Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Social Media

Here’s How To Talk To Your Community On Social Media (Which By The Way, You Should Be Doing)


First and foremost, if you’re not using social media to connect with your community then you should stop everything right now, set up social media accounts, and spend some time every day connecting with your community. I’m not the first or the last person to say this, and if you need any further inspiration, I recommend checking out David Lee King and all of the great things he has to say about all things social media + libraries.

If you are (and you probably are), I’m sharing the above screenshots as an example of what I think is a very good way to talk to your community using social media. To break down the details of how we do it here at the Benson Memorial Library, read below:

  • We tried Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as our main social media feeds. Facebook by and far worked the best with the community. Instagram gets some likes and enough to update it every once in awhile. Twitter does nothing for our library.
  • We have three (of eight total) staff members who check our Facebook page. One person is in charge of scheduling most of the posts. The other two fill in posts from time to time. All of us will answer questions directed to the library or comment when the library is tagged.
  • One of my daily duties is to quickly browse the local Facebook groups: the ones that talk about local issues, the ones that advertise events, and the buy/sell/trade groups. If I spot something that can be helped by the library, I will respond with a comment, tag the library, and inform one of our staff members to respond to the inquiry. This is how we got the screenshots that you see above.
  • One of our staff members will use their account or the library Facebook account to respond to any comments. We do so in a way that introduces us, who we are, and what we can do. We always leave contact information in our comments so the community member can follow up outside of Facebook if they choose to do so.

What it all boils down to is something very simple: get your library out there where your community gathers (and yes, Social Media is a place where people gather!) and talk to your community. When you do, great things and connections will happen and your library and community will grow stronger because of it!

Libraries, Library Director, Management

Workplace Vibes


Jane is unhappy because in the summer Bob likes to use his vacation days to take Fridays off and have a long weekend. Bob is upset that Sally gets 4 less public service hours than him, even though Sally has a very specific job as the (INSERT ANY JOB TITLE) whereas Bob is a library assistant/aide whose primary duty is to serve the public. Sally doesn’t really say much to the staff when everyone is together chatting about things, but get her one on one and boy howdy she’ll tell you everything she hates about everyone. And Jim? He’ll only talk to Sally about anything that comes up even though Sally may not be the person he needs to go to. And finally….there’s Barbara. When she’s upset or overworked, she’ll immediately begin nitpicking everything that Jane and Bob do at work.

Does this completely made up story (which, like all good stories has to be somewhat inspired by real life events) sound familiar to you? It should sound familiar to you, as it is the story of every public library that has ever existed in the modern age.

In a perfect world, the public library workplace would be one that is completely in harmony and peace. After all, here’s what your job boils down to: you help people, you let them borrow things that they need, and you create and run cool events. You’re doing work that at all times gives something amazing to your community. While all of this still happens, the public library workplace is usually not full of harmony and peace. And you know what? After now being part of seven different public library workplaces I’m not sure if they’ll ever be. Some have been more harmonious than others. Yet at the core there’s always a little bit of discontent, a touch of negativity, and some jealousy thrown in there. I guess you could say it keeps things interesting.

After being a Library Director for the past two years, I’ve become a lot more in tune with what I’ll call “workplace vibes”. I see them happening, I notice the fallout from them, and I spend my days swathed in the layers of emotions they put out into the world. As the person that steers the ship of this library, I feel like a lot of those vibes are something I need to watch and control. I do my best to make sure the vibes remain positive, but in the end I’m just one person. I have my own life and my own work, and sometimes I just can’t be the only person attempting to make those vibes positive. It takes every staff member to keep the workplace vibes on the up and up. When we do this, we work together and we keep this thing in check.

Will any of us ever achieve a workplace hat is completely in harmony and peace? I don’t think it’s possible. For some reason human beings always need a little bit of unhappiness in their lives. In the past, I put myself through a lot of negative emotions feeling that I wasn’t doing my job because workplace vibes were in the pits. It was wrong of me to do that, as even though I’m the director it is not fully up to me to fix everything. We have to work together and recognize that each of us are at different periods in our journey. If someone is over there on one end, swimming in a sea of depression, we have to recognize that and do our part to not only take care of them but to know that where they may have once stepped up to the plate they may not be able to do that at the time.

Our work lives and our workplace vibes are never consistent. They are always shifting, floating from the positive end to the negative end. Recognizing where we are in that moment within ourselves is key. Through an analysis of our self, we can learn many things that help move us forward. Let’s all think about that right now.

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries, Management, Teens

Library Management Stuff from an Up And Coming Library Manager Type Person

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About a week ago I saw this tweet from the great Cate Levinson @storytiming. We talked about management and supervision in libraries over email and it was a great conversation…so great that it got me thinking that I really needed to share my most recent library management and supervision stories and lessons learned here on the blog.

Folks, let me tell you: my transition towards a lot more library management hasn’t been easy. I’ve messed up a lot. But on the other hand I’ve been a part of some pretty rad things. It has a lot been stressful. I think about all of the little intricacies in libraries and how to make the 2nd Floor even more awesome a lot more than I used to. For example: I woke up from a small nap this past Saturday and my first thought was “OMG. I NEED TO SUBMIT THE PAYROLLL…TODAY!” when in reality payroll was due on Monday (and it got in on time!).

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Here are the lessons that I have learned:

  1. Always get payroll and scheduling and all that important behind the scenes stuff in on time. There are other employees whose work depends on you completing a task. If your part is not done, their part cannot be done and that just rocks the whole boat. Speaking of which…
  2. Think of the library as one big giant organism. This was hard for me coming from a youth services background. It’s not all about the kids, tweens, and teens. In order for the library to work, you have to think about how anything you do affects everything that everyone else does.  Sure, the 2nd Floor is a 14,000 square foot space for kids, tweens, and teens.  But what happens on the 2nd Floor may affect everyone else in the library. How do I be respectful to others while still giving the age group I primarily focus on the best possible service? That’s a tricky one, but if you give it enough thought and care you will get there.
  3. Your mood as the manager/supervisor sets the tone. Are you stressed out? Are you being negative?  If you are, get ready for that to come back to you from the library staff.  Set a positive tone in the work environment.  Keep your employees shielded from the stuff that may cause them stress that doesn’t directly involve their work.
  4. Piggybacking on that last one: keep your employees well informed about what is happening but also remember…not everyone needs to know everything…AND THIS IS OK! You as a manager and supervisor are not hiding away information from the people you work with.  You are giving them what they need to know and keeping the rest where it needs to be.  Yes, information overload is a real thing and it can have a harmful effect on the work environment.
  5. Work well with others: you will be working with everyone in the library. Everyone has their jobs and they are all trying to do them to the best of their ability. Thank everyone for what they do. Be patient with everyone that you work with. Remember that we are all in this together.
  6. Finally, and I think this is super important: HAVE FUN. Work does not need to be super stressful. Work should be fun. It should not just be a place that pays the bills. It should be a place that encourages your heart and your mind to grow. It should make you smile.


PS: Sometimes I like to refer to myself as Mister Manager just because of this


Chattanooga Public Library, Chattanooga, TN, Libraries

What’s Goin’ On

2014-01-24 18.57.29I haven’t done a great job sharing the nitty gritty details about what’s been happening on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library and I wanted to take a moment to change that.  I knew that the work here in Chattanooga would  be unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in the past but what I didn’t realize was just how much work there would be.  This is not a bad thing at all…in fact, it is a very good thing. The 10 months I’ve been here have been the best professional experience of my life.

So let’s play some catch up, shall we?

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We’ve been playing around with the concept of how we work on the 2nd Floor.  There’s a strong drive to get us away from the “desk” model and into something that’s more of a “always working in and with the public” model.  I’m totally on board.  Why?  We’re public librarians and the public is our bread and butter.  If we ain’t helping them, what are we doing with our time?

The goal is to create something that isn’t big and scary and instead  invites the community to work alongside us.  We want them to sit next to us.  We want them to feel that our workspace is a place where they can connect and hang out with us.  It’s collaborative.

The “always working in and with the public” model has its good parts (we’re always there for the public) and the bad parts (how do we get away from the public when we need to do something else that requires focus?).  We haven’t found the perfect answer but we’re trying new things.  We’ll find what works for us and go with it.

For more on this, read Work Spaces

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One of the things I’ve heard most from librarians is that you’ll never know how many people you’ll get at a program and there’s no really good way to predict these kinds of numbers.  I agree. I’ve had some duds and I’ve had some hits.  To answer this question, we’re trying something I like to call “neverending programming.”  Why put a lot of energy into programs that only happen at a certain time during the day?  Why not have things going on all the time?

We’ve got a mix of neverending programming and traditional programs happening at the moment.  To see all of the “neverending programming” we offer on the 2nd Floor,click here.  Traditional scheduled programs still work, but we want to have something for everyone at all times.  This is our way of finding a balance for everyone in our community.

For more on this, read Buttons, Buttons Everywhere and The 2nd Floor Photo Booth

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How in the heck does one manage one 3D printer and make it avaliable for every single person in the community? I think about the answer to that question a lot.  3D printing takes time and when you have a city of over 160,000 to serve that’s a lot of 3D printing.

I also ask myself this question all the time: how do you make the 3D printing experience worthwhile?  Going onto Thingiverse, finding something neat to print out, and doing that is great but there’s gotta be more, right?

Over the past few months, my colleague Megan Emery and I have come up with an informal program called The 3 D’s of 3D Printing.  It’s part gamification, part badge system, part learning experience, part our way of making sure we’re not turning into a 3D print factory.  Does it work?  Parts of it does.  It allows us to educate the kids, tweens, and teens about 3D printing and make the process into a learning experience.  Where it doesn’t work is how it’s a drop in program that requires staff time.  I’ve noticed that 3D printing interest happens most when we are busiest (Monday-Thursday between 4-8 and Saturdays between 1-5, FYI) and finding the time to really work with someone one on one isn’t going as smoothly as we’d like. But with everything else we do, we have the flexibility to change it to fit with what the community and the staff needs at this moment.  I’ll be sure to check back in soon when we move from version 1.0 of this program to version 1.5!


We’ve moved so much stuff around (with the help of our maintenance staff, thank you!) in our quest to make the 2nd Floor a destination for ages 0-18.  Books and shelves that were once here are now there and tables and chairs have been re purposed as creative tables and more. With the 2nd Floor, nothing ever stays the same and that’s a good thing…we are constantly trying to improve our services to best meet the needs of our users.

Thinking of the 2nd Floor as a flexible space that’s always changing has helped.  Our director Corinne Hill says that the only certain thing these days is change and she’s right.  If that’s what our staff can expect, then moving some furniture and services around won’t be so much of a big deal.

Here in Chattanooga I’ve been doing way more of what I’m calling manager type stuff.  I make the weekly schedules.  I book programs.  I do staff payroll.  I handle vacation requests.  I make sure the staff is aware of all of the changes happening.  It’s been a tough transition to this role but it is something I am really enjoying.  Management is hard but very rewarding.

My management gurus these are a triforce of awesome.  Corinne Hill (director of the Chattanooga Public Library) and Dan and Lisa Nausley of Sandler Training in Chattanooga have taught me more about management in the last 10 months than I’ve ever known.  Like I said above, it’s challenging but it’s a welcome challenge.  This is growth and growth is tough.

For more on manager type stuff, please read Staff Development and Training

A lot of folks said “are you sure you’re gonna like the south?” when I announced that I was moving to Chattanooga. I’m happy to report that I finally have an answer for you: YES.  What makes it great are the people.  The city of Chattanooga loves their community and even more so, their library.  Their input, suggestions, comments, and support help make the Chattanooga Public Library awesome.  I point to  The 2nd Floor Commercial as an example: directed by a local teen named Zachary Cross, this was filmed and edited on his own time just to share what the 2nd Floor is about.

Chattanooga is awesome.  It’ll keep being awesome.  I’ll keep on working hard to do my part.

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries, Management, Technology

Staff Development and Training

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On my 2nd day at the Chattanooga Public Library, I began what has now been 8 months of management/leadership training with Lisa & Dan Nausley at Sandler Training of Chattanooga. After not having much management/leadership training the three years before, I was so happy to have this opportunity.  It has helped me grow as a manager and be a better communicator.  It has also made me realize just how important training and staff development are for libraries.  It is VITAL for us to invest time in our employees as we move ahead.

Inspired by an awesome talk with my co-worker Megan Emery and by these awesome projects done by awesome people, we came up with a way to make sure that the staff working on The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library was all trained and confident with the new services we’ve been rolling out.  Our staff training program will run every Monday starting in January until March 2014.  Every Monday, we’ll focus on a different service area found on The 2nd Floor.  In the end, we hope to get all of our staff up to speed on how to work with our community.

Here’s the email sent out to let folks know about the program:

To get everyone better acquainted with all of the new services happening on The 2nd Floor, we’re going to be running a 12 week staff training program for employees of the 2nd Floor.

Every Monday between 9am-12pm and 2pm-6pm starting on Monday January 6th.

We’ll schedule you to be away from your public co-working space so you can focus on training.

1. All things buttons (with Megan)
2. Creating and Mixing a song (with Justin)
3. Sewing a seam (with Megan)
4. The ins and outs of the 2nd Floor Arcade (with Justin)
5. Making stickers in the vinyl cutter (with Megan)
6. Filming and Editing Movies (with Justin)
7. Making a rainbow bracelet (with Megan)
8. All things laptops (with Justin)
9. Metal Stamping (with Megan)
10. Social Media on The 2nd Floor (with Justin)
11. The 3 D’s of 3D printing (with Justin)
12. How to use the embroidery machine (with Megan)

As we move ahead with the 2nd Floor, we want to make sure everyone who works here is well trained and capable of showing the community all about the new services we offer.

As we move ahead, I’ll post updates about this program here!

Libraries, Social Media, Technology

Why Medium may be awesome for libraries


Last week, I got an invite to test out Medium, a new publishing site developed by the folks behind Blogger and Twitter.  Over the past week, I’ve been dabbling in it and it hit me that Medium could be a really awesome tool for libraries to use.

So what is Medium?  I’ll let the developers tell you all about it (click here for more):
It’s great that you can be a one-person media outlet, but it’d be even better if there were more ways you could work with others. And in a world of increasingly overwhelming quantities of content, how do we direct our attention to what’s most valuable, not just what’s interesting and of-the-moment?

When I created my first collection (titled Public Libraries) and posted my first two pieces, this idea came to mind:

Teens have a lot to say.  If you don’t believe this, spend 15 minutes at a teen service desk in a public library and you’ll change your mind.  Most of these conversations happen daily and then they’re left floating in the ether, never really collected to share.  Medium can solve this!  Why not develop a teen program based around Medium.  Set up a collection in Medium called “Daily Stories from the Teen Library” and encourage teens to post their stories there.  If they’re not into posting those stories, why not collect them as the teen librarian and share those stories?

You can also use Medium as a way to collect stories created by teens in writing workshops at the library.  If Medium had existed when we ran our Game On! Envisioning Your Own Video Game program back in 2010 at my library, I know that I would’ve used it to collect the awesome stories told by the teens.

One of the conversations the administration at my library has been having is centered around staff expertise and how to share that with the greater community.  Currently, we use our blog to do that and plan on expanding that more when our website relaunches in 2013.  With collections in Medium, you could start a collection which your staff can contribute to.  Collections have the option of being open to anyone to contribute or can be limited to those who are invited.  Think about how neat it would be to have a ANYTOWN PUBLIC LIBRARY collection with posts written by your staff.  It would be a great way to share your staff knowledge.

Here’s my profile on Medium.  It shows the collections I have created and also all of the contributions I have made to other collection.

I ❤ Video Games Collection is one of my favorite collections.  Click here to read what others have contributed to this collection.