Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Music, Titusville, PA, Video Games

2017 Year In Review

PAST YEARS: 20162015, 2014, 2013

First and foremost, love and happiness and positivity from all of us to you.


The collective masses seemed to have had a miserable 2016 but for some reason I felt like I was spared. But oh wait! Quickly around the corner came 2017 and with it came what I imagine to be the baggage, pain, and confusion most everyone else had felt in 2016.

It was a long year. I doubted myself a lot I spent a lot of this year confused about my place in all of this. I looked around at the world, both what surrounds me in the community where I live and what surrounds me everywhere else, and I just felt so lost and tired. At the core of all of this what I realized was that I just don’t feel the connection I had felt to the world that I had felt before. All of this is OK. Things change, people grow, and learning is a big part of the process we all go through during our time here on earth. It was a long year full of some tough moments, but instead of letting it get me down too much I’ve decided to adopt the idea that 2017 was a year of learning and growth. These two things are never tidy. They’re messy but the end result is always positive. That’s how I’m heading into 2018: with the thought that I did some hard work in the previous year and that in the new year that work will pay off.

Now that all of that has been said, here’s some stuff I did and some stuff I enjoyed in 2017:

  • Spent as much of my time awake with the amazing Aero, Finn, and Haley.
  • Continued to work on rehabbing Fidelia Hall. The plan with the space is now this: we will be moving into the downstairs space in early 2018. That space has heat and is in the process of having some electrical work done as well as rehabbing the bathroom and kitchen. The upstairs space (the chapel) will be getting a heating system installed starting on December 26 2017. Once we move over to that space, we will figure out what to do with the house. We envisioned Fidelia Hall as a community space, but have refocused and decided that it’s now more of a space for our family and our closest friends.
  • I recorded and released two albums: Either Way I’m Fine and Prozac Is The Dam & I Am The Dynamite
  • I finished my second full year as a library director. I’ve been doing this for 30 months now. I really enjoy it.
  • I listened to a lot of music and I wish I could keep better track of it, but Apple Music hasn’t done any kind of year in review recap like Spotify did this year. I hope they do that soon. I do know that as my father and I worked on Fidelia Hall we really enjoyed listening to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown 1970’s edition every Saturday.
  • My most played video game was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It was also my favorite game this year, with Super Mario Odyssey coming in at a close second. I played a lot more Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp than I expected to play. And I finally got into Picross…The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Picross was the one that did it for me.

Love to you and all of those that you care about this holiday season from me!

Family, Libraries, Life, Music, Titusville, PA, Video Games

2016 Year In Review

PAST YEARS: 2015, 2014, 2013

Let’s get it out of the way before we jump into everything: 2016 wasn’t a great year for most of us and there are way too many reasons out there to put here into this blog so I’m not gonna do that. Let’s try something else, something that we all remember from way back in 2014-2015: positivity.

At the time of this writing, I have successfully arisen from my slumber on 337 out of the 366 days in 2016. I’ve spent most of the time I have been awake during those 337 days doing two things: spending it with my family or working for my community. I don’t have a fancy photo or some numbers to show you to back this up. I can just promise you that my family, our home, and the Benson Memorial Library continue to exist, thrive, and go about doing things that have a positive impact on the world. It’s the only thing that we know how to do.

I have enjoyed listening to all kinds of music. I’ve played so much Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I’ve got to watch some great films. I can’t recall what their titles were but they were enjoyable in the moment.

I did eat way too much food and I didn’t go on enough walks. I am going to do my best to fix that in 2017.

I really enjoyed meeting lots of new people this year as I did some traveling. I think traveling is the best…you get a chance to connect with people you have never met before, and in doing so your world grows and you grow as a person. I never want to stop growing and being a better Justin. I think that’s where my recent obsession with cyborgs comes from. Cyborgs can upgrade and change. I’ve been trying to figure out a way that I can do that myself as a human being. I think I’ve got it!

Goodbye to you 2016. I can’t think of a better way to say au revoir than Bowie’s Lazarus.

This way or no way
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me

Family, Libraries

Life and Libraries and 2014

2014 is coming to an end and every blogger and writer out there is going to be writing a year end recap of what’s going on and what to look forward to in 2015. I love these kinds of posts and I usually think about writing my own at the very last minute. But not this year!  I’m gonna get a jump on this thing!


The first half of 2014 was busy. The team at the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library had a lot of big projects happening. We brought in some big attendance and circulation statistics to the library.  I did quite a bit more traveling than I usually do and spoke to a lot of great librarians. I visited Strathmore Alberta Canada, Baltimore Maryland, New York City, Louisville Kentucky, Nashville Tennessee, Greensboro North Carolina, and San Antonio Texas and had an amazing time learning and sharing with librarians. I found myself kind of tired at the end of it all. Yes, it was all very rewarding but the balance between libraries and general life was a bit off.  I learned about limits and how to take care of myself first and foremost before other things.  A healthy and happy Justin leads to a happy and healthier Justin The Librarian. Everything that we do affects everything else that we do.


In around August I decided to make some changes to achieve more of a balance. I visited family and friends twice in Pittsburgh, PA in August and September.  It was nice to go back there with Haley, Finn, and Aero and be with our extended families and take part in a few weddings.  Seeing the day to day things that happen in life makes you want to chill out and appreciate those things more.  That’s exactly the approach I’ve been taking and it has been wonderful.


Haley and I piddle around in our yard a lot.  We take care of our home, our little slice of urban farm/homestead here in Chattanooga.  Finn, Aero, and I play with Legos and we kick around a soccer ball a lot.  We only go out to eat at a Chinese Buffet because it’s awesome and every other restaurant is average and costs way too much.  We eat a lot of vegetables at home.  We play a lot of Nintendo Wii U and have family movie nights.  We have a really cool dog named Sonic The Border Terrier. I really enjoy watering and taking care of my plants, especially our banana plants.


These are the things I look forward to the most these days.  2013 Justin was a bit different….there was something library related in that end of the year toppermost of the poppermost list. This year, there isn’t. That’s not to say that I’m not into libraries anymore….I am, and I still believe that the public library holds the key to unlocking an amazing future for our communities. It’s just that now, well, I have realized that I don’t need to think about them all of the time.  And I’ve also realized that the less that I think about them, the more focused I am on helping them better serve their community.


So that’s 2014, life, and libraries in a blog post. I look forward to everything in 2015: life, family, friends, libraries, travel, music, video games, food, and sleep.  Things are cool. Things are on the level. Life. I’m just gonna live it.

Chattanooga Public Library, Chattanooga, TN, Libraries, Management, Social Media, Teens

2013 Year In Review

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I’ve always enjoyed writing these year in review posts in the past.  I haven’t done one since 2010 and I thought this year would be a great one to share.  I’m gonna focus on the professional part of my life here and keep it simple.

2013 was the year I fell in love with libraries….again.

It sounds horribly cheesy and easy to say, but it is true.  I came to Chattanooga, TN on April 22, 2013 and three hours into my job I began on an awesome adventure that continues to this day. What we’re trying to accomplish at the Chattanooga Public Library is something that is really difficult to put into words.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to write a blog post about it but ended up scrapping what I had written.  It’s a flexible, evolving, always learning, always trying new things kind of library.  It is a library that responds to the community.  It is a good, no scrap that, great library to be a part of.  I work with awesome people full of awesome ideas and amazing talents.  Whether it be the folks that have been in the library system for 20 years up to the recent hires, everyone is super awesome.

I learned to put everything in the past behind me, to move ahead, to keep saying yes, to keep trying new things, and to grow into whatever role this journey leads me to.  I’m growing up in the library world and with that comes more responsibility and duties.  It can be difficult to grasp these new roles and ideas at first but I’m learning and changing the way I think.

2013 was very awesome.  I am very thankful to be surrounded by such amazing people.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading this blog and following my adventures via social media over the last few years.  I really appreciate all of the great conversations we’ve had and the ideas we’ve shared.  I hope we continue to do this in 2014 and beyond.

Family, Google, Libraries, Presentations, Social Media, Technology, Things, Travel, Video Games

A Few Things I Learned in 2012

Once Thanksgiving hits, I get into a particular mood that lasts until around right after dinner on December 25th (yup, I’ve narrowed it down that much).  This mood finds me slowing down, reflecting, and thinking back to what has  happened to me over the past year.  I look back at what I’ve learned and try to summarize that into a nice little package that I can carry into the new year.  It helps me grow as a person because that’s what I believe one of my major jobs as a human being is…to keep growing and being the best Justin I can be.

(I did this back in 2010 with this post and it seemed to be a good thing….that post was read 1,347 times!  It also inspired others to do the same and I had a great time reading what others had to say.)

Here’s the deal with management.  Everyone has their own style and everyone is entitled to that style.  I say that everyone reading this should follow their own style, develop that style, and respect everyone else’s management style. That way you’re happy with what you do, you’re growing,  and you’re also not wasting energy on disrespecting what others are doing.

The approach which I have developed over the last few years is a combo of the following:

  • Let your employees be themselves: for example,  do you have a talented artist on your staff?  If so, let them draw/doodle while they’re on the service desk.  Why?  That’s what they’re good at and who knows, just maybe one teen patron will see that and strike up a conversation with that employee.  And who knows…that conversation could really change some lives.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?
  • Be flexible:  If someone calls out sick at the last minute, doesn’t show up on time, or forgets to do something, don’t be the manager that holds it over their head for weeks/months/years.  Life happens and it’s best for us to be sympathetic to everyone involved.  It may mean some extra work for you as a manager, but that’s ok.
  • Encourage creativity: One of the coolest parts about working in a library is the many awesome people that you work with.  Ask someone why or how they got into libraries and I’m pretty sure you’ll find an interesting story.  After you hear that story and you learn about the people you’re working with, encourage their creativity and let them be themselves.  Everyone has something rad they can give to your library.  Let them give that to your community.
  • Be fair: You may have a manager title and get paid a bit extra for that, but who cares.  Shelve books, straighten up the shelves, wipe the windows.  Do the things that every other library employee does.  You may have departments, teams, job titles, whatever, but remember this: we’re all in this library thing together.

I also keep coming back to this quote from my 2010 Emerging Leaders class:

“The leader’s  job is not to provide energy but to release it from others.”
Frances Hesselbein

Sometimes it is very clear when a major change has happened in your life.  It’s an odd feeling: something just feels off, not right, and you feel uneasy about your place in life.  After having a few of these moments over the past two years, I’ve learned that it’s my body telling me that I should stop something and change.

It could be a health thing (like going vegan), a work thing (should I move onto something else?), or something personal.  No matter what it is, recognize that feeling and do what you can to change your life.  Uncertainty is a very scary thing, but being stuck in a situation that makes you feel horrible is even worse.

What’s the goal of the teen library? Library school taught me that it was about bringing teens closer to the resources they need.  That’s still very true and very important for teen librarians to remember, but having done this for five years I’ve discovered something else that trumps that goal and it’s this: be an awesome person in a teen’s life.

Think back to when you were a teen: you probably thought that most adults were lame, out to get you, control your lives, or just something not that great.

That shouldn’t be the case with teen librarians.  We should be an awesome adult for them.  Be proud of who you are, be proud of what you do, and share your life.  I’m a 32.5 year old white dude who has an awesome wife, two super cool sons, loves the Beach Boys, and really digs Nintendo video games.  A few of my teens may think that’s lame, but that’s who I am and I’m damn proud of that person.  Encourage your teens to be happy with themselves and lead by example.  They may not see you as the coolest cat around but they’ll respect you and think that you’re pretty awesome.

This year I made a pretty significant step towards moving into the next chapter of my life.  I’m not there yet but things have been put in place to (hopefully) allow me to move ahead.  It was scary as hell.  I found myself in situations that I was not accustomed to.  I found myself thinking about a future that may or may not be in line with the professional life I’ve led so far.

Out of it all I feel like I’ve gained some new kind of confidence.  I’ve realized that if my heart and mind are in the right place, I can do anything that I want to do and that in time everything will be OK.

I have a few of these people in my life.  As much as I try to minimize the amount of time that I interact with these people, I always end up leaving my interaction with them with some morsel of knowledge that helps me grow up.  I guess that whole “keep your enemies close” and “challenge yourself by being in uncomfortable situations” thing is true.

I think that I summed this up in every other area of this post but it deserves to be said again: we’re all very different and we all have our own way of doing things but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be nice to each other.  Be kind.  It’s amazing what life can be like when you cut a good deal of negativity out of it.

Thanks to everyone for reading.  I hope your holiday season is awesome and filled with love and excitement.  And here’s to 2013!  It’s gonna be a super rad year.