Libraries, Life, Music

Destroy Your Idols

I will destroy your idols and your sacred stones from among you; you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands. -Micah 5:13

self_destruction-other
The bible has some amazing quotes about destruction. This is a pretty good one.

Think about everyone that you’ve admired at some point in your life, be it a relative, a musician, author, a friend, or someone else. Now think about yourself. Think about all of the times you’ve fucked up. Maybe you’ve said or done something wrong, or maybe you’ve put something out into the world that just wasn’t up to your standard level of quality. There is a chance out there that someone looks up to you. Now think about your idols. Smoosh all of this together and what do you have? You have the realization that idols are false and that we should destroy our idols.

Simply stated, we are all just hunks of flesh and DNA that are randomly smooshed together. We do some good things and we do some bad things. At no point in time should we believe ourselves to be greater than others or that there are others out there that are greater than us. Sure, Brian Wilson wrote some of the best goddamn music on the planet (IMHO) but at the same time all that I can think these days is that this dude is the same as me and the same as you. We all breathe, we all piss, we all shit, we all go to sleep, we all laugh, and we all cry. At no point in time should any of us be put on a pedestal and worshiped as something more than a typical average every day human being.

When we create idols, what we’re really doing is creating a false reality where some people are better than others and that it is the goal of those “lesser” people to become “as great as” those idols. This goal is unrealistic and totally unnecessary. We should be ourselves and go about doing our things without comparing ourselves to anyone else. You’re not better than this person or that person, nor are they better than you.

Destroy your idols. Live in the moment. As KISS says in their 1983 song “Lick It Up” It ain’t a crime to be good to yourself

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3D printing, Libraries, Life

Library Stuff

I should write about libraries even though…

We got a 3D printer and some other fun technology at my library recently. We also got some awesome chairs and other neat things that really make the library smile a bit more. But I can’t help but thinking that all this stuff is meaningless and that the point where libraries make the most impact is in the day to day interactions we have with our community. What I enjoy the most these days is seeing the positive interactions our staff has with the community. So much great stuff can happen at the circulation desk. It is really what decides whether the community comes back in or not. Now don’t get me wrong…having a 3D printer or something else that is shiny and new is good as well, but I don’t think it should be the focus…of both our community library and our professional library conversations. I want more focus in our profession on how to we can be better human beings to each other. The problem is that “Be Nice to Each Other” and “Have Meaningful Conversations” are not headline grabbing stories or think pieces that people want to read, nor are they things that you should be reading…they are things you should be doing.

Maybe that’s why I don’t wanna write about libraries as much anymore. Writing what happened when you are nice to other human beings isn’t the same as actually experiencing a positive interaction. I could wear a smartphone around my neck like a necklace and use Periscope all day. That would be interesting.

I think librarians shouldn’t look up to librarians. I think we all  should look somewhere else for our inspiration. When we look up to each other what happens is something I think of as incestual inspiration. “OMG, ______ Library is doing this program with their community we need to do it!” and then so on and so forth until we’re all doing it. A truly beautiful library is one that is a reflection of its surroundings, not a cookie cutter of another library.

When I wanna think about something new, I’ve been using MixCloud (specifically these tracks) to help inspire me. I think about the structure and the form of these DJ mixes. The way that the songs ebb and flow into each other really warm my heart. The transition from one song to another is an important part of these mixes and when done correctly they can increase my energy level. They inspire me to think about the structure and pacing of our programs and services at the library. I don’t have a second chance to do things in the library and I want to make the most of this moment. The music fills my soul and bends my brain and out comes something that I think is unique to my community. Bend and break and twist and smoosh. Go left inside of right. Don’t listen to me. Put on TUSK by Fleetwood Mac instead and go batshit crazy letting that guitar riff into your heart. Then come up with a program for your library that is unlike anything and that fits your community.

Family, Kids, Libraries, Life, Music, Technology, Things, Titusville, PA, Video Games

2015 Year In Review

PLAY

LISTEN

READ

WATCH

THINK

  • Be nice to each other.
  • Library. What a weird name for what public libraries actually do in 2015.
  • Have fun.
  • I want to stay at home with my family more.
  • Hi There.
Family, Google, Libraries, Presentations, Social Media, Technology, Things, Travel, Video Games

A Few Things I Learned in 2012

Once Thanksgiving hits, I get into a particular mood that lasts until around right after dinner on December 25th (yup, I’ve narrowed it down that much).  This mood finds me slowing down, reflecting, and thinking back to what has  happened to me over the past year.  I look back at what I’ve learned and try to summarize that into a nice little package that I can carry into the new year.  It helps me grow as a person because that’s what I believe one of my major jobs as a human being is…to keep growing and being the best Justin I can be.

(I did this back in 2010 with this post and it seemed to be a good thing….that post was read 1,347 times!  It also inspired others to do the same and I had a great time reading what others had to say.)

MANAGEMENT
Here’s the deal with management.  Everyone has their own style and everyone is entitled to that style.  I say that everyone reading this should follow their own style, develop that style, and respect everyone else’s management style. That way you’re happy with what you do, you’re growing,  and you’re also not wasting energy on disrespecting what others are doing.

The approach which I have developed over the last few years is a combo of the following:

  • Let your employees be themselves: for example,  do you have a talented artist on your staff?  If so, let them draw/doodle while they’re on the service desk.  Why?  That’s what they’re good at and who knows, just maybe one teen patron will see that and strike up a conversation with that employee.  And who knows…that conversation could really change some lives.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?
  • Be flexible:  If someone calls out sick at the last minute, doesn’t show up on time, or forgets to do something, don’t be the manager that holds it over their head for weeks/months/years.  Life happens and it’s best for us to be sympathetic to everyone involved.  It may mean some extra work for you as a manager, but that’s ok.
  • Encourage creativity: One of the coolest parts about working in a library is the many awesome people that you work with.  Ask someone why or how they got into libraries and I’m pretty sure you’ll find an interesting story.  After you hear that story and you learn about the people you’re working with, encourage their creativity and let them be themselves.  Everyone has something rad they can give to your library.  Let them give that to your community.
  • Be fair: You may have a manager title and get paid a bit extra for that, but who cares.  Shelve books, straighten up the shelves, wipe the windows.  Do the things that every other library employee does.  You may have departments, teams, job titles, whatever, but remember this: we’re all in this library thing together.

I also keep coming back to this quote from my 2010 Emerging Leaders class:

“The leader’s  job is not to provide energy but to release it from others.”
Frances Hesselbein

KNOW WHEN TO SAY WHEN
Sometimes it is very clear when a major change has happened in your life.  It’s an odd feeling: something just feels off, not right, and you feel uneasy about your place in life.  After having a few of these moments over the past two years, I’ve learned that it’s my body telling me that I should stop something and change.

It could be a health thing (like going vegan), a work thing (should I move onto something else?), or something personal.  No matter what it is, recognize that feeling and do what you can to change your life.  Uncertainty is a very scary thing, but being stuck in a situation that makes you feel horrible is even worse.

BEING AN AWESOME PERSON IN A TEEN’S LIFE
What’s the goal of the teen library? Library school taught me that it was about bringing teens closer to the resources they need.  That’s still very true and very important for teen librarians to remember, but having done this for five years I’ve discovered something else that trumps that goal and it’s this: be an awesome person in a teen’s life.

Think back to when you were a teen: you probably thought that most adults were lame, out to get you, control your lives, or just something not that great.

That shouldn’t be the case with teen librarians.  We should be an awesome adult for them.  Be proud of who you are, be proud of what you do, and share your life.  I’m a 32.5 year old white dude who has an awesome wife, two super cool sons, loves the Beach Boys, and really digs Nintendo video games.  A few of my teens may think that’s lame, but that’s who I am and I’m damn proud of that person.  Encourage your teens to be happy with themselves and lead by example.  They may not see you as the coolest cat around but they’ll respect you and think that you’re pretty awesome.

I CAN DO ANYTHING THAT I WANT TO DO
This year I made a pretty significant step towards moving into the next chapter of my life.  I’m not there yet but things have been put in place to (hopefully) allow me to move ahead.  It was scary as hell.  I found myself in situations that I was not accustomed to.  I found myself thinking about a future that may or may not be in line with the professional life I’ve led so far.

Out of it all I feel like I’ve gained some new kind of confidence.  I’ve realized that if my heart and mind are in the right place, I can do anything that I want to do and that in time everything will be OK.

YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO LEARN FROM EVERYONE (YES, EVEN THOSE PEOPLE YOU TRY YOUR BEST TO AVOID)
I have a few of these people in my life.  As much as I try to minimize the amount of time that I interact with these people, I always end up leaving my interaction with them with some morsel of knowledge that helps me grow up.  I guess that whole “keep your enemies close” and “challenge yourself by being in uncomfortable situations” thing is true.

BE NICE TO EACH OTHER
I think that I summed this up in every other area of this post but it deserves to be said again: we’re all very different and we all have our own way of doing things but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be nice to each other.  Be kind.  It’s amazing what life can be like when you cut a good deal of negativity out of it.

Thanks to everyone for reading.  I hope your holiday season is awesome and filled with love and excitement.  And here’s to 2013!  It’s gonna be a super rad year.

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.