community to create things.

Steve Teeri of the Detroit Public Library is also doing this sort of thing with the teens he works with.  I highly suggest you check this article out if you’re serious about making wonderful things with your patrons.

Is there a problem with this idea?  Yes.  Who is the audience that wants these locally created pieces?  That is the tricky part.  For example: even if you have a patron that creates the ultimate zombie film, your patrons are still gonna wanna watch Dawn of the Dead or another big name zombie film.  Mainstream media will still be more popular, more recognizable, and more immediate than locally made art.  But libraries can help change that.  I mean, it’s never going to be perfect, but libraries can help communities shift their thinking towards recognizing locally made creations as valuable for strengthening the community.  Our organizations are big, and when we speak, our communities listen.  If we can clearly communicate the goal of our programs to our communities, we can build momentum in this movement…let’s call it the “experience local” movement.  We can make something like this take off and have legs.  We can build the interest.

And even if we don’t, we can still do important things like this.  

 

BUILD APPS AND OTHER NEAT THINGS
If things like social media and technology are the future, then we should be getting in the game of building unique platforms and experiences for our patrons.  A good example of building something unique for patrons to experience happened at the Ann Arbor District Library this summer.  Instead of going along with the typical Summer Reading themes, their development staff (read their very interesting blog here) came up with an online summer game that rewarded patrons for playing along.  Programs and experiences like this have been popping up in other libraries too (check out what the NYPL did).

It doesn’t have to be just about games though.  Libraries should be building their own tools, apps, games, and more for their patrons to use.  Cookie cutter products offered by big companies are not gonna cut it anymore.  Catering to our patrons unique and individual needs is going to enable us to give them the best possible services.

You can read more about the AADL Summer Game at the following links:
http://play.aadl.org/
https://github.com/aadl/Summer-Game 

STAND UP FOR YOURSELF
Have libraries done a good job of standing up for themselves?  We’re getting there.  Amazing things have happened in New Jersey and Connecticut (here and here), where librarians have stood up and clearly communicated to the powers that be about their importance in the community.  I also wrote about how I think we haven’t really got all there yet.

But one thing is clear to me.  We always need to stand up for ourselves.  A small victory, an increased budget, or the go ahead to move ahead on a big project does not mean everything is going to be hunky dory for many years to come.  We have to keep working (not fighting.  That’s too negative and we need to stay positive) and communicating who we are and what we do.  And that brings me to…

EXPLORE NEW PARTNERSHIPS
Budgets, budgets, budgets.  We all have shrinking budgets.  We all have to do “more with less”.  I think we all understand that and agree that this is what the future looks like.  It doesn’t have to be all grim and gray though.  We can make interesting things happen if we think outside the box about who we could partner with in libraries.

I’m a firm believer that the library isn’t just a place where we collect books or things, but instead a center for the community.  With this sort of mindset, I see the possibility of the library expanding to something bigger, better, and more convenient for our communities.  What about post offices in libraries?  They’re not having the best time with their finances and are looking for new ways to deliver services.  What about de-emphasizing the idea of a central library location and instead making the library an idea that exists everywhere in the community?  Get out into the communities that you serve and have library programs anywhere that you can, with whomever wants to work with the library.  The library outside of the library?  It may be one of the best ways for us to communicate the importance of the library.

COLLECT THINGS YOUR COMMUNITY WANTS, NOT WHAT YOU WANT
Try to find me saying that “every library should have a video game collection” in something I’ve wrote online and I be you’ll be successful.  Well, I take that back.  A video game collection may not be right for your community.

It’s easy to listen to the trends happening in libraries and get very excited about them.  It’s also really important to keep your library up to date and relevant for your community.  But why invest in materials that would not be good for your community?  Focus on the things that are relevant at that moment and always keep an ear out for what may be the latest trends with your patrons.  Don’t create collections just because everyone else is doing it.  Do it for your community first, and once they’re happy, feel free to experiment.  Things may work, things may not.  At my last job, I added a small teen music section to the teen library.  The collection was really popular and continues to grow to this day.  When I moved to my current job, I thought “hey, I should try that again.  It worked at my old job, so it should work here.”  It didn’t work at all, and now I have a small music collection that just takes up valuable shelf space.  I’m giving it some more time to possibly catch on before I scrap the idea all together, but when I look back all that I can think of is “I should’ve waited to see what my patrons wanted.”

BE VERY NICE
The last thing may seem like the most simple thing, but I think it’s the most important.  Talk to your patrons, share stories, have a laugh, and always smile.