Libraries, Life, MAKE ART FOR THE LIBRARY, MAKE MUSIC AT THE LIBRARY, Portland, ME, Teens

Be Kind. Be Positive. Make a Difference.

Over the past week I have been thinking about how every weekday at around 2:20pm EST between 2010-2013 that the Portland Public Library would fill up with anywhere between 30-70 teens. I recall the dramatic change in the library, and no I’m not talking about how the sound level would increase. What I’m talking about is the energy, the passion, and the kindness that came into the library every day with these teens. These teens needed the library to connect, to share, to socialize, and to learn. The library gave them a safe and welcoming space to do all of that, and that space continues to thrive and offer the same wonderful and excellent services to many new teens today. It is a beautiful thing.

Around 75% of the teen population that came into the library back in those days were not born in the USA. They came from countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, and Sudan to name a few. They came from countries where their lives were torn apart, their families were displaced, and in the words of a former co-worker “they came from places where one of the first things they learned to say was “please don’t kill my family.”” The people that came to us needed the library but more importantly they needed the United States of America, a place where they had the opportunity to live their lives and pursue their dreams.

I have been thinking about about the teens I worked with at the Portland Public Library today all this weekend and today as I take in all of the news about the travel bans enacted by our government here in the USA. I think about those teens and their families and hope they are safe and well. I worry about them a lot these days. I also think about the future teens and their families from other countries that might come to the USA someday seeking a place to live their lives and pursue their dreams. I want to help them, but how?

It is a time of great unease and there is a lot going on is very troubling. Sometimes it gets to a point where it wears me down, but then I realize that I can’t let it defeat me. I have to stay strong….we have to stay strong. The way we can do that is to continue to promote kindness and positivity in all of our actions.  Kindness and positivity go a long way. This is one way we can help those that we care about.

Andromeda Yelton’s latest post (quoting the ALA Code of Ethics) reminds me of what I need to do every day as a librarian….I need to “provide the highest level of service to all library users.” I need to be there for everyone in my community. And I need to continue to be there for those that I worked with in the past and those that I will work with in the future. This is another way that we can help those that we care about.

We each have our own way of making a positive and kind impact on our own world. I urge everyone reading this to think about what they can do to make someone else’s life better these days. You can have an impact!

(title from Andromeda Yelton’s post, read it here: We provide the highest level of service to all library users. Thank you Andromeda for this post)

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Libraries, Library Director, Management, Teens

More Library Stuff

I am just going to toss out quotes that are floating around in my brain. Connect them in any way that you will.

  • Libraries count circulations, door counts, and more. These are great numbers but we need to think bigger than this. How can we count hi-fives and hugs from our patrons? A hi-five from a teenager in a library is one of the most important things that can happen in a public library. How do we fix our broken world and help everyone see that there is value in hi-fives and hugs?
  • Some people are good at customer service. Some people are good at using the public library as a canvas for their creative public programs. Recognize these talents in each and every individual and respect these talents. Don’t push people to be everything at once. Let them be themselves.
  • The moments where we relax with each other, chat, and not force work are some of the best moments we can have in a library. Relax. Talk to each other. This is your job, not your life. Sit back, make some tea, and talk.
  • Working in a public library is not about competition. It is about community. We are not here to be Library Journal Library of the Year 5 Star Winner Full Page Cover Spread. We are here to ensure that those that visit us and utilize our services leave with a smile.

Every blog post needs an image and here’s a great image of Prince being the fucking coolest person that ever lived.

ALSO PS: here’s a 14 minute track of all the background music in Purple Rain shhhh it is pretty darn amazing.

3D printing, Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries, Technology, Teens

Community Engagement Projects in United States Public Libraries by Frances Tout

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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.

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Thanks for the kind words Frances!  🙂

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.

Follow Frances Tout on Twitter @francestout
Read more from Travelling Librarian 2015 @ the blog

Technology

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Two of my grandsons, ages 10 and 13, seem destined to suffer some of the negative effects of video-game overuse. The 10-year-old gets up half an hour earlier on school days to play computer games, and he and his brother stay plugged into their hand-held devices on the ride to and from school. “There’s no conversation anymore,” said their grandfather, who often picks them up. When the family dines out, the boys use their devices before the meal arrives and as soon as they finish eating.

Taken from the New York Times article “Screen Addiction is Taking a Toll on Children” by Jane E. Brody.

It seems like every six months or so an article comes out that talks about the dangers of (insert here) screen time, video games, computers, iPads, etc on kids today. I don’t know if it’s a slow news day or its just something that gets a lot of clicks and likes, but hey, they keep on coming.

I see this argument from two sides: as a parent and as a librarian. I see what technology does to kids AND adults: it kind of totally mystifies us! We want to use it, we want to have it in our hands, and we want to play with it. I think it’s important to realize that this argument doesn’t just apply to kids. Adults too get sucked into technology. I see parents (myself included sometimes!) lost inside of their smartphones. It’s an escape from the world and sometimes a nice 5-10 minute break.

I also know that too much technology can have an effect on a person. I find myself getting tired and worn out if I’ve looked at my computer or my phone too long. I see my own kids getting cranky and bored when they’ve watched way too many toy review videos on YouTube.

Technology is awesome. Technology lets us connect and learn in so many different ways. This week, I’ll be part of an interview process at my place of work to hire a new Youth Services Librarian. You know what? We’ll be doing all of our interviews over Skype. Technology helps bring the world together. Technology like video games help us take part in stories and adventures and connect with other like minded people.

What this article, the many others before it, and the many others that will come, should be focusing on instead is balance and the importance of having conversations. Talk to your kids, whether you are their parent, their teacher, or their librarian. Talk to them about how important technology can be in their lives. While you’re at it, also talk to them about the importance of balance in their lives. It doesn’t have to be all technology all the time. You need balance. You need variety. I like to tell my sons that it would be AWESOME to have ice cream all the time but in the long run I’d probably die really quickly and that would suck. They get it. Don’t have ice cream all the time. Spice it up. Have some lima beans in there too. It’s that way with technology/video games/iPads/etc: sprinkle in a walk, play a musical instrument, have a conversation, etc. Balance is awesome.

Libraries

Managing the Future: Supporting Your Youth Services Innovators ALA 2015

First and foremost: I’m sorry to everyone who came to this awesome event and to my fellow colleagues Abby, Cory, and Kendra for missing the presentation! I was convinced that the presentation was on Sunday June 28, 2015 at 8am PST. Turns out I was very wrong and it was Saturday June 27, 2015 at 8am PST.  I will blame it on two things: my brain is so full of moving these days and also general Justin Hoenke forgetfulness. I am sorry about my no-show and I hope the following makes it up to you….

My presentation! I believe I was actually recording my presentation at the same time that the actual in person real time presentation was happening. Anywho, here you go and once again I am sorry that I could not be there in person and/or in real time via the Skype/Facetime/Hangouts train.

3D printing, Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries

The 2nd Floor PLUS STEM School Chattanooga

Over the past few months, the Chattanooga Public Library has collaborated with the STEM School Chattanooga on a project with juniors for the Project and Problem Based Learning curriculum. The project that the library presented to the students dealt with 3D Printing: How can we create a 3D Printing station that allows the community to walk up to the 3D Printer, watch a video tutorial that introduces 3D printing, and in the end have the customer leave with a great 3D printing experience and an object.

Over the next few months, the students and their teacher Michael Stone worked on what a 3D Printing station looks like, what it includes, and then spent the time building the station in their school Fab Lab. The end result? Check out the image in the tweet above! It’s a beautiful station like structure that was created by the students. The words 3D PRINTER represent the various stages of 3D printing….from first layer to the honeycomb structured middle to the end product. Using the laser engraver, the students also created a plaque that proudly displays the STEM School Fab Lab logo. Finally, the students put together tutorial videos for customers to watch so that they could get acquainted with 3D printing. You can watch those videos here: Beginner Video and Advanced Video.

I’m super happy with the results and I couldn’t ask for more. The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library is all about the public library as an experience, and the 3D printing station created by the STEM School fits perfectly in with the vibe of the 2nd Floor.  I look forward to working with the STEM School and their students on more projects in the very near future!

For more of my writings on 3D Printing, click here!

For the FAQ’s and details on 3D Printing on The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library, click here!

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries

564 Days (or, the story of THE 2ND FLOOR thus far…)

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The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library has been in its current state, a place for ages 0-18 and their caregivers, for 564 days, or 1 year, 6 months, and 16 days as of today. If you’re visiting The 2nd Floor for the first time today or have visited us over the past 564 days, you’ve probably wondered what it’s all about up on the 2nd Floor.  This post is my attempt to explain all of that and more to you.

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The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library is all about people.  It is a place where the community, library employees, out of town guests, and more can connect, share an experience, and learn something. It is a place where lifelong learning and fun meet in the middle, get all messy, and create something awesome.

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The 2nd Floor is a constant work in progress. Repeat visitors to the 2nd Floor always remark how “things have changed quite a bit” and that there’s “a lot more” than there was the last time they visited. Their observations are spot on. We may not have the newest furniture, shelves, tools, and more around (it’ll come), but we change everything around enough to keep it fresh and exciting for the community. We use what we have to make this place a great experience for the community.  If something works, we keep it around and refine it. If it doesn’t work, we let it go and try something new. To be the best library for our community, we have to move forward and meet their needs.

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When you visit the 2nd Floor, you won’t see endless rows of books in the space. Instead, you’ll find a well groomed collection that represents what the community wants. You may see two rows of The Hunger Games on the shelves, but they are there because the community asked for them. You will find our books arranged and presented in a way that best reflects the needs of the community. The picture books are as low to the ground as we can get them at the moment to allow for little hands to find what they want. The graphic novels have their own unique areas.  Our non-fiction shelves for middle aged readers are overflowing because that’s what the community wants.

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As I said above, the 2nd Floor is all about people. But we have to remember that a library is also made up of the people that work in it as well. The 2nd Floor is home to some of the most amazing colleagues I have ever had the chance to work with. Some have been here 15 years and some have been here 6 months. No matter how long they’ve been there, one thing connects us all: a passion for what we do and a great care for our community.  All of our 2nd Floor employees bring different attributes to the table: creativity, reliability, organization, energy, and more.  All of these attributes meet in the middle and create something amazing. Simply stated: the 2nd Floor staff are awesome.

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3D Printers, iMacs, button makers, video games, and more are just things that live on the 2nd Floor.  Yes, they are nice tools to have in the library and it is great that we can give our community access to them.  I am fully aware that not every library can have the same tools that we have in our library. But here’s the thing: they are just tools. The 3D printer will stop being the cool and popular thing over the next few years. The computers will need to be replaced. Items will break.  These are all ok scenarios. They are all just items. They are all just things. Without the community coming into the library to use the 2nd Floor, they are just empty, unused things. It is what the community does with these tools that makes their place on the 2nd Floor so special.

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The tools that your library offers to the community should reflect what the community needs. Does your community not want a 3D printer? That’s ok. You don’t have to get a 3D printer. It can start simple: pens, pencils, and paper. That’s an art and writing station. It can grow to include some hand-me-down or donated items, like a sewing machine. If it needs to, it can grow from there. In the picture above, one of our frequent library users is using an older sewing machine brought in by one of our library employees. They used it together to make a robe just like Hermione wears in Harry Potter.  It was a great experience using tools and items that we had all around us.

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The 2nd Floor is flexible. It has rules because it needs rules in order to survive and function properly. But the 2nd Floor is open to interpretation. The community will make it what they want it to be at that moment. In the photo above, the 3D printer has become the test subject for a teen’s interest in learning how to do time lapse photography. Flexibility and the desire to take a chance on something new allows your community to thrive and grow.

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The 2nd Floor is unique in that it doesn’t push kids, tweens, teens, and their caregivers into age specific corners. It’s about following your interests and sharing a positive interaction with someone…a family member, a friend, or someone you just met.  When you open up your library to interests and interactions like these, some great moments can occur. Instead of checking the IDs of everyone that enters the the library, the library employees are free to then interact with the community and develop relationships. They are able to chat and connect. This is where something magical happens and what I consider to be the best part of the modern public library experience: The library as the place where the community connects.

2014-05-03 12.54.56Sure, we have all this great stuff you can borrow. We have loads of programs and experiences for you if you visit our physical locations. We have loads of downloadables that you can enjoy on your device. All of that is great. But what makes the library magical is when people connect: all ages, all genders, all races. They come together to learn and have fun. They put everything aside and enjoy a moment together. From those moments, bonds and connections are made. Some last minutes. Some last a lifetime. Those connections are what helps our communities grow.  Healthy communities lead to happiness.  Happiness is something global. Happiness is something that spreads everywhere. It all starts with one interaction and it grows.