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)

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.

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.

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.

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries, Technology, Teens

Badges

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I earned all these badges, dagnabit.

Up until a few months ago, I was very bored by the whole idea of issuing badges for completing certain tasks, obtaining new skills, or just doing something in general. Foursquare was the first badge system that I had participated in and, quite frankly, I could’ve cared less about earning new badges.

Enter Mozilla.

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This summer, I worked on some projects with Mozilla, specifically HIVE Chattanooga and the Mozilla Community Gigabit Fund. We helped out with the HIVE NYC Maker Party in the Bronx, NYC, threw our own Maker Party in Chattanooga, TN, and even dabbled around with Webmaker a bit for our Summer Program at the Chattanooga Public Library. All in all, it was an exciting summer filled with great collaboration and great work.

And every once in awhile when some work was completed, I would get an email from Mozilla saying “you earned this badge”. The image you see above shows the badges that I earned over the past few months, and dagnabit, I’m proud of those badges. They look awesome and they share that I’ve been a part of something pretty cool.

Now my outlook on badges has changed. I’m most curious about exploring Mozilla’s Open Badges and how we can use them at the Chattanooga Public Library for not only programs but also volunteers.  Just imagine the kids, tweens, and teens earning badges for being part of their local library. Take that to the next level and you can issue badges for your teen volunteers when they complete certain tasks around the library. When they’re applying for colleges or jobs, they can share those badges to show off the skills they have. Here at the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library our teen volunteers have become our unofficial “3D Printing Gurus”. They walk the patrons that are curious about 3D printing through the process from beginning to end.

Now just imagine if we gave them a badge to show how they’ve learned this particular skill. That’s some next level awesome library stuff we’re talking about here!

 

 

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries, Management, Teens

Library Management Stuff from an Up And Coming Library Manager Type Person

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About a week ago I saw this tweet from the great Cate Levinson @storytiming. We talked about management and supervision in libraries over email and it was a great conversation…so great that it got me thinking that I really needed to share my most recent library management and supervision stories and lessons learned here on the blog.

Folks, let me tell you: my transition towards a lot more library management hasn’t been easy. I’ve messed up a lot. But on the other hand I’ve been a part of some pretty rad things. It has a lot been stressful. I think about all of the little intricacies in libraries and how to make the 2nd Floor even more awesome a lot more than I used to. For example: I woke up from a small nap this past Saturday and my first thought was “OMG. I NEED TO SUBMIT THE PAYROLLL…TODAY!” when in reality payroll was due on Monday (and it got in on time!).

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Here are the lessons that I have learned:

  1. Always get payroll and scheduling and all that important behind the scenes stuff in on time. There are other employees whose work depends on you completing a task. If your part is not done, their part cannot be done and that just rocks the whole boat. Speaking of which…
  2. Think of the library as one big giant organism. This was hard for me coming from a youth services background. It’s not all about the kids, tweens, and teens. In order for the library to work, you have to think about how anything you do affects everything that everyone else does.  Sure, the 2nd Floor is a 14,000 square foot space for kids, tweens, and teens.  But what happens on the 2nd Floor may affect everyone else in the library. How do I be respectful to others while still giving the age group I primarily focus on the best possible service? That’s a tricky one, but if you give it enough thought and care you will get there.
  3. Your mood as the manager/supervisor sets the tone. Are you stressed out? Are you being negative?  If you are, get ready for that to come back to you from the library staff.  Set a positive tone in the work environment.  Keep your employees shielded from the stuff that may cause them stress that doesn’t directly involve their work.
  4. Piggybacking on that last one: keep your employees well informed about what is happening but also remember…not everyone needs to know everything…AND THIS IS OK! You as a manager and supervisor are not hiding away information from the people you work with.  You are giving them what they need to know and keeping the rest where it needs to be.  Yes, information overload is a real thing and it can have a harmful effect on the work environment.
  5. Work well with others: you will be working with everyone in the library. Everyone has their jobs and they are all trying to do them to the best of their ability. Thank everyone for what they do. Be patient with everyone that you work with. Remember that we are all in this together.
  6. Finally, and I think this is super important: HAVE FUN. Work does not need to be super stressful. Work should be fun. It should not just be a place that pays the bills. It should be a place that encourages your heart and your mind to grow. It should make you smile.

 

PS: Sometimes I like to refer to myself as Mister Manager just because of this

 

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries, Presentations, Teens, Travel

Library Futures Seminar at the Louisville Public Library

Hello all!  I am in Louisville, KY today as part of a Libraries Futures Seminar at the Louisville Public Library organized by the very awesome June Garcia and Susan Kent.  I’ll be talking about Kids/Tweens/Teens and the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library.  I am so very honored to be part of this great event!

Here are my slides. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below!