Libraries, Portland, ME, Ukulele Lending Library

Big Stars

Let me tell you the story of the last few days.

CHAPTER ONE starts with a news story about libraries lending out various kinds of items other than books.  One of the items mentioned in the news feature was part of a program that two of my dear friends organized and initiated.  I was over the moon to not only see libraries in the news but to see them in the news for sharing unique things with their community.  However, my mood soured when I saw that one of the items that my dear friends helped get in libraries being proudly displayed by someone with no connection to the original project.  Even worse was that there was no mention of who was the catalyst for the amazing project.

CHAPTER TWO finds me at home with my family.  While lying down with my son Aero while he napped, I decided at the urging of my big sister Heather McCormack to finally watch Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me.  I had a previous flirtation with Big Star back in 2012 where I got an idea of their backstory but it really didn’t hit me how important this band was until I saw the film.  They had created such a beautiful sound that I have long been in love with but I didn’t realize it until now.  Big Star never got the proper credit they deserved while they were still around.  Now, three out of the four original memebers of the band have passed into another plane of existence.  Will they ever know just how important that the sounds they made are?  I don’t know.  That’s for another post.  I noticed a similarity between the article about libraries lending out various kinds of items other than books and the story of Big Star: two stories about people and ideas ahead of their time, not getting proper credit in the moment.

CHAPTER THREE is where we cue the music, specifically I Am The Cosmos by Chris Bell (formerly of Big Star).

See, I had always thought “ALEX CHILTON” when I thought of Big Star.  He was the one behind the Big Star album Third/Sister Lovers that I’ve heard so much about.  I was very wrong.  The moment I first heard the opening lines of I Am The Cosmos I had a moment just like the moment I had when I made the connection between the article about libraries lending out various kinds of items other than books and the story of Big Star: THREE stories about people and ideas ahead of their time, not getting proper credit in the moment.  Chris Bell was Big Star.

It was one of my great friends, one of the friends mentioned above in the article about libraries lending out various kinds of items other than books, that first told me about Chris Bell.  I have no idea of the date, but I know it was a “hey, you think Third/Sister Lovers is good? Check this out.”  He then proceeded to play me something from Chris Bell’s solo album.  I was too “but, but, but BIG STAR THIRD/SISTER LOVERS ALEX CHILTON” to even notice Chris Bell at the moment.  Another moment that was happening before it needed to happen.

CHAPTER FOUR happened this morning while in the shower. I noticed all of these similarities between the events of the last few days and the theme of folks not getting their proper credit in their own time all the while I Am The Cosmos played on my iPhone on repeat.

Every night I tell myself,
“I am the cosmos,
I am the wind”
But that don’t get you back again

I knew that I had to write this post as soon as possible.  I had to put these thoughts out into the world.  I knew it would be a risk to post it on this blog since it was out there and not dealing with libraries.  So after I helped my wife Haley put our kids to bed, I began to type and I didn’t stop typing until the end of what you read here.  What is it I am trying to do?  I strongly believe that when you put something out into the world with a specific purpose, it will have that desired effect on the world.  It will make the positive change you want it to make.

The change?  That those who bring amazing things into the world get the love and good vibes that they deserve while they are all still with us.  This is very important to me.  This has always been very important to me.  This will continue to be very important to me.

With all of that said, I give love and thanks to Kirsten Cappy and Michael Whittaker, two dear friends who live on Earth right  now and are responsible for putting some amazing things out into the world and bringing a lot of joy to their community.

Bibliothekartag 2012, Libraries, Presentations, Technology, Travel, Video Games

Bibliothekartag Library Conference Recap

The Zukunftswerkstatt Family
May 22 2012
My first official day at the conference!

With Julia Bergmann and Christoph Deeg of the Zukunftswerkstatt (my wonderful hosts and German family!)

Today I finally got to meet the Zukunftswerkstatt partners and collaborators.  I say finally because I had known most of the players for two years via Skype.  We started off the program by doing what we do best…playing some video games!  It was great to enjoy games with librarians in Germany and talk about how important games could be to their communities.  Many German librarians told me that the German way was to “learn about things, talk about things, and maybe get around to it in a few years.”  I don’t know if that’s necessarily true or not because I found most librarians I spoke with excited to just try something new like video gaming as soon as they could.

We also kicked off the International Gaming League which featured a brief talk by myself and also Eli Neiburger (for more info on the GT Gaming System that the Gaming League will be using, go here and here and here).  I’m really excited to get this project moving because it means we can have more gaming tournaments and invite even more players into the league to enjoy games in the library.

I was also very lucky to be interviewed and featured in the Kongress News publication.  You can read my interview here.

I met a lot of wonderful people on the first day and had a lot of great conversations about just how important it is to give people the feeling of community in the library, to give them a place that they feel belongs to them.  That was one thing that I quickly noticed that was a universal theme for libraries moving ahead.

May 23 2012
Bibliothekartag 2012 Library Conference 

View more presentations from Justin Hoenke

Today I presented on gaming in libraries at 16:00 in the Zukunftswerkstatt conference center.

My talk was a pretty refined version of the ideas I’ve been talking about for the past few years concerning gaming, libraries, community, teens, and more.  My main message was that like other things we’re doing in libraries, gaming has the power to bring people together, create community, introduce people to not only new technologies but new people in their community, and also broadens the scope of what libraries can be to their communities.

I spent the last part of the day chatting one on one with a lot of librarians about gaming who had specific questions about how to get games into their library and much more.  Those moments were great because it allowed me to really connect with German librarians and see what was most important to them.  I also saw just how much passion they bring to the table…they want to change things and make their libraries better for their communities.  Very inspiring stuff.  I joined the Zukunftswerkstatt crew at a local Biergarten later that night where I talked with a lot of people: Christoph Deeg, Julia Bergman, Jan Holmquist, Martin Kramer, Iris Haffner, Petra Pauly,  and Stephanie Frölich.  The beer, the food, and the conversation were top notch.

Photo by Iris Haffner

May 24 2012

Presenting with Jan Holmquist on the Buy India a Library project

Today I presented with with Jan Holmquist on the Buy India a Library project.  Jan and I presented on how we came together for the project, how we put the project together without ever meeting each other in person (until this conference, that is!), and gave an update showing how the project had been moving along.

Afterwards, I had the opportunity to enjoy the city of Hamburg with Jan.  We walked around Hamburg and talked about everything we saw around us and how we could take that inspiration and funnel it into libraries.  Everything we saw inspired us to get back to our communities and try something great for them.

Iced Tea cheers!

And just as quickly as it began, I was on a plane back home for Portland, ME.  I’m still sorting through everything that I learned and experienced from my trip and without a doubt I will eventually come across an idea from the conference (don’t they always come back at the perfect time?) but I’ll leave with something that Petra Pauly of the Zukunftswerkstatt reminded me that I said at the end of my stay in Hamburg:

We’re not just friends, we’re family

I think that rings true with everything: the Zukunftswerkstatt, the International Library community, and the communities that we live and work in.  We are there for each other to give support, inspiration, hope, and more.

Before I end, I wanted to say thanks to a few folks:

To Christoph, Julia,  and everyone involved in the Zukunftswerkstatt (you know who you are!).  Thank you for bringing me over to your lovely country, thank you for your hospitality, and thank you for giving me to the inspiration to come back to the states to make the library even better for the community I serve!

To my colleagues at the Portland Public Library for supporting this trip and keeping the teen area up and running while I was gone. 

For more on the programs, the trip, and the presentations:
#BibTag12 recap via Zukunftswerkstatt 
Buy India a Library Project Update
Recap from 
Empty Reader #bibtag12 recap
TWIL #73: Julia Bergmann 



One of the major perks for teens using my library are our study rooms.  We have two of these rooms, which are nicely encased in glass and hold 4 and 6 teens respectively.  They’re off limits to anyone not in the age range of 12-19 years old, so they’re a pretty prized section of the library.  I have a lot of adults tell me that they “wish the library was this cool back when they were younger.”

We call them study rooms, but they’re so much more than that.  Our teens have used them to work on DJ mixes, to make a hip hop album, as a place to share, and more.  I encourage the teens to explore the rooms in different ways.  The library is a place where magical things should happen, and these rooms, with their amazing surroundings and great view of the city, offer as much inspiration as the user wants to take from them.

However, it’s been hectic as of late.  The rooms have become less about creativity, studying, and exploration and instead are now a dumping ground for backpacks and the weary high school student.  There’s also this odd notion that the rooms are soundproof and that we can’t see into them, which is not the case at all.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  We do have policies/guidelines in place for how the Teen Study Rooms are managed, which are clearly posted on our site and in the library.  I’ve worked hard on them for the last year and half, making sure that they’re not these stupid and unnecessary rules but instead guidelines for how to respect the space.  Because that’s really what we’re here to do in teen libraries.  We’re here to help teens grow into respectful and thoughtful adults.

Does your library have study rooms?  If so, how are you managing them?  How do you achieve a balance with the people using the rooms?