Benson Memorial Library, Community Building, ebooks, Libraries, Library Director, Technology

When The Circulation Has Gone: Helping Your Community Understand the Worth of the Public Library in the Modern Age

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What’s this that you see above? I call this the Benson Memorial Library circulation scorecard. What this circulation scorecard is doing is keeping track of our overall circulation from January 2010-Present. I could go back even further (we have the records) but I kept it at 2010 for the time being. I use it as guide to see what we’ve done, what we’re doing now, and how it relates to each other. Is our circulation up? Is our circulation down? If either one of these situations is the case, why is that? This scorecard is a nice and handy way to check up on all things related to circulation.

I don’t think that any library’s circulation number should be the number by which the library is judged, ranked, understood, etc. Every library’s circulation number by day, month, or year will first depend on the library that community serves. Is your community one that loves to visit the public library? If so, you can expect your circulation to represent that. In our service area of 14,904 (based on 2016 State Library stats), having 5,269 circulations in the month of September was a good month for us. A total circulation number of 5,269 for one month may look horrible to another library that serves a larger area or it may look shockingly amazing for a smaller area. That number looks just about right for us. This number will look different for everyone. It is up to you at your own level to interpret and understand that number.

As I said above, I don’t think that any library’s circulation number should be the number by which the library is judged or understood, but here’s the kicker. This circulation number is a big deal to a lot of people. To those people, a public library is a place which loans out materials to people in the community. When a person has this belief, the best way they can understand how their public library is doing is to see this number. With that said, yes, the circulation number is an important number for the public library.

But as the world changes and the way we read, watch, and look for information or media moves towards the internet or something digital, our circulation numbers are set to look like they’re decreasing. They are. Let’s face it: people don’t come in and borrow books on how to do things/fix things/research things anymore. They Google it or they go right to YouTube where they can get a step by step video. I’m a librarian, and this is exactly what I do. Why do I do this? Because this is the quickest, easiest, and probably the most efficient way of doing things these days.

So, as the title of this post asks: what do we do when the circulation has gone? If our circulation numbers decrease, we need a different way of sharing the value of the public library with the community. With that said, here are some ideas that I’m having these days.

CIRCULATE OTHER STUFF

This seems to be the big thing of the moment: fishing poles, museum passes, and gadgets galore, libraries are branching out and lending out things that you may not have seen in libraries before. One library in my region, the Oil City (PA) Library is doing just that. They call it the Cool Stuff Collection. Adding these unique items to your collection may draw more people into the library and help boost your circulation.

THE PUBLIC LIBRARY AS AN EVENT SPACE

This is a great one. Public libraries all around the world have amazing spaces, and one of the best ways we can show off that space and bring people into the library is by offering great programs. There are so many libraries out there doing this and I could provide hundreds of examples. Here’s one of them: the Darien Library in Connecticut. Their schedule is always packed full of great programs any day of the week. When a library focuses on public events, the attendance at these programs as well as the number of events held at the space becomes a great statistic to share with your community.

THE DIGITAL STUFF

The digital stuff, most of which is probably offered through your website, is another way to show the value of the library. While they’re no longer all the rage, eBooks are still around and are used by a segment of the population. Showing off the circulation of eBooks can boost your circulation number but it can also be used to show your community the changing nature of how we read.

My favorite “digital stuff” statistic these days is the number of connections we have to our wifi network and the number of logins we’ve had on our public computers. What have I noticed? That our wifi connections are going up while our public computer logins are stagnant or going slightly down. Yes, there is still a very strong need to offer public computer access, but as the cost of devices (laptops/tablets/and the big one, phones) comes down and more people are able to access them, I think we’ll see the public library become more and more of a spot in the community that offers free (and hopefully reliable and safe) wifi for everyone.

The title of this post was inspired by this most excellent jam

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Life, Online Identity, Social Media

Let’s Be Patient With Each Other This Year

February is a pretty wretched month any year and 2016 is even more wretched than others. February is the time of colds, flus, and other ailments. February can’t figure out whether to have 28 or 29 days. February is the month that we all hope that winter ends and spring finally begins.

This year, February hit us with all of those things and a few more. Here in Northwestern PA we’ve been struck with El Nino Climate Change Weather Deluxe 2.0, where one day we get 6-8 inches of snow and the next day we’ve got temperatures in the 50’s and everyone is out in their shorts. This is not only confusing but it also leads to everyone eventually getting sick. We’ve also got the 2016 USA Presidential Primary and Election coming up. That seals the deal. The pundits and the political commentators come out of the woodwork and every day we’re treated to another amazing set of headlines bashing this and criticizing that and then the social media comments start to flow in and wow everything is just a hot mess. I’ve never been a fan of these election cycles and this year is everything to the extreme. I don’t like extremes. I like balance.

This is a good time to think about how we treat each other. We are all unique and interesting creatures. We all have ideas, beliefs, and thoughts. Some of those thoughts are good for the universe and some of those thoughts are bad for the universe. I understand that it is very easy to get upset when someone puts something down that you believe in so very much. It hurts me too. When I was in middle school, someone made fun of Asians in front of me. My brother is Korean. That really upset me. I punched him! It is not very nice to put down a group of people just because of how they are born, how they look, or something that they believe in. But at the same time, I understand now that it was also not very nice to punch someone! I know that somewhere in this there has to be balance. I don’t know exactly what that is and what that looks like, but I am constantly reminding myself to find that balance even in the hardest times.

Let’s be patient with each other this year. All of us are gonna get through everything that we’re going through. There are peaks and valleys. There are ups and downs. Be patient with the people you interact with in your community. Be patient with the people you interact with on the internet. We are all different, yet I believe that at the core we are all the same. We are all human beings. Think about that.

Life, Three Things

THREE THINGS 2016.2

IT IS COLD

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It is cold these days in Northwest Pennsylvania (NWPA). I don’t really mind it at all. I think the body and the mind shut down a little bit once that happens and we go into a kind of hibernation mode. This is a good thing. Everyone needs some time to gather themselves. Americans especially. We believe that work is something we must constantly be doing. We sometimes work ourselves into the grave.We should probably relax more.

WHY DO WE LIVE THIS WAY?

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The first of the winter heating bills has come in. I’m not too scared of them because money isn’t a real thing and no matter what everything works out in the end. The bills get paid yo. But every time I see this bill (and the water bill and the electric bill and the grocery bill) I always have the same thought: why do human beings have to pay so much money just to stay alive? It seems kind of weird. You have to work to make money to pay bills to keep services operating that keep you alive. I get the whole “well it pays for other people to have jobs argument” but that’s not where I am going here. I think back to when this all started and we created an idea of how modern civilization would look. In my opinion we kind of messed it up.

I think that the kinds of things that help keep us alive should be free. We should share and trade them with each other. I think life may be a little more enjoyable in the long run if we did that.

FINN THE CREATOR

Finn will be seven years old in 11 days. Wow. Recently his obsession has been the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game series. It’s not so much that he enjoys playing the video games (he makes me play them the most) but instead he enjoys the world that the video games take place in. The characters, the locations, the stories, and the theories all float through Finn’s brain every day. Sometimes he’ll dress up as a character and stay in that character all day. Before the holidays he would spend hours making LEGO versions of the characters . His new thing is building clay characters. He uses sculpy modeling clay and some wire to get what he is looking for. It’s pretty amazing! Our house is now full of these great little characters created by Finn. I’m excited to remind him that in first grade his favorite subject was Five Nights at Freddy’s.

Family, Libraries

The Next Few Months

Over the next month of my life, I will be visiting some amazing places to talk about libraries. Next week, I’ll be in Lake Placid, NY for a few days to present at the New York Library Association Conference. After that, I’m home for a week and a half or so and then I’m off again. I’ll be speaking in Wellington, NZ at the 2015 LIANZA Conference and then after that at the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney Australia and then at the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane Australia. I’ll return home right before Thanksgiving, eat a great meal with my family, and that’ll be that.

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I’m posting this picture because I think it is a good example of how my brain feels right now. I am here but I am not here. I am staring into space but at the same time very grounded by the things, people, and places around me. I am very happy but at the same time not happy at all. What is going on?

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I think this is it for me…”it” being a librarian who travels, speaks, goes to conferences, and does all things library outside of their own library. I do like Twitter and this website, so I ain’t giving that up. I like to share ideas and have conversations. But it just feels like the library speaker/conference attendee jig is up. I’ve done it, I’ve enjoyed it, and it is time to move on. I’m at this place mentally where I feel happy about this decision. I’ve been some awesome places, made some awesome friends, and I’ve said what I can say about libraries (tldr: they are awesome, we should focus on our community, and we should continue to try new things that best suit our community).

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I want to be at home more so I don’t miss moments like these: Aero going on a 2 week “I’m going to be a hockey player like my cousin Andrew so I’ll wear hockey outfits everyday” and Finn in his “Five Nights at Freddy’s scares me but all I want to do is play it, watch videos of people playing it, and come up with my own Five Nights at Freddy’s stories while at the same time attempting to play trombone.” These are the days of our lives and I do not want to miss them.

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I think libraries have done a great job at reinventing who they are. People still see us as the place to get books but we’ve also managed to expand our palette. We are community centers where people come together to share. We are lifelong learning centers, committed to helping everyone in our communities grow. We still have some work to do, but when I look back on things I see just how far libraries have come. We are doing it! We still have a ways to go on reinventing ourselves in many other areas: funding, how we organize our staff, our governing bodies, and how we just simply do our work. These are great things for libraries to focus on next. Libraries will get there. I just won’t be as a big part of the conversation.

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This website, my Twitter, and these other “outlets” that are in my name have changed over the years anyways. It’s called Justin The Librarian, but read back and you’ll see just how much the main topic has deviated from libraries. These days it is more about looking at life as a whole, understanding myself, being present in the moment, and being the best human being that I can be. If I were to do it all over again it would be Justin The Human Being or something like that.

Stay tuned. This isn’t the end because it never really ends. It just changes a lot.

Family, Life

I Am Not Part of Your World (aka Things I Have Learned Being an Adult Child in an Adult World)

I am a 35 year old adult child. I am a-ok with this. I like to go on random spur of the moment adventures with my family. I like to sit around in my pajamas all day and play video games. I also like to do my best at my job, pay the bills, and make sure that my family and I are all well fed and taken care of.  You know, adult stuff. I am an adult child.

I know there are a lot of people out there just like me. Heck, I would argue that a majority of my generation falls into this adult child category. I know I’m not alone in the world. I used to think that I was and I was wrong. I’m glad I’ve grown past that point.

I do not feel like I am part of “your world” or whatever that means. If women are from Venus and men are from Mars I am probably from Europa (one of the amazing moons of Jupiter). And I am very happy and proud to be from Europa.

I like to share what I’ve learned so here goes:

  • Nobody has it all figured out. Everyone you see around you and everyone you look up to is just making it up as they go along.
  • We’re all in this together. Yes, we all have our differences in opinion and those differences make us want to yell and scream and possibly punch each other. But in the end, we’re all in this together and if we fail to understand that we may all be screwed.
  • Follow your heart. Michael Stephens taught me this and there is not one day that I am alive where I do not think about this. Be yourself and be proud. Follow those dreams.
  • You are not your parents. I love my parents. They are thoughtful, kind, and in my opinion, the best damn parents in the world. But I am not my parents and you are not your parents. We share the same biological makeup. We also share a lot of the same habits and tendencies. But when it all comes down to it, we are our own person. We have a choice in who we are and who we want to be. We can fully become our parents if we want to and that is ok, or we can also choose to not be our parents. We can see who they are and learn from that.
  • Money is nice. But money is not as important as we make it seem. Money is not the be-all-end-all of who we are. It is nice to have money so that you can eat, purchase clothes to wear, pay your bills, and exist with little to no hassle. Everyone should have enough money to do that.
  • Education matters a lot, says the boy who did not like school and only went to college because his parents did not and he wanted to be different than them. Education impacts who we are and where we get to in our lives. We need to focus more on providing education to all ages. We need to make sure that this education is free and accessible to everyone. We need to embrace lifelong learning in our world. We may be “out of school” but we should never really be out of school.
  • Love everyone at all times even though we have our differences. An open heart and an open mind lead to a better life.
Graphic Novels, Presentations

Thanks Maine Humanities Council and Maine Educators!

I was honored to present at the “Introduction to Visual Literacy: Strategies for “Reading” Art” program offered by the Maine Humanities Council today at Bowdoin College.

You can find my slides below:

Libraries, Misc.

A New Way of Thinking

” The goal is not to convince anyone or change anyone but to have a deepened understanding of each other’s needs and perspectives.”