Benson Memorial Library, Community Building, ebooks, Libraries, Library Director, Technology

When The Circulation Has Gone: Helping Your Community Understand the Worth of the Public Library in the Modern Age

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What’s this that you see above? I call this the Benson Memorial Library circulation scorecard. What this circulation scorecard is doing is keeping track of our overall circulation from January 2010-Present. I could go back even further (we have the records) but I kept it at 2010 for the time being. I use it as guide to see what we’ve done, what we’re doing now, and how it relates to each other. Is our circulation up? Is our circulation down? If either one of these situations is the case, why is that? This scorecard is a nice and handy way to check up on all things related to circulation.

I don’t think that any library’s circulation number should be the number by which the library is judged, ranked, understood, etc. Every library’s circulation number by day, month, or year will first depend on the library that community serves. Is your community one that loves to visit the public library? If so, you can expect your circulation to represent that. In our service area of 14,904 (based on 2016 State Library stats), having 5,269 circulations in the month of September was a good month for us. A total circulation number of 5,269 for one month may look horrible to another library that serves a larger area or it may look shockingly amazing for a smaller area. That number looks just about right for us. This number will look different for everyone. It is up to you at your own level to interpret and understand that number.

As I said above, I don’t think that any library’s circulation number should be the number by which the library is judged or understood, but here’s the kicker. This circulation number is a big deal to a lot of people. To those people, a public library is a place which loans out materials to people in the community. When a person has this belief, the best way they can understand how their public library is doing is to see this number. With that said, yes, the circulation number is an important number for the public library.

But as the world changes and the way we read, watch, and look for information or media moves towards the internet or something digital, our circulation numbers are set to look like they’re decreasing. They are. Let’s face it: people don’t come in and borrow books on how to do things/fix things/research things anymore. They Google it or they go right to YouTube where they can get a step by step video. I’m a librarian, and this is exactly what I do. Why do I do this? Because this is the quickest, easiest, and probably the most efficient way of doing things these days.

So, as the title of this post asks: what do we do when the circulation has gone? If our circulation numbers decrease, we need a different way of sharing the value of the public library with the community. With that said, here are some ideas that I’m having these days.

CIRCULATE OTHER STUFF

This seems to be the big thing of the moment: fishing poles, museum passes, and gadgets galore, libraries are branching out and lending out things that you may not have seen in libraries before. One library in my region, the Oil City (PA) Library is doing just that. They call it the Cool Stuff Collection. Adding these unique items to your collection may draw more people into the library and help boost your circulation.

THE PUBLIC LIBRARY AS AN EVENT SPACE

This is a great one. Public libraries all around the world have amazing spaces, and one of the best ways we can show off that space and bring people into the library is by offering great programs. There are so many libraries out there doing this and I could provide hundreds of examples. Here’s one of them: the Darien Library in Connecticut. Their schedule is always packed full of great programs any day of the week. When a library focuses on public events, the attendance at these programs as well as the number of events held at the space becomes a great statistic to share with your community.

THE DIGITAL STUFF

The digital stuff, most of which is probably offered through your website, is another way to show the value of the library. While they’re no longer all the rage, eBooks are still around and are used by a segment of the population. Showing off the circulation of eBooks can boost your circulation number but it can also be used to show your community the changing nature of how we read.

My favorite “digital stuff” statistic these days is the number of connections we have to our wifi network and the number of logins we’ve had on our public computers. What have I noticed? That our wifi connections are going up while our public computer logins are stagnant or going slightly down. Yes, there is still a very strong need to offer public computer access, but as the cost of devices (laptops/tablets/and the big one, phones) comes down and more people are able to access them, I think we’ll see the public library become more and more of a spot in the community that offers free (and hopefully reliable and safe) wifi for everyone.

The title of this post was inspired by this most excellent jam

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Libraries

“The Importance of Connecting” over at the State Library of Queensland Blog

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A panoramic view of the first level of the State Library of Queensland. This is probably my all time favorite entrance to a library. It perfectly blends the outside world with the inside world of the library.

I was super honored to be asked by the State Library of Queensland to write a guest blog post for the new blog. I got a chance to visit their amazing library in November 2015 and I was blown away! Not only is the building amazing, but the people working inside it are some of the kindest, most forward thinking people I have ever met.

Here’s my favorite part from that piece, and you can read the rest of The Importance of Connecting here.

Just look at your local library and the slate of public events happening there: story time, crafts, book groups, and public art events. The specifics of these events are what bring people into the library, but it is the connection to each other that is the important thing that community members take away from these events.

These connections come in all forms: the parent who meets another parent at a story time and is able to share the joys and frustrations

Benson Memorial Library, Community Building, Kids, Libraries, Library Director, Management

Library To-Do List: 2017

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EXPAND OUR LOCAL HISTORY/GENEALOGY OFFERINGS
Titusville, PA has a wonderful and rich history (for a glimpse of it, just read this). As our local public library, I believe that we should be doing as much as possible to make that history accessible to our everyone in the community. To date, we’ve done a few things to increase awareness of our great history. Jess Hilburn started up a blog to share some great local stories she digs up in the Titusville Herald Archives. We’ve got the Titusville Herald archive online for in library use. But in my opinion we’ve got to do more, and slowly but surely we are getting there.

A partnership between the library, the Titusville Historical Society, Drake Well Museum and Park, and the Titusville Alumni Association came about in 2016 and resulted in the beginnings of the Titusville PA Heritage Connection, a website/digital portal that aims to bring all of our organizations together in one online space to make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for. While the site isn’t anywhere near complete, the fact that we have it up and the framework is there is a step in the right direction. A big thank you to our Clarion University of PA intern Kerry Neely for her help in getting this set up!

UPGRADE OUR INTERNET CONNECTION
Living and working in Chattanooga, TN was pretty great and one of the big reasons for that was their gig fiber internet connection. Speeds were fast, reliable, and the excitement of having something so state of the art created such a positive buzz in the community which led to some great things being tried out to make Chattanooga TN a better place for all.

Since moving to Titusville, PA, I’ve been wishing we’ve had that kind of thing to spur some excitement. Our internet options here in town are lacking, and the ones we can connect to have average to terrible service. HOWEVER, I hope to change that in 2017. To my excitement, I discovered that the town does have fiber internet lines in a few places. After some conversations with people around the community and others in the state, I found out that THERE’S FIBER LINES SURROUNDING THE ENTIRE BENSON MEMORIAL LIBRARY. Here’s a beautiful image of that fiber line coming right down in front of the library and turning right down our alley. Wow.

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In 2017, I’m gonna do my best to get us connected to these fiber lines so that in the future we can offer better internet access to our patrons. I don’t know how this will look, I don’t know how much this will cost, and I don’t know if I’ll fully succeed, but I’m going to try. As far as I know, we’d be the second institution in Titusville to access this connection (the University of Pitt at Titusville is the first) and the first public space to offer high internet speeds. Like I said above, we’ll see, but for now I’m gonna dream big and try out something that’s potentially huge for our community.

PROGRAMS, PROGRAMS, PROGRAMS

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Yup, these are my kids Aero and Finn at a library program. They come to a lot of them because they have a lot of fun and they enjoy getting to hang out with other kids. That’s what it is all about!

One of the big things that libraries do best these days is to offer educational and fun programs for all ages. In 2016, we’re going to have offered 320 programs that were attended by over 8,000 community members. That’s not bad for a public library that has a service area of around 14,000 people.

2017 is gonna bring a lot more of that and hopefully in larger numbers. I can’t and won’t take my foot off of the gas pedal when it comes to programming in libraries. We have to constantly be offering something to our community members. Programs are unique to libraries and something that we do very well. Story times and after school clubs work best for our younger audience, while nighttime events and musical performances work well for our adult and senior citizen crowd. We plan on having more of those throughout the year.

DO MORE TO ESTABLISH THE LIBRARY AS A COMMUNITY SPACE
One of the best things public libraries have going for their is their space. Most, if not all of us, have amazing buildings in centrally located areas. These buildings are one of our biggest assets. They do some of the simplest things that a library can do: provide space, warmth, comfort, and adventure. I’ve been thinking and speaking about this idea for a few years, and in 2017 I hope to do more to make that idea more cohesive and understandable to everyone out there.

STAY POSITIVE
No matter what we face directly in front of us in 2017, we have to remember that there is love and support all around us. Take a look around at your online social networks, groups like EveryLibrary, and your local community organizations that support the library. Take a moment and look at the community members you serve on a daily basis at your library. All of these groups and all of these people believe in the work that you do. I’m going to do my best to keep that up front in my head and my heart in 2017. I urge you all to do the same.

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Library Director

Library Stuff That I Am Proud Of

I don’t blog much about what I’ve been up to at the Benson Memorial Library because every time I sit down to do it everything ends up sounding so boring that what I was up to in libraries in the past. I mean, what can top The 2nd Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library? We had a freakin’ arcade there!

When it comes to being a library director, my life is very different than it was when I was involved in Youth Services yet at the same time there is a whiff of familiarity in this job. No matter what I’m doing in libraries, I find that the common thread that connects everything is that I am advocating constantly for services for our community members. That’s really the core of it all….trying to get a safe and fun spot for teens is the same as figuring out a way to get my employees better pay and benefits. No matter what I’m doing, the end goal is always to make the community where I live a stronger place.

All of this hit me when I was putting together our yearly fund drive. You’ll see the end result of that work in the two images at the top of this post. While I was in Chattanooga I learned a lot about the value of the numbers we collect and how they help tell our story to the community. Our numbers at the Benson Memorial Library so far this year (Jan 1-Aug 31) blew me a way so I shared those with our community. It was great to finally send out these Patron Fund Drive letters last week and I look forward to seeing what the community thinks about the Benson Memorial Library once they read up on what we’ve done recently.

Here’s a few other things that we’ve done that I am most proud of. It may not be as fancy as getting a 3D printer in the library or something like that, but I think that the work we’ve done here so far is pretty awesome and I sure am proud of it.

  • June 2015-August 2016: 82058 items have been circulated
  • January-September 28 2016: 40698 visitors to the library
  • June 2015-Present: 313 free events held at the library
  • Renovated the front steps: The sandstone steps were in dire need of repair, and this summer we did just that; we not only got them fixed, but we made some repairs to them that will help them last for many more years.
  • Weeded the entire collection (yes, all of it) in order to reorganize most of the library and give the shelves space so that we can update our collection to fit the needs of the community today.
  • Got some grants to help with quite a few things: building improvement, Youth Services, programming, and more.
  • Updated most if not all of the library policies
  • Updated our Employee Personnel Policy and got 2 months maternity/paternity leave for employees.
  • Decreased our yearly health care costs by $5000-$8000 and increased benefits for the individuals on our plan (they went from a $500 deductible down to a $0 deductible)
  • Kind of sort of restarted the Friends of the Library group (it’s a long story, but we’re getting there very slowly) and ran 3 successful book sales.
  • Hired 3 new employees (two youth services folks, one all purpose staff member who I’m hoping will become our future local history guru)
  • I was asked to join two boards: Titusville Regional Literacy Council and the Titusville Senior Center. These help the library keep in touch with two key demographics and gives us a great chance to work with these organizations to make sure we are helping out everyone in our community.
Chattanooga Public Library, Chattanooga, TN, Family, Keynotes, Libraries, Management, Music, Presentations, Social Media, Travel

Catch Up

I haven’t had the chance to give a lot of the great events/happenings/moments going on in the world around me a proper post so I’m gonna play catch up with one great giant post full of beautiful, wonderful, and awesome things.

1)  The 2nd Floor has been busy growing!  We just hired Rebecca Zarazan Dunn and Jessie Meyer to join the team.  They’ll be working with us to keep on providing awesome things to kids, tweens, and teens.  Look for more awesome things on the horizon.

2) Last Summer, the excellent Warren Cheetham visited the USA and specifically Chattanooga to learn about Ubiquitous Superfast Broadband as part of his VALA Travel Scholarship.  It was so rad to hang out with Warren and here’s a great paper written by the man himself about his travels.  I highly suggest you read it to get a glimpse into where (some) US cities and the entire country of Australia are heading.  A brave new world indeed.

3. TRAVEL!  And lots of it.  For the first time in my life I have frequent flyer miles.  I gave my first keynote for the UNCG LIS Alumni earlier this year, the Texas Library Association Conference was one of the best I’ve ever attended, the School Library Journal Think Tank in Nashville, TN brought together some of the greatest Youth Services Librarians in our field today to talk and brainstorm about our future, and I’m heading off to Strathmore, Alberta, Canada and Baltimore, MD to give two more keynotes!  It’s so exciting to chat with so many new people and share ideas.

Here’s what it looks like from the stage.  Fun and equally terrifying stuff indeed:
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4) Back to the 2nd Floor: it is rockin’!  ZZ Top style rockin’! Megan Emery keeps pushing the boundaries of what makes up a library program with her  programs on the 2nd Floor (see this and this) and Lee, Vicki, Bev, Kaye, Olga, Emmy, and Bobbi keep adding to our stellar children’s programs with new ideas like SENSORY STORYTIME and our collaboration with the most excellent  MUSE OF FIRE project. It’s getting better all the time.  The future of Youth Services looks great and it’s just gonna keep on getting better.  Here’s the secret: it’s all about providing neat opportunities to kids, tweens, teens, and families.  Gone are the days where we divided up our populations.  Together, we can offer the world.

5) Chattanooga has loads of great visitors, and I really enjoyed meeting with the team from the Aarhaus Folkelab.  They’re offering a new outlook on what libraries can be for their community.  I especially like the gifts they gave the Chattanooga staff when they visited….multi purpose tools!  This is the new library card!  Imagine that!

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6) Life is good.  We stay in our yard a lot, tending to the garden, digging with Finn and Aero, throwing the ball to Sonic, and just enjoying life.  Chattanooga is great.  The transition to life in the South has gone well.  The transition towards more responsibility, management, and other things in the library for me has gone well.  Bumps in the road?  Yes.  Minor freak outs where I don’t believe in myself?  Of course.  But like everything in life, we will all get to where we need to get to.

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I think that is all I have for now. I am most likely missing something big but that means I can just write another post sooner.  Everyone should listen to the first three ZZ Top albums.

Love, Justin

 

 

 

Books, Libraries, Teens

The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services

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I am honored to be a part of the upcoming ALA publication The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services, which was edited by Heather Booth and Karen Jensen and features a lot of great pieces written by some of the most awesome teen services librarians around today.  It comes out this summer and you can pre-order it here

Here the official summary:

ALA’s popular and respected Whole Library Handbook series continues with a volume specifically geared towards those who serve young adults, gathering stellar articles and commentary from some of the country’s most innovative and successful teen services librarians. Sections focusing on practice, theory, and the philosophical underpinnings of the profession are supported by current research and historical perspectives. Both instructive and reflective in scope, this essential handbook

  • Provides a comprehensive introduction to the background and day-to-day realities of teen librarianship for LIS students and those new to the field
  • Offers expert tips and wisdom invaluable to those already working with teens
  • Highlights trends, challenges, and opportunities in the changing world of how teens interact with libraries, and what they expect
  • Emphasizes advocacy across all spectrums, including in local communities and among fellow staff who may be anxious about teens in the library
  • Guides staff in providing readers’ advisory to teens
  • Includes ready-to-use marketing resources, templates, and sample teen services and teen volunteer plans
Libraries

Excellence in Library Services to Young Adults 2012

 

I’m very honored to be part of this years President’s Program Planning Task Force for YALSA.  As part of this program, we’re announcing this years Excellence in Library Services to Young Adults program which you can find out about below.  If you’re a teen program who’s doing awesome things, I highly suggest you sign up!

From ALA.org:
YALSA will select up to twenty-five innovative teen programs from all types of libraries to feature at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference and to include in a sixth edition of Excellence in Library Service to Young Adults. Successful applications will focus on programs that address new teen needs or interests, or that address ongoing teen needs or interests in an innovative or unique way. The top five programs will receive cash awards of $1000 each. Up to twenty “best of the rest” programs will receive cash awards of $250. Each award will be presented to the applicant’s institution for use with future teen programs and/or for the applicant’s travel to the 2013 conference to participate in the YALSA President’s Program.

Eligibility
The program described in the application must be a library-sponsored event, inside or outside the library, which appeals to a group rather than an individual. A program can be informational, recreational, educational, or all three.

  • The program described must have taken place in 2012 or be ongoing.
  • The program must be targeted at teens within the 12 – 18 age range.
  • All personal members of YALSA whose membership is current as of 12/17/12 are eligible to submit an application.
  • Only one application per YALSA member may be submitted.

Criteria
Each application will be judged on the basis of the:

  • Degree to which the program meets the needs of the teens in the community. (20 points)
  • Originality of the program (creative, innovative, unique). (30 points)
  • Degree to which the program reflects the ideals identified in YALSA’s national guidelines and competencies (at http://www.ala.org/yalsa/guidelines). (20 points)
  • Overall quality of the program (well planned, promoted, organized, implemented, and evaluated). (20 points)
  • Clarity of the application (10 points)

Instructions
1. The application must include a statement of support from the director of the public library, school principal, or the building-level administrator which is emailed to lsmith@ala.org.

2. Entries must be models of clarity and completeness.

3. The application must be submitted electronically via the online form at http://ow.ly/eKh40.

4. All online forms and statements of support must be received no later than midnight (eastern) Dec. 17, 2012.

5. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Announcement
The libraries selected with exemplary programs will be announced via press release the week of Feb. 4, 2013.

All of the selected programs will be invited to participate in YALSA’s President’s Program: Innovations in Teen Programming at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference. Prize money may be used to support travel and conference expenses.

All of the selected exemplary programs/services will be included in YALSA’s Excellence in Library Services to Young Adults, 6th edition, to be published in the fall of 2013.

Libraries receiving the cash awards will be recognized via press release and on the YALSA web site. A list of winning applicants will be included in the forthcoming book.

For questions contact: Letitia Smith, YALSA Membership Marketing Specialist, at lsmith@ala.org or 1.800.545.2433 x4390

Excellence in Library Services to Young Adults 2012