Soy un escritor! I am a writer! I really like taking on new challenges in life. Blogging, journaling, and writing articles here and there were the first part in a challenge to myself to prove that I can write. Here’s the next level: I’m now a columnist for Information Today.
My column, titled A DAY IN THE LIFE, is me talking with other librarians about inspiration, technology, management, and more. I believe that the best things in the library world come from the little moments where you’re having a chat with someone over a meal or a beer, not from some big conference or paper telling you exactly what to do. My aim with this column is to be the written equivalent of that: me talking to some great people about some great ideas. I want you to feel like you were a fly on the wall listening in, leaving with a heart full of inspiration
I’ve also really enjoyed working with the folks over at Information Today over the past year on my four part feature TALES FROM THE LIBRARY TRENCHES. When you find it easy to work with someone or a group of people, you stick with them. I’m sticking with the folks at Information Today.
Before we start, let me clear things up: you are not reading a blog post from sometime between 2001-2007. This blog post was written on June 22, 2017. Why am I saying that to start? Well because if you’re reading this you may have been told that “blogging is dead” and that the “library blog scene” is irrelevant. My aim with this piece is to show you otherwise. The word “blog” or “blogging” is dead but that’s a good thing. Blogs and blogging was always just writing and publishing with a hip new fancy name attached to it. The “blog” switched the power from the big publishers and news agencies and gave it to the people. (for the rest of this piece, I’ll continue to use the word “blog” when I refer to the written words I am talking about but honestly its all just words and information)
Here’s a great example from my library (Benson Memorial Library) on why I believe why libraries should continue to write and share information with their communities. A few months ago, our Historian Jess Hilburn started up a blog called NWPA Stories (Northwestern Pennsylvania Stories). As our Historian, Jess digs up a lot of interesting stories about individuals and events in our community.
One of the recent discussions happening in our community was the possible closing of our swimming pool, the Dick Kraffert Pool. As with every story, there are two sides to this one. Over the last few years the pool has fell into disrepair and has been losing money. The City of Titusville operates the pool, and like the pool the city has been losing money due to declining industry in the area and lower tax returns every year. These are the things that are happening in small town American. On the other side, there is a community full of individuals who want the pool to stay open and remain an option for all local residents. It’s a tough issue and we’re not here to discuss the pros and cons, but now you’re basically all caught up on the story.
This is where the library comes in. With all of the discussion happening around the Dick Kraffert Pool, one thing was missing: what’s the history behind all of this? How did the pool start, what was the pool like back in the day, and who the heck is Dick Kraffert? This is where Jess Hilburn comes in. As our Historian, finding out this kind of stuff and sharing it with our local community is one of big “to-do’s” on Jess’s job responsibilities list. A library historian isn’t just there to find out stuff for individuals who have research requests. A great library historian shares the research and history that they’re digging up with everyone in the community. I believe that when community members are engaged and informed about their past, they can make solid decisions about the future that contribute to a stronger today. This is that example in action.
After publishing the post and sharing it via the library Facebook page, we quickly noticed it was resonating with the community. According to Facebook stats, the piece has had a reach of 4,607, has been shared 72 times, and has 23 likes on the original post. There were plenty of positive comments on the piece….and that’s when the local newspaper the Titusville Herald messaged us (once again, on Facebook). They asked for permission to reprint Jess’s work in the next issue of the Herald, scheduled to be published tomorrow. Our only request was that they add the “Editor’s Note” that you see in the photo of the piece above).
Why’d we do this? As I said above, it is all about sharing and informing community members about the past that surrounds them. The Titusville Herald is an excellent newspaper that is read by many of our community members. Increasing exposure to our local history, especially when that exposure originates from the public library, is a great thing. It provides our community with a better understanding of their surroundings, it increases exposure to the library, and it further cements us as a local organization dedicated to providing all citizens with quality information.
The next time someone tells you that blogging is dead, try to remember this example which I just shared. The act of writing and sharing information will never die no matter what it is called. Libraries: learn, research, share, and connect. This is what you do.
It took about one year to fund and then a few weeks to put it all together, but we finally have a bench outside of our library. It may seem like a tiny thing to get really excited about, but you see it’s the tiny things that I think really mean something in public libraries these days.
I’ve talked about it before on this blog and the deeper I get in my mind with the idea that public libraries should ditch the hype, stop copying and pasting ideas from other libraries, and instead focus solely on your own community, the more I believe this is the only way forward.
The bench was made possible by very generous donations given by community members in memory of their loved ones in 2016. We decided to install this bench in the front yard as a spot where library visitors could relax, read a book, and enjoy our free public wi-fi (which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year!) under the shade of one of our wonderful trees.
Before I start, I must give credit where credit is due: amazing librarians Chantel Theunissen and Pam Jones of New Zealand for their awesomeness and inspiration to do something with Pokémon GO here in Titusville, PA. They helped me see what libraries are all about once again….people, conversations, and connections. It was perfect timing. I was getting a bit negative there. (sorry)
The idea was simple: purchase a few lures, set a time, set off those lures, and tell people to come to the library. Once they came, the thing that would connect us and start conversation would be Pokémon. We had some books out and about but the real goal wasn’t circulation…it was community building. And it sure did happen.
One helpful way of promoting this event was to target Facebook groups. In my semi-rural neck of the woods I found 4 Pokémon GO related groups. There’s probably more but that’s all I felt that I needed to find to help promote the event. Of course, we also used our own library Facebook page and got our awesome paper the Titusville Herald to also help us by running a story.
All in all, 37 people came to our #PokemonGO event at the library! Two of of lures, conversation, and connections! It was so awesome.
We had a blast running the program for our community. It was two hours full of conversation, sharing, and community building. Will we do this again? Of course! We will do whatever we can to start up amazing conversations with our community.
Facebook has become one of the, if not THE, main form of communication. Sharing, messaging, and now live video are the way that we communicate with each other. It is our email, texting, and our own little website. I have ups and downs with Facebook myself. I recognize and respect how important it is, but at the same time have a strong dislike for the service. Sometimes I just don’t want everyone and everything to be in my life. Over this past year I’ve gone from around 1500 “friends” to 770. I want Facebook to be the space I share with the people that I really know, value, and need to have in my life. Gone are most if not all the librarians who I just know because we’re both librarians and gone are the fringe “I think we met once we should connect on Facebook” type of people. I need my net of close friends and family and this is where that happens.
Twitter has become a news platform and I am happy to see it accepting that role. This is where anyone can go to share links, ideas, and real time events. Periscope, which was acquired by Twitter in 2015, seems to be the future of social media. There is an excitement around Twitter for me these days that I haven’t felt since I first joined the service back in 2008.
I’ve started and deleted about 5 Instagram accounts. I appreciate what it does and I love seeing beautiful photos that everyone posts, but I just don’t want another place to post my photos. My Facebook profile documents everything from 2005-Present and I also have about 20 years of photos in my Google Photos. Instagram just feels like another step that I should cut out. I do, however, recognize how neat it is for a business. As Haley and I start Fidelia Hall we have used Instagram to share the messages we are putting up on our sign in front of the building. It’s been really neat.
Yahoo seems to have sucked all of the fun out of Tumblr. I wasn’t very much into Tumblr in the first place, but I have really come to love how it brings together fringe and passionate groups of people. If you have an interest but you can’t fine a community around that interest…well, try Tumblr. For myself, I use it to “collect” things that make me happy.
Miitomo was the big thing for 3 days and then everyone forgot about it. I can’t blame them, as the experience of using Miitomo is kind of clunky at best. This is something that I hope Nintendo really works on (it has gotten better). I probably keep coming back to it because I love all things Nintendo, but I also really enjoy seeing some folks answers to the questions. I feel a close connection to these people and I look forward to reading what they have to say every day.
I still believe in the power of blogs and blogging services like Medium. I love how they give everyone who decides to invest time in them a chance to develop their writing and share their ideas.
THINGS I MISS
I mostly miss Branch and Potluck, as I loved the communities that sprung up around those services. I found myself talking to different people and I think it was great for expanding my world view. I know that most of those teams are now at Facebook and I am curious to see what they can bring to the table there.
I know there are probably studies out there that help prove that just a little bit of kindness can go a long way and that kindness does in fact have a monetary value. I know that the whole “be nice to everyone and in return kindness will come to you” is a bit of a hippy dippy idea but I still believe in it. And here’s a good example of that in action
An organization was looking into one of our meeting rooms and inquired about if they’d have to pay to use the space. In the end, it all came down to the idea that they’d have to pay the $20 meeting room fee. I was hesitant to charge them the feed because I always want to do my best to help people out and money can complicate things, but in this case the fee was something we could not avoid. We talked about it and everything moved forward with the $20 fee in place.
This morning I received payment for the meeting room use which (as you can see above) went above the $20 fee that was originally requested. It put quite a smile on my face and in my heart to see this extra donation to the library as well as the kind note that came with it. Yes, I can honestly say that this made my day.
When we have an open communication with others and be positive and kind, good things come in return. Libraries, please keep this in mind as you grow, create policy, and work with your community. We’re in this TOGETHER.
Everyone needs a pick me up and some inspiration from time to time, and Frances Tout report titled Travelling Librarian 2015: Community Engagement Projects in United States Public Libraries (for a pdf of the report click here) was that inspiration for me today. I was originally pointed to it by a colleague who said “hey, part of your work at the 2nd Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library is mentioned in this piece.” It was super nice to read about the positive experience Frances had during her visit to the 2nd Floor. I was and remain very proud of that place. It was a great chapter in my life! Much love to Lee Hope, Vicki Prater, Kaye Rose, Olga Russell, Janice Keene, LaDonna Spruill, Ali Banks, Jessie Meyer, Alondra Gomez, Victoria Caldwell, Megan Emery, and many, many others that helped build the 2nd Floor and make it what it is today. It is really neat to see all of that work live on.
The big takeaways I got from this excellent report were as follows:
The emphasis (in US Libraries) is now very much on programming rather than stock.
Every library’s community is different, engaging with communities and meeting the needs of individual communities is vital, there is no one size fits all when it comes to programming
It’s great to read these things when you’re in the middle of them. It reaffirms the work that we do and why we do it.