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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Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Library Director

Take a Moment and Remind Yourself That You Do Great Work

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I know, I know….“us librarians don’t get paid enough to deal with the kind of stuff we deal with.” It’s the same thing with educators. And a whole slew of other professions doing things in their communities that make a positive impact on the world. Nobody doing this work has ever been paid enough for what they do and that’s just something we’re gonna have to deal with. I’m not here to talk about that.

If you’re upset, tired, or just downright depressed with your work as a librarian, I urge you to take a moment right now and remind yourself that you do great work that has a positive impact on your community. It may not be today that you do that work, but it’ll happen sometime soon. And you’ve also already probably done that work in the very recent past.

It took the note that you see in the image above for me to remember that I’m part of something that’s making a positive impact on someone in the community. It is nice to have these kinds of reminders every once in awhile.

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Library Director, Life, Management, Presentations, Titusville, PA

Library Related Things in the Second Half of 2016

 

I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about library related things in my world recently because…well…when I look at the other stuff being written about libraries out there it hits me that what we’re doing here in Titusville PA may not just be of much interest to people in libraries these days. While other libraries out there are talking about makerspaces, open data, hackathons, social justice, and more, we’re here focusing on the simple things: opening our doors, welcoming the community into our space, and doing what we can do to make life in our little neck of the woods just a bit more enjoyable for everyone.

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We hosted the local Chamber of Commerce event “Home For The Holidays” in our Community Room. It brought community members and local artists and vendors together and hopefully some folks got some neat local holiday gifts for their family and friends.

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We decorated the inside and outside of our space for the holidays. Just a few little decorations can really brighten up the mood and add to the positive spirit that goes around this time of year. It makes me smile.

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It snowed! The steps that we restored over the summer are holding up nicely in the late fall/early winter weather and we do our best to clean them off and take care of them so that our community doesn’t get injured as they come and go from the library.

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We hired Becky Stahl to be our new Youth Services Librarian at the Benson Memorial Library. She’s awesome, a lot of fun, and very kind and I appreciate that. My sons Finn and Aero love her craft and tech programs.

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Guardian Elder Care in Titusville, PA helped us fund our front step renovation project. To celebrate the event, we held an outdoor live music event which was attended by over 20 community members. There was free food! That was awesome.

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My first speaking event of the Fall was for the Pioneer Library System in Canandaigua, NY. What a great library system full of very kind people. I was very impressed by who attended the event…it wasn’t just librarians but there were trustees, Friends of the library, and state legislators in the audience. It was great to share and chat with everyone.

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My final speaking event was in November at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library in New York. What a great library! It reminded me a bit of the Darien Public Library in how the building was laid out, which was extremely customer friendly and welcoming. The staff at the library was so very kind as well, and before and after the event I always felt like I was part of the staff and had worked there for at least 10 years. That’s the best!

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Happy this time of year to everyone out there from the Hoenke Family. We love you all. We’re gonna watch a lot of holiday movies and listen to the same holiday music we listen to every year and just enjoy the hell out of our family and friends. This is the best time of year. Love love love love love.

 

Libraries, Library Director, Management, Teens

More Library Stuff

I am just going to toss out quotes that are floating around in my brain. Connect them in any way that you will.

  • Libraries count circulations, door counts, and more. These are great numbers but we need to think bigger than this. How can we count hi-fives and hugs from our patrons? A hi-five from a teenager in a library is one of the most important things that can happen in a public library. How do we fix our broken world and help everyone see that there is value in hi-fives and hugs?
  • Some people are good at customer service. Some people are good at using the public library as a canvas for their creative public programs. Recognize these talents in each and every individual and respect these talents. Don’t push people to be everything at once. Let them be themselves.
  • The moments where we relax with each other, chat, and not force work are some of the best moments we can have in a library. Relax. Talk to each other. This is your job, not your life. Sit back, make some tea, and talk.
  • Working in a public library is not about competition. It is about community. We are not here to be Library Journal Library of the Year 5 Star Winner Full Page Cover Spread. We are here to ensure that those that visit us and utilize our services leave with a smile.

Every blog post needs an image and here’s a great image of Prince being the fucking coolest person that ever lived.

ALSO PS: here’s a 14 minute track of all the background music in Purple Rain shhhh it is pretty darn amazing.

Libraries

Think About The Little Things

"Ladybug": Photo by Gordon Wrigley. Used by Permission with a Creative Commons License.  http://www.tolomea.com/2010/08/28/ladybug/
Blog posts are always better with images. Ladybugs are great little things that live on Earth. “Ladybug”: Photo by Gordon Wrigley. Used by Permission with a Creative Commons License. http://www.tolomea.com/2010/08/28/ladybug/

The little things matter….a lot…or so I have come to believe over the past year of my life.  When the little things are a bit out of order, the world can quickly become chaotic and overpowering.

I had this thought once when I was doing the dishes. There have been times where I have worked myself up into a rage because the dishes were just so overwhelming. I thought about them. Why are these dishes driving me crazy? I realized over time that they were a little thing that bugged me so very much that added up and got to a point where it was now no longer a little thing but instead a big and overwhelming thing. The path to clarity? It was realizing that if I did the dishes on a daily basis, at least once per day, that they would then not become a big and overwhelming thing. Anything more than once per day would be a bonus. The dirty dishes did not all need to sit around. They could be done at least once per day and everything could all alright and manageable in the world.

I think about these things a lot in my life and then I try to apply them to my work in libraries. What little things can I think about in my day to day work that can overall improve my mood, my work flow, and make me a better librarian for the community? Here are some things that I have learned as I think about the little things in libraries.

PATIENCE
No matter what public library that we work for, we all have to deal with how slow change can come. We are an excited profession.  We want to try new things all the time and that gets us excited!  But in the public library world, there are some barriers that just exist that makes change a bit slower to happen than usual. This is ok!

Patience in our day to day work helps. Understand that the public library is like a work of art….it is never truly completed. It is in a state of constant change and growth. The ideas and changes you have will happen eventually. Keeping focused and positive on what you want to accomplish is key.

Things do not happen in a day. I sometimes wish they did, but they just don’t. It would’ve been great to have The 2nd Floor up and running on day one (Monday April 22, 2013) but that isn’t realistic. Things need time to change and grow. Patience helps with that.

SETUP
When you walk into your library space, what is the first thing that you notice? Is it an unpleasant looking table that’s out of place? Or is it a smiling employee waiting there to help you? What you see around you and how these things are setup in a library matter quite a bit.

These little things in the public library space matter. There’s a reason why supermarkets usually put the milk and bread at the very back of the store. They want you to walk through the store and purchase more stuff that you “need”. We can take a similar approach in libraries.  Recently, I visited the Darien Library in Darien, CT. When I walked through the door, I was greeted by employees and materials on what the library calls Main Street . All of the materials and employees were customer facing and inviting to anyone visiting the library.  The library also had large and  clear digital signs that talked about library programs, upcoming events, and more. All of the little things that came together to make up Darien Library’s Main Street created a great and unique experience. The little things become HUGE when they work together. They can be used for a positive experience.

GOSSIP
Let me paint a picture that may happen in your place of work: Wednesday afternoon. Everyone’s around the water cooler/coffee pot/tea kettle. There’s a bit of a lull in public service before the after school crowd comes in. Everyone’s at work so it’s natural that everyone talks about work. People begin to talk about the things that are happening at work. They wonder “why are things going this way or that way?”. They wonder what other employees are up to and where they are going. They talk about things they see around them at work. There are tidbits of information passed around, conspiracy theories presented, and speculation all around. These little things can add up over time and create a not so pleasant working atmosphere.

Don’t get me wrong: I love a good conspiracy theory (see my Facebook Timeline for more) and I love speculation (I read Star Wars blogs obsessively trying to figure out where the new movies are headed). Information, conspiracy theories, and speculation get our minds humming and our hearts racing. It’s kind of fun. But over time, especially in the workplace, these little things can create a paranoid and unhealthy atmosphere.  It’s not possible to get things done for the community if you’re spending a good chunk of your time at work worrying and thinking about something that may or may not be true or something that may or may not happen. Look, I’m not saying that we’re going to completely eradicate gossip and conspiracy theories from our lives, but instead what I’m saying is this: cut back on engaging in that pattern of behavior. Use that energy, those little bits of energy, for something else more constructive.

Think about the little things. They add up. If managed in a certain way, they can powerfully benefit your life.

3D printing, Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries

The 2nd Floor PLUS STEM School Chattanooga

Over the past few months, the Chattanooga Public Library has collaborated with the STEM School Chattanooga on a project with juniors for the Project and Problem Based Learning curriculum. The project that the library presented to the students dealt with 3D Printing: How can we create a 3D Printing station that allows the community to walk up to the 3D Printer, watch a video tutorial that introduces 3D printing, and in the end have the customer leave with a great 3D printing experience and an object.

Over the next few months, the students and their teacher Michael Stone worked on what a 3D Printing station looks like, what it includes, and then spent the time building the station in their school Fab Lab. The end result? Check out the image in the tweet above! It’s a beautiful station like structure that was created by the students. The words 3D PRINTER represent the various stages of 3D printing….from first layer to the honeycomb structured middle to the end product. Using the laser engraver, the students also created a plaque that proudly displays the STEM School Fab Lab logo. Finally, the students put together tutorial videos for customers to watch so that they could get acquainted with 3D printing. You can watch those videos here: Beginner Video and Advanced Video.

I’m super happy with the results and I couldn’t ask for more. The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library is all about the public library as an experience, and the 3D printing station created by the STEM School fits perfectly in with the vibe of the 2nd Floor.  I look forward to working with the STEM School and their students on more projects in the very near future!

For more of my writings on 3D Printing, click here!

For the FAQ’s and details on 3D Printing on The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library, click here!

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries

David Weinberger at the Chattanooga Public Library

Not the best photo, but it's David Weinberger with an image of Sim City behind him so that's pretty awesome.
Not the best photo, but it’s David Weinberger with an image of Sim City behind him so that’s pretty awesome.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing David Weinberger speak on The 4th Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library as part of Startup Week Chattanooga. I have long been a fan of David’s work, especially his Library as Platform article in Library Journal, so seeing him speak was an extreme jolt of inspiration and excitement that came at the perfect moment.

I won’t recap his excellent presentation here but I did live tweet some of his key quotes (if you want to look through my twitter feed, here you go) but I will say this: if you have a chance to hear David speak about the library as a platform, do not miss it. His ideas make perfect sense in the world today. The library as a platform allows the public library to become an integral part of the community fabric.  It allows the public library to live and breathe along with its community.

I also got a brief chance to share what we’re doing on The 2nd Floor with David, and he had super kind things to say about our work today in his blog post (read the full post here):

Go down to the second floor and you’ll see the youth area under the direction/inspiration of Justin Hoenke. It’s got lots of things that kids like to do, including reading books, of course. But also playing video games, building things with Legos, trying out some cool homebrew tech (e.g., this augmented reality sandbox by 17-year-old Library innovator, Jake Brown (github)), and soon recording in audio studios. But what makes this space a platform is its visible openness to new ideas that invites the community to participate in the perpetual construction of the Library’s future.

This is physically manifested in the presence of unfinished structures, including some built by a team of high school students. What will they be used for? No one is sure yet. The presence of lumber assembled by users for purposes to be devised by users and librarians together makes clear that this is a library that one way or another is always under construction, and that that construction is a collaborative, inventive, and playful process put in place by the Library, but not entirely owned by the Library. Via Joho the Blog by David Weinberger

It was a great day to be a librarian yesterday. It was a great day to be living in Chattanooga yesterday. I’ll carry those good vibes on today and make a positive impact on the world.