Who Wants to Work With Me? (August 2016 Edition)

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Hello World! I am looking for a most excellent Youth Services Librarian to come work with us at the Benson Memorial Library in Titusville, PA. If you like small towns where everyone knows everyone else, where you can walk around the whole town in just an hour or so, enjoy scenic trails, and great community members who are all willing to work together, this is a great town for you. Our library employs 7 (nine total) fantastic human beings who are dedicated to doing amazing, positive work for the community. We may be small and we may not have all of the time in the world, but we try our best. I’ll be your boss and I promise to be as nice and awesome and supportive as possible. I’m a human being so sometimes I may let you down but I promise that no matter what we will work together.

Interested? Here’s the listing!

The Benson Memorial Library is now hiring a full time Youth Services Librarian. The primary responsibility of this position is to implement and maintain services for ages 0-18 as well as to provide excellent customer service for parents & caregivers. This position involves working directly with youth, parents or caregivers, community organizations, and partners of the library. This Youth Services Librarian must have a strong knowledge of youth services in libraries, emerging technology trends, and be dedicated to the community of Titusville, PA.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Prepare and present weekly events and programs at the Benson Memorial Library for ages 0-18 including after-school programs.
  • Engage in outreach to schools, day cares, preschools, and other community organizations and agencies serving youth.
  • Select all library materials for youth ages 0-18.
  • Maintain the Youth Services collection by withdrawing used and outdated materials.
  • Develop and oversee all aspects of the yearly summer program.
  • Maintain and use technology related to Youth Services including iPads, 3D Printers, and more.
  • Maintain Youth Services areas in the library and keep it updated to give library visitors a welcoming and amazing experience.
  • Public Service and Circulation Desk assistance.
  • Assist patrons with any library related needs.

The ideal Youth Services Librarian will:

  • Be able to create great relationships with youth ages 0-18 and their parents and caregivers.
  • Demonstrate a knowledge and appreciation for all areas related to youth services in libraries.
  • Be a responsive and proactive employee and value personal customer service.
  • Embrace and promote imagination, innovation and inspiration in both the work setting and in the Titusville community.
  • Work as part of an amazing team that is committed to community of Titusville, PA and work to establish the Benson Memorial Library as a leader in the community.
  • Collaborate and work with public and other staff members in a pleasant and professional manner.
  • Possess strong working knowledge of technology and current trends in library services.
  • Have the physical ability and strength to bend, reach, lift and carry (up to 25 lbs.) at times.

Education Requirements:

  • A college degree is preferred, a Master’s Degree in Library science or Education is highly desirable.
  • Experience working with youth ages 0-18 and their parents and caregivers.

This position is full time, including potential evenings and Saturday shifts. Salary will be dependent on qualifications. Health/Retirement benefits included.

PLEASE NOTE: The following is a guideline as to what is intended for this position. Additional duties may be asked of this position.

Please submit a letter of interest and resume to Executive Director Justin Hoenke via email at justin.hoenke@ccfls.org or via mail at 213 N. Franklin Street Titusville, PA 16354.

Food Stamps, the Feeling of Failure, Student Loans, and Life as a Library

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Last week, Haley and I applied for food stamps. Our family, which has been going on strong for 11 years and now includes 2 awesome kids, Haley’s mom, our dog Sonic, 3 chickens, and 2 rabbits, have hit a period in our journey where we couldn’t do it without help anymore.

I know that there’s a reason I pay taxes. They are there to help….my family and I, others in need, and more. This is one of those situations where we needed help. I understand this very well. I am all for taxes that help out others in my community. We are all in this together and together we can do amazing things. At the same time there’s a stigma that comes from applying for and using food stamps: that somehow you’ve failed, you’re lazy, or you’re just downright an average human being. I try to have a healthy mind and outlook on everything, but I’ve gotta admit that I’ve fallen into this pit recently. I’m a 36 year old human being, I’ve got a wonderful job which I’m pretty good at, an amazing and happy family, and I’ve done some other things that I’m also really proud of. But here I am at this point where I feel like a failure just because I need some help. It shouldn’t be this way.

We’ve used the support of food stamps before. When Haley and I first got married, we were finishing up college. We both had part time jobs in addition to our full time school workload. The food stamps helped out a lot. Back then, the feeling of being a complete failure because you’re on food stamps wasn’t as big as it is now. Having a family and needing food stamps feels like you’ve hit the bottom. I think about this feeling that I’m having and then I think about all of the others out there who are on food stamps, especially those with families just like mine. What happens when you have all of those people out there in the same situation? You have millions of people out there feeling that they’ve lost all hope, that they’re somehow pathetic, and that they’ve failed. You have millions of people who feel like shit just for wanting to make sure their family doesn’t go hungry. When you have that many people feeling bad in the country, those bad vibes add up. It can’t be proved, but I really think the general malaise surrounding things in our country is somehow related to feelings like this.

On our end, I know that student loan debt is crippling. We’re both on programs that give us flexibility with our payments (income based repayment). While these do help, it’s still tough to have around $100K of debt total hanging over your head just because you went to college, got an education, and pursued a career in something you felt could make a difference in the world. I also understand the argument “well, you went into college knowing full well what would happen.” I’ve heard this many times before. I can see it from two sides: of course I knew (something) about how I’d be in debt once I left college. When I went, they told us about it. Did they tell us the specifics? Sort of kind of maybe not. I started college in 1998 and at that time it was just “oh yeah, you’ll have some debt but it’ll be OK because you’ll be a college graduate.” Most of us became the first great generation of student loan debt holders. And we’re still here! * Can America Afford This Approach to Solving Student Loan Debt? (it’s behind a paywall, but it is a great read) by Haley Sweetland Edwards is a great read that sums up the collective “wow, so much student loan debt”weight of a generation.

The amount of money we spend on student loan debt per month could help us in a lot of ways (FYI: it is around $337/month). First up: it could help with the grocery bills, thus giving us enough money to not go down the food stamp route. Second: it could help with the startup of Fidelia Hall. Have you ever tried starting up a business or a non-profit? Maybe I’m really stupid, but it’s really difficult and confusing…and it costs a lot. Just this week, our Fictitious Name Registration cost us $70 to file an application, $41 to advertise the application in our local newspaper, and $75 to advertise the application in a legal journey. That’s $186, and we’d still have $151 to spend this month on something else (groceries! Fidelia Hall repairs and infrastructure!) What am I trying to get towards? The debt we’re saddling people with for school, health care, and more are crippling us. They’re crippling us mentally. They make us not want to get out of bed. They make us want to sit around and do nothing when what we really want to do is something, because I believe that all human beings (no matter which political side they are on) just want to get things done for their communities. They’re also crippling our ability to move forward and do better things for our communities. You can’t start up a business/non-profit when you don’t have time or money.**

I better wrap this up. We just hit 1,000 words.

I’m not asking for a raise. I’m not asking for donations. I’m not even asking for an “oh man I feel you.” I just wanted to get this out there so that if you’re in a situation similar to this that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We’re here. We’re successful. We’re pretty happy. We’re in debt and we’re also on food stamps.

*On a side note, I remember credit card companies and banks lining up at the dining halls doing everything they can (“here! have a free beach ball for taking our credit card!”) to get students signed up for their first horrible credit card. They succeeded with me and so many other of my friends.

**Go ahead and leave a comment telling me to suck it up and “pull myself up by the bootstraps just like an American would. I’ve been trying to do this for years. This is just what my Dad said and continues to say. But there’s more to it than “sucking it up” or “taking it like a man” or “pulling up your bootstraps”. There has to be some give and take.

 

It’s OK to…

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I found this on Reddit yesterday and had to share it with the library community. Why? It is one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time. Just imagine working in a place that put this right out there from day one and stuck to it. That would be amazing.

Sometimes this kind of stuff just has to be said out loud. I really like It’s ok to stay at home when you feel ill. I can’t tell you how many times the people I’ve worked with in the past have come to work sick. Why? You are sick! You have sick time! Take care of yourself.

I myself will be copying this list and modifying for my place of work. I want my employees to enjoy their jobs and to let them know that we’re all in this together.

Your Title is Meaningless

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When I first became a Library Director someone said this to me: “That’s awesome! You’ll never have to deal with the public in the day to day stuff again!” to which I just kind of nodded and changed the subject. What in the world were they talking about? I’m a librarian! The public is my job! I couldn’t foresee a day where I didn’t deal with the public. I had been working directly with the public for about 10 years of my life.

Then someone told me that I should view myself as a “Non Profit Executive Director.” That sounds fancy, doesn’t it? They asked me this question: “Do Non Profit Executive Directors spend their time working directly with the public?” Their answer was no: Non Profit Executive Directors were focused on big picture stuff! Strategic Planning! Vision! Don’t waste your precious mental energy with the details.

I am writing this post because I have something to say about all of that: I think it is a bunch of crap.

If you are or want to work in libraries, your first thought at all times should be on the public that you serve. From the shelvers to the circulation desk to those running library programs to the director, our focus should always be public facing. What does that mean to me? To me, that means not having an office away from everyone. To me, that means helping out with every possible thing that I can help out with from time to time.

I don’t like titles that much. I have always had this rebellious streak inside of me. I am not this or that and you are also not this or that. In the end, we’re all just people trying to do our best in our day to day lives. Read this article about a recent black hole that the Hubble Space Telescope found and tell me that you think otherwise.  We’re all just little blips in this much bigger thing. To get hung up on titles and roles seems silly. It doesn’t mean that much in the great grand scheme of things.

Last night I looked at the moon as I drove my sons home from their hockey class. The moon was so huge and beautiful. I pointed it out to my son Finn and he was amazed at its beauty and power. I started to think about it; what if the moon just started falling from the sky and crashed into earth? We’d all be gone. Everything that we’ve created would be gone. Nothing would be left and all that we’ve worked hard at creating (both physical and mental) would have no record of having ever existed. That’s another reason why I think titles are dumb. I encourage you to be a human being and make an impact in this moment.

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Aero is four and he loves hockey

Do stuff with your life! Do it now and do it well! Are you holding yourself back because you didn’t go to college? Are you holding yourself back because you believe that you are  above” a certain task? Forget about that! Do it! If you’re working in a library right now go shelve some books or talk to a patron. Do something! Do it all!

Work Environments, Happiness, and Human Beings

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Two really great articles about work environments and employee happiness came out this weekend, both via the NY Times:

When You’re in Charge, Your Whisper May Feel Like a Shout

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace

I liked these articles a lot as it really jives well with what I’ve been thinking these past few months: leadership sets the tone of the workplace, and that tone is KEY to the success or failure of the organization. Success and failure are very loose terms and ideas that have varying definitions, but to me success means that you have happy employees and happy library users that have positive experiences in the library. Failure, in my opinion, are library employees and users that are generally unhappy to be in the library.

These articles also make me think about how I say things and what I say to my employees. I think openness and honesty are two great practices to put in place. Talk about what’s going on behind the scenes and how board meetings are going. Talk about grants, budgets, and more. Be open and be honest. Don’t paint a horrible picture of doom and gloom even if things are tough in the moment. We work in libraries, and what a great place they are to work at! We let people borrow things! We share things with our community! It is a great job.

I don’t believe in the whole “competition leads to great innovations” idea fully. Yes, I think competition does lead to innovation but I think it also leads to employee unhappiness and burnout. That is something that I think should be the focus of our conversations. People and their lives and happiness are much more important than innovation. Humans adapt to so much. Sometimes that change takes awhile but we always get to where we are going. Unhappiness and depression caused by stress can have lasting and devastating effects. Depression is a horrible thing that no one should have to experience, especially depression that is caused by a work environment.

You are not your job. You are an awesome human being.

Here’s What a Kids/Tween/Teen Library Looks Like in 2014

The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library at 2pm on June 24, 2014.
The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library at 2pm on June 24, 2014.

What’s going on here in this photo taken at 2pm on Tuesday June 24, 2014 on The 2nd Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library?

  • A day camp visits the library. 30 kids and 5 camp counselors.
  • The V-Mission: Natural Disasters LiSTEM program, a partnership between the Chattanooga Public Library and the Challenger STEM Learning Center.
  • Two outside workers installing Aerohive Wireless Routers to improve wireless access on the 2nd Floor.
  • An unknown (but significant) number of walk in patrons looking for items and using library services.
  • A number of kids, tweens, and teens enjoying open and free video gaming in the 2nd Floor Arcade.
  • A group of three tweens learning about 3D printing.
  • 3 staff members located in this area of the 2nd Floor, with another 2 in the area focused on ages 0-7.

Why do I share this? Because I want to show what the modern kid/tween/teen library looks like in 2014.  It is:

  • Busy
  • Chaotic
  • Full of people
  • Noisy
  • Energetic
  • Curious
  • Messy
  • A work in progress
  • A place where all kinds of learning and literacy happen
  • A place for everyone in the community
  • Fun

This is what the kid/tween/teen library looks like in 2014. It may not look like this in 2015, but that’s OK. The kid/tween/teen library looks like what the community needs it to look like.  This is us on the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library. What do you look like?

What Does a Librarian Look Like/Do?

I submit this for any past, present, and future THIS IS WHAT A LIBRARIAN LOOKS LIKE/THIS IS WHAT A LIBRARIAN DOES AT WORK blogs/tumblrs/contests/get togethers that happen.

We hang out.  We talk. We have fun.