Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Management, Tales From The Library Trenches

Tales From the Library Trenches, Part 1: Learning to Adapt


Head on over to Information Today and check out part one of my new series for their publication, titled Tales From The Library TrenchesI’m really jazzed to have a feature with Information Today…they’re a cool publication and they’ve been really wonderful to work with. I’m also really happy they’ve put this feature up on their site for everyone to read free of charge. That’s so very kind of them to do!

I’ve created this category (click!) to keep all of the writings in this series together. Stay tuned for more!


Benson Memorial Library, Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Music, Three Things, Video Games

THREE THINGS 2017.1 (Mini Deluxe Edition)

  • I am very uninspired with library work. I have two major projects in my mind for the Benson Memorial Library but I feel stuck. The projects are: bringing high speed fiber internet into the library and repairing and renovating our Community Room. Both of these projects are much needed and would be well received by the community. I am having a hard time finding the funds to pull these projects off which then leads to a general malaise inside of me that festers with time. Money and the lack of it really holds things back. My brain then reacts to being held back in a negative way. I want the path forward to be clear and positive, yet money is always standing in the way. I’ve researched grants, foundation money, and other paths but nothing is clicking. Maybe it will click soon enough. In the meantime, I am right here sitting at my desk feeling like the end of libraries is right around the corner.
  • I am still very excited by disco. When I use the term “disco” what I really mean is the following: Music from the NYC club THE SAINT, Sleaze/Morning Music, Italo Disco, and everything else in between.
  • I have signed a contract to provide a library related news platform with 6 articles/pieces from now until June 2017. Writing is something that I enjoy doing and the challenge to come up with a 2,000 word piece has been tough but ultimately rewarding. I’d love to write more of these. Heck, maybe someday I would like to be my full time job. I enjoy the opportunity to craft all of the thoughts inside my brain into well structured sentences. I also enjoy talking to others, getting their insight into the topic I am writing about, and sharing their story. There are so many good people out there.
  • One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is to do our laundry.I have developed a system in which I tackle certain segments of the laundry one at a time. It helps me manage the flow of work to be done and provides a good feeling once each segment is done.
  • I am not happy with my weight. I am over 200 lbs for the first time in my life and my body does not feel good. While I do not have the world’s best eating/exercising regiment, I feel as if I’m doing pretty well. There is room for improvement and I will get there.
  • I am well over 50 hours into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the Nintendo Switch and I still cannot recommend this game enough. It is what I’d call a perfect video game: a marriage of great gameplay, visuals, sound, and experience. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or where you are headed in the game. You will be amazed every step of the way.
  • And finally, the rehabbing of Fidelia Hall continues. At a recent auction, we acquired 8 radiators, 3 steel doors, 1 set of track lighting, and 1 hot water heater for $125. My mother and father also made one of the nicest donations to us: they got a furnace for our downstairs space. Both of these things were so very inspiring in the restoration process. The next steps look something like this: repair and paint the tin ceiling downstairs, repair and varnish the floor downstairs, install and hook up gas pipes to our new downstairs furnace, build a bathroom downstairs, repair/install new outlets and light switches downstairs, and finally rip out the upstairs radiators and install our newly acquired radiators. The work never ends, but the end product will be glorious for our family and the community so I am OK with the process.
“Don’t talk, take my hand and let me hear your heart beat” -Brian Wilson and Tony Asher



“The Importance of Connecting” over at the State Library of Queensland Blog

A panoramic view of the first level of the State Library of Queensland. This is probably my all time favorite entrance to a library. It perfectly blends the outside world with the inside world of the library.

I was super honored to be asked by the State Library of Queensland to write a guest blog post for the new blog. I got a chance to visit their amazing library in November 2015 and I was blown away! Not only is the building amazing, but the people working inside it are some of the kindest, most forward thinking people I have ever met.

Here’s my favorite part from that piece, and you can read the rest of The Importance of Connecting here.

Just look at your local library and the slate of public events happening there: story time, crafts, book groups, and public art events. The specifics of these events are what bring people into the library, but it is the connection to each other that is the important thing that community members take away from these events.

These connections come in all forms: the parent who meets another parent at a story time and is able to share the joys and frustrations


Once Upon a Long Ago

Once Upon a Long Ago by Paul McCartney. Great song


Once upon a long ago I was part of with JP Porcaro. We started the website up to talk about video gaming in libraries. It was awesome for a bit, then we got a chance to write a book, it never happened, we had a mild falling out, and then balance was restored to the force and we’re all just doing our things these days. It was really neat to talk about video games in libraries. You can read some of the old 8BitLibrary here:

Anywho we were going to write a book and it didn’t happen. I remember that we had these great chats about what we wanted the book to be: honest, funny, and informative. We didn’t want to write another book on library services that would just be outdated by the time it was printed. So when we wrote, we dug deep and tried to make the book as enjoyable as possible.

I’ve been thinking about this book recently so I went back and read my contributions. It was nice to read them even in their very unfinished state. I think we were onto something…the melding of professional ideas, honesty, passion about video gaming in libraries, and just a fun, casual atmosphere in a book form. I think it would’ve been a fun read.

I’m going to share one chapter below. It’s totally unfinished but it’s the best example of raw Justin honesty, passion about video games in libraries, and a semi young person trying to do his best to change his little sliver of the world. Enjoy.


I was a huge fan of baseball growing up.  I closely followed my hometown team (the Pittsburgh Pirates) and on my own time kept a detailed log of players statistics and other information.When it came to playing baseball, that was another thing.  Honestly, I was horrible at the game and was the kind of kid that you’d just stick out in left field and hope that no one would have the power to hit a ball out there.  I had more fun sitting on the bench watching the game and helping the coach keep track of the stats.  What I’m trying to get to here is that I had a passion for the game and wanted so desperately to be part of it in any way I could.  Passion has a strong power over people.  It makes you do things  you otherwise didn’t feel like you could do.

I feel like libraries have the same kind of passion I had with baseball when it comes to adding video games to their collection. We all want to do it for our patrons.

However like baseball, life throws you curve balls and sometimes these can get you off track.  I had my curve ball thrown to me in 1989 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA.  Somehow, I ended up at Three Rivers Stadium that day as one of about 50 Pittsburgh area kids chosen to learn how to play baseball from the players on the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Dressed in my finest ball playing garb with my Pirates hat and my ever trusty baseball glove, I marched out onto the field ready to suck up anything that these pros would teach me.

Midway through, we were led to center field where Bobby Bonilla, the Pirates third baseman/outfielder, was teaching kids how to correctly catch a pop up.  He gave a brief overview to us and I hung onto every word.  After all, this was Bobby Bonilla!  He played for the Pirates!  I have his baseball card!  We formed a line and Bobby went through tossing pop ups to each kid.  Eventually, it was my turn.  I stood in front of Bobby and nodded just after he asked “Ready?”.  This was my time to shine.

The ball missed my glove, but I caught it…with my nose.

Long story short: Bobby Bonilla broke my nose that day, and I cried my eyes out and bleed all over the outfield of Three Rivers Stadium.  I left shortly after Bobby had apologized and autographed his weapon of choice for me.  I never looked at baseball the same way after that day.  Baseball was damaged goods and there was no looking back.  I moved on with my life and got into other things.  Baseball, the sport that was once central to my upbringing, now was just something I dabbled in.

You’re going to have your broken nose moment with your video game collection.  It’s gonna come in the form of someone in your community questioning why the library is offering such a service.  It’s gonna hurt like a broken nose too.  All the work, research, and  passion you put into the collection will be questioned and doubted by the people using your library.  “Isn’t the library about reading and teaching?”  “What do video games have to do with this?”  Time to wipe off the blood and get back to business.  One of our hopes with this book is to provide you with enough arsenal to provide a rational and educated comeback to these types of comments (keep on reading!).  Right now, we’re here to tell you that situations like this are not the end of the world.

Remember when I talked about how I hung onto every word that Bobby said as he taught us how to catch pop ups?  Looking back on it, I realize that that’s where things went wrong.  I listened too carefully Bobby talk about how to catch a pop up instead of taking in the information, quickly digesting it, and applying it to the real life situation.  This happens a lot in the library world when it comes to conferences.  We spend a lot of time taking in what the presenters are saying in the form of scribbled notes which we set aside until we get time to go through them a few days/weeks later.  At that time, the initial passion has faded and many of the notes are now nothing but random words that mean nothing to you.  You have to listen, but don’t listen too much.  Instead, act on the initial passion that you have.  If you’re listening to one of us speak at a conference or webinar, we urge you to take a few notes and then go back to your library THAT DAY and make something happen.  Put together a list of ten video games that you’re going to buy that week for your collection.  Write a press release announcing that the addition of video games to the library collection.  Get the project started using that initial momentum you feel inside of you.

Chattanooga Public Library, Chattanooga, TN, Family, Keynotes, Libraries, Management, Music, Presentations, Social Media, Travel

Catch Up

I haven’t had the chance to give a lot of the great events/happenings/moments going on in the world around me a proper post so I’m gonna play catch up with one great giant post full of beautiful, wonderful, and awesome things.

1)  The 2nd Floor has been busy growing!  We just hired Rebecca Zarazan Dunn and Jessie Meyer to join the team.  They’ll be working with us to keep on providing awesome things to kids, tweens, and teens.  Look for more awesome things on the horizon.

2) Last Summer, the excellent Warren Cheetham visited the USA and specifically Chattanooga to learn about Ubiquitous Superfast Broadband as part of his VALA Travel Scholarship.  It was so rad to hang out with Warren and here’s a great paper written by the man himself about his travels.  I highly suggest you read it to get a glimpse into where (some) US cities and the entire country of Australia are heading.  A brave new world indeed.

3. TRAVEL!  And lots of it.  For the first time in my life I have frequent flyer miles.  I gave my first keynote for the UNCG LIS Alumni earlier this year, the Texas Library Association Conference was one of the best I’ve ever attended, the School Library Journal Think Tank in Nashville, TN brought together some of the greatest Youth Services Librarians in our field today to talk and brainstorm about our future, and I’m heading off to Strathmore, Alberta, Canada and Baltimore, MD to give two more keynotes!  It’s so exciting to chat with so many new people and share ideas.

Here’s what it looks like from the stage.  Fun and equally terrifying stuff indeed:
2014-04-09 10.22.24

4) Back to the 2nd Floor: it is rockin’!  ZZ Top style rockin’! Megan Emery keeps pushing the boundaries of what makes up a library program with her  programs on the 2nd Floor (see this and this) and Lee, Vicki, Bev, Kaye, Olga, Emmy, and Bobbi keep adding to our stellar children’s programs with new ideas like SENSORY STORYTIME and our collaboration with the most excellent  MUSE OF FIRE project. It’s getting better all the time.  The future of Youth Services looks great and it’s just gonna keep on getting better.  Here’s the secret: it’s all about providing neat opportunities to kids, tweens, teens, and families.  Gone are the days where we divided up our populations.  Together, we can offer the world.

5) Chattanooga has loads of great visitors, and I really enjoyed meeting with the team from the Aarhaus Folkelab.  They’re offering a new outlook on what libraries can be for their community.  I especially like the gifts they gave the Chattanooga staff when they visited….multi purpose tools!  This is the new library card!  Imagine that!

2014-05-05 08.26.48

6) Life is good.  We stay in our yard a lot, tending to the garden, digging with Finn and Aero, throwing the ball to Sonic, and just enjoying life.  Chattanooga is great.  The transition to life in the South has gone well.  The transition towards more responsibility, management, and other things in the library for me has gone well.  Bumps in the road?  Yes.  Minor freak outs where I don’t believe in myself?  Of course.  But like everything in life, we will all get to where we need to get to.


I think that is all I have for now. I am most likely missing something big but that means I can just write another post sooner.  Everyone should listen to the first three ZZ Top albums.

Love, Justin




Libraries, Social Media

This is big: David Lankes releases “Demanding Better Libraries For Today’s Complex World” on Medium


Interested in reading David Lankes great book “Demanding Better Libraries For Today’s Complex World”???  Well now you can, for free, over at the excellent site Medium.

I think this is huge.  Why?  Medium is something I can see becoming a very big tool on the internet for sharing information.

1. I’ve been dabbling with Medium for some time.  To me, it feels like the next step in the evolution of blogging/writing online.

2. I’ve never really been clear on what Medium can be.  Is it a site for blog like writing?  It is a site for simple sharing?  Is it a site for long form publishing?  David releasing his ENTIRE book on Medium shows me that Medium is ANYTHING that we want it to be.

3. It has amazing design.  Articles published on Medium look beautiful and are easy to read.  The interface for the writer (statistics, collections, etc) are easy to manage and great to browse.

Once again, David Lankes has put himself out ahead of the curve in the library world and released a full (and amazing) book on Medium.  This isn’t one of those “this could be big” moments.  This is one of those “THIS IS BIG” moments.

And one final thing: I really love how David handled this question on Twitter:


Libraries, Social Media, Technology

Statistics: Blogging VS Medium

Here are the stats for a post I made on Medium two days ago (click to enlarge)
Here are the stats for a post I made on Medium two days ago (click to enlarge)
Here are the stats for the 15 most popular posts on this blog from Nov 2009 to Present (click to enlarge)
Here are the stats for the 15 most popular posts on this blog from Nov 2009 to Present (click to enlarge)

In two days, my post on Medium about Teen Tech Trends has been viewed 926 times and read 589.  Based on my crude mathematics, that’s 295 views per day.

In three years, my most popular post on this blog was viewed/read 15,045 times.  Based on my crude mathematics, that’s 14 views per day.

I don’t know what this means.  There are lots of variables that could be factored into this like tracking how many times these stories have been tweeted/liked/+1’d and more.

It could mean absolutely nothing or it could be a sign of a shift in how we write/share things on the internet.

No matter what, I thought that these statistics were pretty interesting.