Back in 2011, I wrote a little blip of a thing about how neat it would be to see post offices in libraries. I never got around to trying the idea myself (but hey hey I’m still here in small town Titusville and I need something to do!) but yesterday I was very happy to see that this kind of stuff is actually happening in the world and that these projects are looking great! As I scrolled through Twitter looking for some library inspiration, I came across an article on the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) titled Evolution not Extinction; Making the Case for Co-Locating Services in Multi-Use Buildings by Ayub Khan. THIS ARTICLE, THESE ACTIONS, AND THIS FORWARD THINKING BLEW MY MIND! I highly suggest you check out what Ayub has shared with all of us…it is very inspiring and it is a trend I hope to see catch on more all around the world. Here’s the hook that snagged me and pulled me in:
Public libraries are evolving, not dying out. They are re-inventing themselves as they have done throughout their history in response to socio-economic shifts, demographic pressures, changing customer demands and expectations, and the digital age. Many look and feel a lot different, particularly on the inside. Makeovers reflect the different ways libraries are used nowadays. When I started my career almost three decades ago, around 70% of library space was traditionally occupied by books and borrowing points, with only 30% for other activities. Now it is the other way around. Similar figures apply to the balance between front-of-house and backroom space in libraries.
Searching around (and thanks to some readers and tweeters) I came across some more examples of this libraries plus other services in the same space movement. Enjoy, and be inspired!
When we decided to buy a 144 year old church building and a house that’s most likely also over 100 years old, we knew that we would be looking at nonstop home repairs, upgrades, and more. We knew that once we completed a project that it would be onto the next one, and that each project would help us “discover” what the next project would be. All of that has been true up to this point. Fixing the back roof led to us discovering just how much water damage had occurred to a certain area of the community room. Fixing the boiler led us to discover just how many of our radiators were damaged beyond repair. These things happen. Even though it’s not usually the best news to hear that you’re gonna have to find more money and time to fix something else, we’ve decided to take another approach: everything we discover we fix, and every little fix gets us one step closer to our goals. It is a slow process for sure, but we feel that a positive outlook on things makes the process go a whole lot smoother.
And now….onto the updates:
PART ONE: Downstairs at Fidelia Hall
This winter we made a big choice: that our family would be moving into the downstairs space at Fidelia Hall. Why? As with so many parts of our story, it starts with water. We found that there is most likely some kind of a leak behind a few of the walls in our house. Small water leaks are never great, as they are hard to pinpoint and then there’s always the possibility of mold (especially in a house that’s over 100 years old). With all of this in mind, we evaluated where we were at and what we wanted to do and….we’re moving into the downstairs of the old church building.
But there was (and still is) work to be done, and some of that is in the photos above. What you’re seeing is the downstairs space, now free of carpet and a drop ceiling! Underneath the carpet and drop ceiling were two great unpolished gems: a hardwood floor and the original tin ceiling. Both the floor and the tin ceiling are in need of some love, but we’re getting there. Over the last few months, we (Haley and I) have been using an air compressor to blast away any of the chipped and flaking paint on the ceiling. We’ve got one room left and after that we’re onto painting the tin ceiling. That should happen soon! All of the carpet has been pulled up and soon we will head to the local True Value to rent a floor sander and get that hardwood floor back to looking beautiful.
There’s a lot more to do with the downstairs and I’ll just post that here: my parents have been extremely kind and helpful to us with this project and a month ago they purchased a new furnace for the downstairs space. This week we will begin installing that furnace, and after painting the ceiling we will move onto the duct work that will heat the downstairs. A few other projects involve building a downstairs bathroom, fixing up the electrical wires and switches, and then moving onto fixing the kitchen ceiling. Like I said above, everything we discover we fix, and every little fix gets us one step closer to our goals. We will get there.
Once we move into the downstairs space at Fidelia Hall, we will then move onto the next project: gutting the house. Why gut the house? A lot of what exists in the house today was something that was built on top of something that was built on top of something, and so on. You have to remember the history of the space: it was always the home of the pastor of the church and their family. With that in mind, we like to think that all of the repairs done to the house were part of a deal we call the “parishioner’s special”, where the pastor asked members of the church to volunteer their time to help fix up the pastor’s house. A lot of the repairs we’ve seen in the house are totally DIY work, and while these are fine over the years they haven’t held up so well. We want to fix that. With that said, if we dig deep in the house during this process and find that the damage to the bones of the place have been compromised, we may end up tearing down the house. I don’t think it’ll come to this, but who knows. On the plus side, we’ll have more space for gardens and chickens and all of the things we love.
PART TWO: All the other little things
While the downstairs space at Fidelia Hall has been our major focus at the moment, we’re also thinking about everything else. In February, my father, my brother, and I got to visit an old convent in Pittsburgh, PA that was in the process of being torn down. From that convent, we got 10 radiators, 3 fire safe doors, 2 fire safe door frames, a water heater, and a few other odds and ends. It was a day full of a lot of work, but we got what we needed at a really cheap price (only $125!) and we are sure that all of this great recycled stuff will eventually find its way into Fidelia Hall. The radiators will be installed in the upstairs space we’re calling The Great Hall and with a few tweaks they’ll be heating that space up next winter. Finding this stuff second hand was quite an amazing moment for us: while all of this stuff isn’t brand new, it works and it gets us one step closer to our goals.
We hope to complete these repairs by the winter of 2017-2018. Moving into this new space and having heat in the upstairs of Fidelia Hall will allow us to focus on cutting down our utilities (electric/heat for two buildings can get expensive).
PART 3: Spring and Summer and Gardens and Chickens
We love spring and summer and we know you do too. At Fidelia Hall, we really love building gardens, feeding all of the birds around the property, and building flower gardens for the bees and butterflies who live all around us. This year, Haley has come up with some great ideas for the gardens. Expect to see us dabbling in growing some kiwi, apples, and other fruits as well as our standard vegetables. Last year’s straw bale gardens were a success, but this year Haley is interested in hugelkultur for the gardens. What’s hugelkultur? It’s basically the process of taking rotting wood, twigs, branches, and other things and using that to build your gardens. It basically will look like this (image from http://permaculturenews.org/2012/01/04/hugelkultur-composting-whole-trees-with-ease)
And for now, that’s all we got. Thank you to everyone for keeping up with our family, Fidelia Hall, and more. We’re getting there!
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!
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.
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
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.
I spent as much of my travels to New Zealand and Australia looking up, down, and all around me. I was searching for trees, birds, bugs, and signs. I was looking to see how different the world could be when you are about 9000 miles (14484 km) away from home. The little details matter.
This could’ve easily become a post about how we should all look up from our phones from time to time to see what’s around us, but it’s not about that. Our phones do help us: We snap photos! They give us directions! They connect us! I think that is great. This post is about how we can all look around and see things that will inspire us in some way.
The Edge at the State Library of Queensland is amazing place to look around. They describe themselves “as a model for the library of the future” and that’s exactly what they are. This is a space for the people. They’ve got all the fancy tools and technology everyone wants to get their hands on, but what most impressed me were the little details. I enjoyed seeing how organized their space was. It had that “in use and a bit chaotic” look but in a clean and professional manner. Equipment and information was labeled, organized, and easily accessible. The signage (like their Kombucha Lab sign seen above) had neat little touches like the science-y beeker. I also really enjoyed the colors of their seats, space, and cabinets. They stood out and made me feel happy to be there.
The way we show off our physical collections is also something to think about. Books are beautiful and should be shown off to the public. As a parent of two little dudes I’m more excited to find books just by looking at the covers than to dig through a shelf of picture book after picture book. If you’re asking “well how do we find the books if someone puts them on hold?” well just don’t worry about that right now. You don’t have to do that with everything you own. Show off the good stuff. You’ll find it if someone puts that item on hold.
If you are reading this while you are at work, first off let me say that I am proud of you for doing that. Continuing education about libraries is not something you have to do on your own time. You should get paid for it. Read away and grow that brain.
Getting back to things….
If you are reading this while you are at work, get up from your desk and walk around the library. Look at how people are using your space. Look at what they’re doing. Did you take all of that in? Good. That’s the value your library is providing to your community at this exact moment in space and time and this is how it will grow in the future. I just saw four people using their own technology (mobile phones and tablets), one alternating between an iPhone and a book, and one looking at our DVD collection.
Our collections needs to be able to breathe, just like the community members that use our space. When our collections get clogged up, they become a mess. We start to lose track of things. We begin to forget what we have because we have way too much of it.
Collections that are able to be viewed and browsed not only look better, but they circulate better as well. I saw it during my time in Chattanooga, and I’ve read about it many times here. This is the goal with the collection at my current library: to create something that can be easily browsed and is open and accessible to the public. For a while now, we’ve had a collection so full that there have been books stacked on top of one another. We were out of shelf space. It was time for a change to happen.
Libraries are also moving towards a new model that blends the old with the new. We have all the information that you need. What we also have now is the space for you to relax, work, and be part of the community. When we weed items from our collections, think about the space it opens up for people to be in the library. Where there were rows and rows of shelves now can be home to tables, chairs, desks, and more. This is where the community can gather.
The public library needs to be able to breathe. That’s what weeding allows it to do.
I have been thinking a lot recently about how we arrange our lives. This may come from the fact that my family and I just bought a new home and we’re trying to see how to best organize our lives in this new home. This may also come from the fact that we’ve got a lot of space on The 2nd Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library and the freedom to explore new ways to provide services to our community.
When I first arrived at the Chattanooga Public Library, I noticed that a few employees used The 4th Floor as their “office”…I used quotes because it wasn’t an office in the traditional sense. They were camped out with their laptops and their other work around two large tables. Everyone worked at their own project and every once in awhile they’d be a group conversation. What impressed me about this work space was how their work was being done in public and how all of the employees were happy to be at work. It has been said time and time again that collaborative work space like what I saw on the 4th Floor can lead to happier and more productive employees. What really made me think about our work spaces was that what has been traditionally defined as office work was being done out in the public. Public kept coming up for me. We work in a public library. We are public employees. We work in a public space.
It all leads to what you see above: our public work space, or as I like to call it “a clubhouse where librarians and community can connect.” I really like the idea of working in public and having a place where staff can come together and share ideas not only amongst themselves but with the community as well. If a group of teens want to come in and hang out around this desk, that’s even better. We can talk to them, share stories, listen to music, and interact.
In the long term, I’m trying to understand how this public work space can lead to staff not having to be tied to a desk schedule. Think about the time we spend creating and managing desk schedules. Think about how terribly lonely time spent at a public desk can be (especially if it is slow). It’s going to be something that will need to be tested through trial and error, but I’m sure we’ll find something that works for both us and our community in the long run.