Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Life

Small Town Library Outreach

If you follow my Twitter feed, you’ll have noticed that we hired a Historian at the Benson Memorial Library last month. I’ve talked about the reason behind this before, but I’ll sum it up here again: our town and community have an extremely rich history due to the discovery of oil here in the 1860’s. With that came a lot of national attention and money, some of which still remains to this day. When a community has a rich history like Titusville does, it makes perfect sense for the public library to be the place where community members can learn and become engaged and informed about the past. When we’re all aware of what has come before us, we can make solid decisions about the future that contribute to a stronger today. 

Cut to a scene at a local gas station about one week ago: someone there walks up to me and says “hey, you’re that library guy right?” to which I reply with a very positive “Yes!”. The best library outreach happens in situations like this, so when I was first approached with this question I knew this was gonna be good. Our conversation went like this:

“I saw in the newspaper that you hired a historian. That’s a really great idea because we have so much history around here. In fact, I have something I’d like for you at the library to dig up.”

After that, I listened to the story and it was quite an interesting one regarding a now ghost town just a few miles up the road from us called Pithole. I got the contact information and basic details I needed, went back to the library, and handed it off to Jess, our Historian.

Over the next week, Jess got into the nitty gritty of the patron’s requests and found out some information that they were looking for. Jess sent all of this information to the patron via email. Here’s what that email looked like:

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Pretty good, eh? That’s some nice and thorough work there. But that’s not where it ends. Jess got this kind email back from the patron:

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And now every time I stop at this gas station to fill up my car with gas or get some of their delicious chocolate milk I see this person and we have a nice kind chat. Libraries are all about bringing people together, and this is just an example of how we do it here in Titusville.

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Benson Memorial Library, Libraries

Small Things

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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.

We may not be getting a fancy five star rating from a library related publication© or Boing Boing isn’t helping us go viral with our really fun library video, but dammit the dude sitting on the bench in this photo is outside, using the library wi-fi for free, and is enjoying a great spring day. Fuck everything else. This is what matters.

 

Family, Misc.

Hi There

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The title of this post sums up what has been going through my head over the past two months. I’ll tackle these one at a time and then make some kind of semi-coherent synopsis that tries to pull everything together. I’m not a writer folks, but the internet lets me pretend that I am from time to time.

Small towns offer something that you don’t get much these days in modern society: the chance to explore all possibilities that life puts in front of you.  In small towns, you can walk to work, leave your house wide open, know everyone and their relatives, and most noticeably, have financial flexibility.

My move from a big city (Chattanooga, TN) to a small town (Titusville, PA) can be seen from many different angles. From a financial angle, I make a lot less in Titusville than I did in Chattanooga. But then again, my health care benefits are much nicer and cheaper here in Titusville. The same thing rings true with my mortgage. When I lived in Portland Maine, we paid about $1400/month for an 800 square foot condo. In Chattanooga TN, we paid $678/month for our orange house. Now we own a house and an church building here in Titusville PA and we’re paying about $500/month.

I also should add that my wife and I both suffer from the same disease that cripples most of my generation: student debt. Yes, we made the decision to better our lives by going to college and now we have to pay for it for 10-25 years.  But life in a small town makes the student debt thing a lot easier. Of course, it’s still a major hassle and a huge annoyance but at the same time it is manageable when you can live a lot cheaper in a small town. Why anyone would want to pay $2000/month to rent a room and have roommates and deal with student debt is beyond me at this point in my life, but hey, everyone has a right to make their own decisions.

The older I get, the more I think about quality of life. I think about how my day to day life looks and ask myself if I am happy with it. I am. Living cheaply, owning a home, being able to walk to work, and being in a town where everyone knows everyone else makes me happy. I ask myself this question: why isn’t most of my generation doing this as well? Why are they running away from small towns? What are they hoping to get away from? Happiness and a chance to live a fuller life? I dwell on this and I realize that I must live on a different planet from everyone else. Not everyone think like I do and that’s really awesome. Then I doubt myself and want to delete everything that I’ve just wrote.

I think we could all enjoy life a bit more if we took a step back and really thought about the important things: where we live, what we do, and how we confront the situations that face us. I don’t think this crazy thing called life needs to be difficult. I think it can be a whole lot of fun if we just say that we want it to be this way. Maybe I am an alien though and I have a different biological makeup than everyone and that’s why I think this way. I don’t know. I will never know. I am just going to do what I am doing and that’s about it.

Hi There.
I’m on my way I’m making it.
I had it made like a mountain range with a snow white pillow for my big fat head
And my heaven will be a big heaven, and I will walk through the front door

Family, Life

Small Towns

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Yesterday, my family and I visited South Pittsburg, TN (yes, no “H” at the end) to attend the National Cornbread Festival. It was a great festival full of great food, games, events, and more. The weather was absolutely perfect as well so we also had that going for us. All in all, it was a wonderful day.

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It felt great to be in what I’d call a small town. South Pittsburg, according to my observations, reminds me a lot of Meadville, PA.  That’s the town where my wife Haley and I met and lived in for about 3 years. There’s a “downtown” area, a few major side streets, and it’s surrounded by nature. The whole town felt rather clean even though there was a major festival with thousands of people running around.  The people that live in and around South Pittsburg, TN had a sense of pride about where they lived. They were locals and they seemed to be proud of it. They lived where they lived, ventured out when they needed to, and that was it.  There was something oddly out of touch with the modern world about it all. I think this hit me when I saw their local grocery store was Foodland, a store which I remember existing all throughout my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA in the 1980’s.

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I think I am out of touch with the modern world. I don’t feel that good living in the modern world. I think this is why my trip to South Pittsburg, TN and the discovery of this Foodland store hit me so much. I think it’s also one of the reasons why I look back on my time in Meadville, PA so fondly. I think I function best in a small town. Not only are they cheaper to live in, but they’re also a bit out of touch with the modern world.  When I lived in Northwestern, PA, a good friend once said that you could be immensely popular and well known in that area by emulating all the cool things that happened in “the real world” about 10-20 years later in Northwestern, PA.

I think I work best in small towns.