Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Local History & Genealogy

A Neat Local History and Genealogy Story


Every library out there has their specific “things” that they’re good at. Those things are the core of who you and and what you do, and no matter what path your library takes you should always have you focus on them. At the Benson Memorial Library in Titusville, PA, we’ve got three things: excellent small town library customer service, great and plentiful programs for youth, and a local history and genealogy focus. That focus on Local History and Genealogy is our big thing in 2018. Just this month we added free access to Library Edition for (at least) the next two years at our library. In just 26 days, that free service has been used quite a bit, garnering 611 searches so far! Plus, our Historian Jess Hilburn has been running workshops to teach people about Ancestry and the different things you can find using it and those have been a tremendous success. It has been good to see people learn about their past at our library.



This photo comes from one of those workshops and attached to it is one of my favorite library stories. Jess (on the right) was helping this library guest during one of our Intro to Library Edition classes. After a basic introduction this library guest was able to find some really interesting information about her Grandmother. She already knew that her Grandmother remarried later in life, but when she found her Grandma in her high school yearbook she made a very interesting discovery….the man who shared the page with her Grandmother was in fact that man that her Grandmother ended up marrying late in life! That’s the neat photo you see on the screen behind them in the picture. Just imagine how neat that must be….a little interesting slice of history that was a preview of what was to come!

These types of things that happen in libraries are magical and the thing that warms my heart the most is that they’re happening every day in so many libraries all over the country! This may not be the big boost in budget you’ve been waiting for or the major construction project that your building needs, but these stories are the ones that matter the most. As I’ve said before, it is the little things in libraries that keep them humming along. When grouped together, the little things don’t seem so little anymore and in fact come together to form something big and possibly life changing for a person, a community, or a library.

Please continue to share your stories! More information on Local History and Genealogy at the Benson Memorial Library can be found here and here.


Libraries, Portland, ME, Teens



While I still have almost two months left here at the Portland Public Library, tonight feels like the closing of a chapter.  At 6pm, we will host a viewing of THE WHOLE WORLD WAITING, a film about  15 immigrant teenagers from Portland, Maine.  I’ve seen all of these teens in the library at some point.  Some stop by to say hello every once in awhile while others are in here every day.

I want to take the opportunity to thank not only these teens for sharing their stories but to Sonya Tomlinson, David Meiklejohn, and everyone at the Telling Room for putting this film together.  This project is beautiful and these stories are so great to hear.  Also, thank you for your kindness and support during my time in Portland, ME.

For more information on the film, the filmmakers, and more:

Budget Fabulous Films by David Meiklejohn

Young Immigrants Share Their Stories for the Camera via Portland Press Herald

The Whole World Waiting and The Young Writers and Leaders Kickstarter

Libraries, Portland, ME, Teens

The Whole World Waiting

Eight months ago I told you all about THE WHOLE WORLD WAITING, which is a film by David Meikeljohn, Sonya Tomlinson, and The Telling Room featuring fifteen teenagers from the Portland, ME area.  Today, I’m here to share the finished film with you…and isn’t it great!  It’s so wonderful to see so many of the teens that come through the library every day sharing their story.

Thanks to everyone who supported the filmakers, the teens, and The Telling Room via their Kickstarter page

Information about the project:

Young Writers & Leaders (YWL) is a free, afterschool literary arts program for teenaged refugee and immigrant English Language Learners. The program runs for nine months each year, engaging each student in weekly afterschool sessions that provide unparalleled opportunities to work directly with some of Maine’s best writers and artists, creative writing and arts programming and job skills and leadership training.

YWL is offered in partnership with Portland, Deering, and Casco Bay High Schools, and has served teens from Haiti, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, Sudan and Kenya, improving their writing skills, academic performance, social and emotional wellbeing, and their chances of future success.

Teaching artist Sonya Tomlinson and filmmaker David Meiklejohn created The Whole World Waiting to showcase all fifteen students from The Telling Room’s Young Writers & Leaders program (2011-2012) in three-minute segments. Each story tackles the myths of America told from the perspective of immigrant and refugee youth.

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.

Libraries, Music, Portland, ME

Young Writers & Leaders Film

I know you probably see/hear about 10 different Kickstarter pages every day (I do too).  However, every once in awhile a great project comes along that’s TOTALLY worthy of support.  To me, this is that project.

The Young Writers and Leaders film is part of a Telling Room program (who I’ve worked with at the library here), Sonya Tomlinson (who I’ve worked with at the library here), David Meiklejohn, and 15 Portland, Maine area teens (all of which who use the library almost every day!).  Simply stated, the film tells the stories of the teens and their involvement in the program and their lives in Portland, ME.  

This is the real deal, folks.
Please consider supporting this project by visiting their Kickstarter page here.

The Young Writer’s and Leaders is a program of the Telling Room, a non-profit writing center in Portland Maine. The program is home to 15 high school students from Rwanda, Somalia, Haiti, Uganda, Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo and Kenya. In addition to one-­on-­one literacy tutoring, college prep assistance, creative writing, job skills and leadership training, the students also participate in arts programming. This year’s concentration is the film project featured in the above video led by teaching artists, David Meiklejohn (filmmaker and director ofMy Heart is An Idiot) and hip-hop recording artist, Sontiago (Endemik Music).

On May 24th, the students will premiere their short films in their hometown of Portland, Maine at Space GalleryOver half of the students in the program have not spent time in another city outside of Portland. Over half of the students have not spent time in Boston, though it is a mere two hours away. Over half of the students have not traveled by train.

If funded, our plan is to travel to Boston via the Downeaster train and spend the day in the city visiting a sister writing center and pairing up with Boston-area young writers. In the evening we will rent a film house that holds 250 people and screen the 15 original short films featuring each YWL student performing their individual stories based on myths about America and life as new Americans. The screening will also offer a Q&A with the Young Writers and Leaders students.


Game On! Envisioning Your Own Video Game, Libraries, Video Games

Game On! Envisioning Your Own Video Game (PART 3)

WEEKS 3 through 5: Now that  the ideas were flowing out of the teens, Gibson and I decided to throw a curve ball.  Sure, you have your own ideas, but games are not created by one person.  You have to work as a team!  With that in mind, we split the participants up into two groups.  Using their best individual ideas, we encouraged them to create a concept that unified all of them together into one solid game.  The groups were chosen by Gibson and myself in the hopes of each individual contributing their own unique talent to the overall group.

We each took one group and acted as the mentor.  For my own group, I was armed with a MacBook Pro and Google Docs, copying down every idea and trying to make sense of it all for the teens.  The hardest part was trying to encourage the teens to hone in on the solid ideas they created without adding too much more.  Our teens were idea machines, so nailing down a solid idea to focus on for three weeks proved to be rather hard, but in the end we made some sense of it all (see below for the final project documents)

Our basic idea in the beginning was to have the teens pitch the idea to us and try to sell us on why we should make this game a reality.  For our final session, the other teens, Gibson and myself, and University of Southern Maine Journalist and Game Reviewer Dylan Martin joined us to hear what the final games would be all about.

DAY/NIGHT developed by Dr. Professor Games
THE INSIDE MAN by Virus Productions

It was a great joy working with both The Telling Room and the teens on this really cool program.  Gamers of the future, don’t fret.  There are some amazing ideas floating around in heads of today’s teens.

Game On! Envisioning Your Own Video Game, Libraries, Video Games

Game On! Envisioning Your Own Video Game (PART 2)

WEEK ONE: I have to admit, we got off to a rough start.  It’s not a bad thing, as it made us go back and look over our plans.  And we’re glad we did that.  By looking over plans once again, we got a renewed focus on what we want to do/accomplish with this workshop.

How did we get off to a rough start?  Well, the ideas POURED in from the teens.  Yes, yes yes, that’s not a bad thing…but we weren’t ready for this.  Gamers also have this uncanny ability to talk about games nonstop, one thing that I forgot when planning.  So the first session was a lot of ideas and talking about games we like and that was about it.  The lesson plans went out the window.

However, I have to add that there was a victory.  We saw the passion in these teens for video game creation.  They didn’t just come to this workshop to pass time.  THEY HAVE IDEAS AND THEY WANT THEM OUT OF THEIR HEAD.

WEEK TWO: Our curve ball for Week 2 was group work.  It was our attempt to get all these ideas into some kind of cohesive ball and start moving along.  We did a quick analysis of the teens that had attended the workshops and put them into groups.  The teen who loved sport games with the one that loved RPG games?  Yah, that’ll work.  And it did!  Thinking outside the box is something that these teens excel at.  Putting polar opposites together was a fabulous idea that found our two groups coming up with some VERY interesting and solid game ideas (I won’t spoil them for you, we’ve still got a lot of work to do).

Week two ended with a quick pitch, like a TV ad about the games where the teens had to sell us on the idea.  Action, Adventure, and Excitement packed into 30 seconds…and they had us hooked.

Next week, we head out into the wild streets of Portland, Maine to photograph interesting locales and buildings that could somehow make it into our games…