Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Relevant at Any Size

Relevant at Any Size: The Lifeline

Welcome to my latest series, titled Relevant at Any Size, where the focus of the posts will be on small, small-ish, and rural libraries and what they’re doing and overall what they mean to the communities they serve. I enjoyed creating what amounts to a column with the A New Career in a New Town series so we’re gonna try that themed format with these posts once again. I also want to thank Andrew Cano for the title. I struggled with this title for (more on that later) a workshop I will be offering at the 2018 NLA/NSLA Joint Conference and Andrew came up with it. Brilliant!

I’ve been at my library now for three years and in that time I have come to see two things about small/rural libraries:

They are a lifeline, a vital resource in connecting these small/rural communities to the rest of our country.

We open our doors at the Benson Memorial Library every morning and for the 8-11 hours we are open that day we see it all. We still check out a lot of physical books and movies to community members. We help them scan, fax, and copy important documents they need to for their lives. We get them on the internet so they can do what they need. We connect them to their families through our local history and genealogy services. We provide the youth in our region with free events and a space to socialize, relax, and grow. All of this may seem like little things to the casual observer and the people who question why we still have libraries, but when you see day in and day out the importance these “little things” have on the lives of these people you start to understand how vital libraries are to small/rural communities these days. They connect people to something that they’re seeking. That something is different for every person that walks through the door, but that something is extremely important in building a happy, healthy, and growing community. Actions, kindness, and day to day tasks matter. When the public library is there to help an individual and then this is multiplied thousand of times each week, positivity spreads through a community. When there is positivity, there is growth and forward motion. This metric cannot be measured easily (if at all), but we all know it is there. And in the small/rural communities of America, this growth and forward motion is much needed in the world we live in today. My hope is that if we can share our stories about the happenings in small/rural public libraries that we can get to a point where people better understand the lifeline these libraries create for their communities.

They’re not talked about as much as they should in the professional library sphere.

One of the things that I’ve noticed during my time working in a small/rural public library was that there seems to be a very large lack of coverage about what’s happening in these types of libraries. In our library land professional publications, what’s pushed to the forefront is often the latest, greatest, and biggest libraries and their events and initiatives. While I believe there is good things that come from seeing the things these bigger public libraries are doing (inspiration!) at the same time when there is a focus just on the biggest libraries it creates a gap in how public libraries see themselves. After seeing only big public library stuff in the professional library sphere, small/rural public libraries and their librarians start to say things like “well that’s good for them, but I could never pull that off” or “it would take us years to get there”. These comments, built up over enough time, bring a negativity to the profession and the conversation around libraries. It creates a gap between the libraries that can do stuff and the libraries that want to do stuff but can’t seem to pull it off due to any number of factors.

We should talk more about what small/rural public libraries are doing and also what they can do with a little effort. When we share these stories and these ideas, we start to break down the myth that small/rural libraries are behind the times and are inferior to the big, cutting edge stuff of the bigger public libraries out there. Small/rural libraries are providing extremely necessary and important services day to day and at the same time there are many of them providing some new, cutting edge ideas for their communities. They’re just not talked about enough. Let’s fix that. Do you work in a small/rural public library and have something to share? Email me at this email address and we can have a chat. I’ll then take that chat and put it up here on this website under the Relevant at Any Size category. Let’s share our ideas, our programs, our events, and how we as small/rural public libraries are doing important work.

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With that, I’d like to bring attention to the image in this post. This was a Facebook message sent to our library from someone that recently visited our area. Here’s what stood out to me:

“…while visiting from out of town, I was in need of several services that the library offered. I was pleasantly surprised at the types of services offered considering it is located in a small town. The most impressive in my opinion was the ability to self transfer VHS tapes to digital format at no charge. I live in a large city and not only do the libraries not offer this ability, you would have to take them to someone else and pay them to do it. The staff at the library were all very kind, knowledgeable and willing to help.”

I’m sharing this because it highlights what I mentioned above: there are small/rural public libraries out there providing new, cutting edge ideas for their communities and these are the public libraries leading the way forward. Innovation isn’t something that just happens at the big public libraries. It happens in all public librarians. If you are a small/public librarian and you are reading this, I hope that this provides you with the inspiration to go out there and do whatever you heart compels you to do for your library. Because guess what? YOU and YOUR library are great, and you can do whatever you want.

This October, I will head to Lincoln, NE to be part of the 2018 NLA/NSLA Joint Conference where I will give a Preconference Workshop with the same name as these posts. I am excited about this, as it has been a few years since I’ve done a workshop like this and it will be the first time doing a workshop on this topic. I kind of got stuck in a rut with talking about Youth Services and all of the things that happened at the Chattanooga Public Library when it came to keynotes and workshops. I felt burned out. This opportunity will change that, and I hope it will also add a great deal of inspiration to the small/rural librarians out there that want to take their library game to the next level.

Relevant at Any Size: Strategic Thinking for Small and Rural Libraries
Small and Rural Libraries are not just little libraries lost out in the middle of nowhere: they are the centers of their community, providing essential resources to so many Americans. Even though budgets these days are flat and libraries are being asked to do more, these libraries are  the ones doing some of the most essential community based work in the country. Be it through their programs, their personalized services, or the simple day to day things they do for their guests, small and rural libraries are making an impact and helping many Americans navigate the many changes in our modern society. In this workshop, attendees will learn new strategies, program ideas, and customer service ideas for how their small and rural library can make the leap to the next level of library service for their community without busting the budget or needing more staff.

Nebraska, I look forward to seeing you in October and to all the readers here I look forward to sharing these stories with you over the next few months.

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Libraries, Online Identity

Podcast: Chatting with Turbitt and Duck

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Last week I had a great early morning for me late night for them chat with Amy Walduck and Sally Turbitt, better known to librarians and podcasters as the great Turbitt & Duck for their most excellent podcast of the same name. I loved this chat and I’m happy now that you can listen in on our chat now that Episode 15 of their podcast is live. Head on over to their website and give it a listen.

Amy and Sally are great people. I first met Amy back when I visited the State Library of Queensland in 2015 and I have been connected to Sally online for quite a few years now. Both of them show a great passion for what libraries do right now and what they can do in the future. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and they are the kind of talented and creative people I think I want in my life. We chatted about everything that seems to be on my mind these days: creativity, gardens, work, family, positivity, working in a small town library, and a lot more.  I hope you enjoy the podcast.

I’ll also put in a nice plug for their Facebook group THE FISH POND. It’s a great place to chat with other librarians and share ideas. I usually get really overwhelmed by library Facebook groups. They’re either way too big or they get super gossipy and dramatic. This one doesn’t do any of those things and it just feels right. The energy is there.

Follow Turbitt & Duck on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TurbittNDuck

Listen via Apple Podcasts here

Listen via Android Podcasts here

RSS Feed for Turbitt & Duck Podcasts

And here’s every other possible way to listen and subscribe

Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Titusville, PA

Change The World With Positivity

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As I wandered into 2018 something inside of me felt off. I was not the Justin that I was just a few years ago and overall I was not on a path that allowed me to contribute towards a positive world. A lot of things in my life contributed to this. My family and I moved into a wonderful property that required more work than we expected. The long term effects of crippling student loan debt really hit my mind in a hard way. I questioned my role as a librarian and I questioned the profession as a whole, wondering if I was strong enough to do the work and if the profession as a whole had lost its overall focus. The country where I live entered a stage of great uncertainty, upheaval, and confusion. My immediate world and the greater world around me was off its axis. I let things be and thought it would correct itself, but it did not happen and that was when I realized that inside of myself I had the energy to make necessary changes towards a positive future.

I envision a world where all humans recognize that the energy they have inside of them can be used for good. I believe that positivity, creativity, and love are the three major things that we as humans should be focused on at all times. I believe that if there were enough of us that understood this and acted in such a way where our lives focused on positivity, creativity, and love that we would have the momentum to shift the trajectory of the world towards a brighter future.

I found out that I have the energy in myself to make necessary changes towards a positive future. To start, I had to understand this concept and then put it into practice. I put that into practice by saying these lines out loud to myself

  • I will work hard to have my heart and my head aligned.
  • I will express a message of positivity and convey this message to others through my words, both written and spoken.
  • I will encounter many different humans on my journey, and no matter what the situation is I will approach every single human being with a positive message.
  • I will understand that sometimes I may stumble along the way, but that I have the energy in myself to refocus.