Category Archives: TTW Contributor: Justin Hoenke

Public Service is a Library Program: By TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke

10 PRINT "Hello World!"
10 PRINT “Hello World!”

The last time I posted on Tame The Web was on August 6, 2014 in a post titled Catching Up. The title of that post sort of sums up the past year and a half in my life here at the Chattanooga Public Library…lots of work for the community and not enough time to sit back, reflect, and share with everyone in the world. It’s all good. In that time, I’ve had some ideas floating around in my head and over the months and days they’ve been revised, edited, and now they’re ready to go.

In my role as Manager of The 2nd Floor/Coordinator of Teen Services at the Chattanooga Public Library, I’ve been looking a lot at how libraries operate their youth services departments. From kids to tweens to teens, we all seem to have a common theme connecting us: we all have so much passion for working with ages 0-18. That passion leads us to want to constantly offer the best services, be it story times, maker programs, special events, and more. The passion to give back to our community drives us.  It is that passion that makes youth services in public libraries some of the most innovative and popular public library offerings.  Corinne Hill (Executive Director, Chattanooga Public Library) and I call Youth Services in public libraries the “bread and butter” of public library services…the keep us well loved in the community and they act as our most popular circulated materials and programs attended.  In summary, Youth Services drive public libraries.

However, passion alone cannot drive a youth services program. While amazing and powerful, passion can also lead to some misguided decisions when it comes to how we should operate at our core.  The days where youth services staff were plentiful and there was an almost unlimited time to plan and prepare for programs has gone away.  These days, the need for great public service at all times is what we need to focus on. The need for great public service at all times is the opposite of having large amounts of time to plan and prepare. You can’t do both at the same time. You can try, but you will get stressed and burnt out in the end.  As a manager, I’ve stared at the weekly schedule and tried to figure out formulas for how my staff can have the time to prepare for programs that they’re used to having and also to have that necessary public service time. After working on it for a year, my conclusion is simple: it just isn’t there anymore and if we want to grow and continue with our successes, we need to change how we work.

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Realizing that this was the new normal in our youth services lives, my colleague Megan Emery and I began having discussions about this new reality. How can we continue to maintain great levels of passion for what we offer to the community and have our public services faces on at all times? How do we achieve balance with something that seems to be so naturally out of balance…innovation and public service? How does a public library operate in times of lean staffing, increased community usage, and the need to constantly innovate?

From that conversation came a phrase that now drives what we’re trying to accomplish at the Chattanooga Public Library: PUBLIC SERVICE IS A LIBRARY PROGRAM. There is an art to working a public service desk in public libraries. You have to be “on”. What do I mean by this? You’re basically involved in a shift long performance art piece where you’re helping, teaching, and aiding the community.  The traditional library program, you know, the ones that take place only from 4-5pm on the third Tuesday of every month and only for ages 13-18? Yep, those ones.  Those types of programs can and will still happen but it can no longer be our focus.  What can be our focus? The public.  Being “on” for them at all times. Being there for the community at all times.

If public service is a program then how can we actually have programs for our community? This ties into another thing that we’ve been thinking about a lot in youth services libraries….unprogramming, never ending programming, anti-programming….whatever you want to call it. It’s an idea that takes the library space, turns it into a destination, and adds programs, activities, and chances to learn into everything that we do. The 3D printer, button maker, rainbow loom…whatever it is, it’s all there and it’s ready for the community to use.  The programs happen during our open hours and they don’t end.  The library staff working in public services becomes the programmer. Their job is simple: guide the community in the library, help them find what they need, teach them all about the learning opportunities in the library, and to simply just have fun.

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That’s where our passion for what we do in youth services can go.  We don’t have to leave it behind and become nonstop public service workers.  We can weave that aspect of our job into what makes us passionate about working in libraries.  Public services is our programming.  We can create engaging learning opportunities for our community and run those opportunities while we’re working public service. We can mix the two and it will not be the end of the world. It will be a seismic shift, but we will survive. This is the new way for us to work and be the best for our community.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Catching Up: by TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke

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Photo Credit: Zachary Cross

It seems like I’ve been here forever, but as of this month I’ve been at the Chattanooga Public Library for 1 year, 4 months.  In that time, we’ve accomplished a lot of great things for the Chattanooga community. At the same time, I haven’t been able to share as much because….well, things just got really busy in a good way! So this post is my Chattanooga catch up post….a way to share all of the positive things that have been happening around Chattanooga over the past few months.

MANAGEMENT
One of the big new things in my world is library management.  I manage The 2nd Floor, which is our brand name for the kid/tween/teen area.  It’s a huge space full of many different personalities, ages, and ideas.  I do the weekly scheduling, make sure payroll gets in on time, order supplies, think a lot about the big picture stuff, and make sure that the staff is happy. Looking at what I just wrote doesn’t seem like much what I’ve learned is that a lot of these little things add up. My brain is constantly running, making sure that I’ve done all the necessary management things while still keeping focus on the big picture: The 2nd Floor as a place in the community where kids, tweens, and teens can have fun and learn something along the way.

It’s a change for me and I think it would be a change for most youth services librarians. Why? We’re very creative individuals. We dream up programs in our sleep. We are the living embodiment of a makerspace.  Blending that creative brain with a management brain has been a challenge, but I’m getting there.  You don’t have to kill one to have the other. You can make it work together.

VOLUNTEERS
One of the big realities that I’m learning about it that you will never have enough staff to do everything you want to do. The other part of that is that, wow, hiring people is expensive. It’s not just the salary you need to look at, but benefits and all that other stuff.

That’s where volunteers come into the picture.  The problem is that I’ve never been good with managing volunteers. It’s just not in my skill set and I’m ok with that. Luckily, Megan Emery is good at that and we work together. So basically when Megan got to Chattanooga she took the keys to the car and ran with them.  And here’s how awesome it has been:

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 10.21.16 AM

July was one of our biggest months with teen volunteers and it showed. They took on projects that helped spruce up The 2nd Floor, making it more visually appealing for our community.  They became our 3D printing experts, working one on one with anyone interested in trying out the service for the first time.  Our 2nd Floor staff had more time to focus on their projects, focus on customer service, and in general just be great employees.  Volunteers matter a whole lot for the public library, and it’s even better when you give them a chance to work their own special brand of magic when they volunteer.

Megan wrote a really great piece about meaningful volunteer opportunities here and I highly suggest you check it out.

STATISTICS
Every librarian has a library guilty pleasure.  My guilty pleasure is statistics.  I love collecting them, analyzing them, and then using those stats to help me make decisions. I love it when stats are down because it tells me that I need to grow and change something. I love it when stats are up because, well, that is just something that makes you feel really good.

I won’t bore you with individual stats that went (way) up last fiscal year at the Chattanooga Public Library (if you wanna check them out), but I will say this; having an idea of what is/what isn’t working will really help you better serve your community.  It sharpens your focus and allows you to better delegate resources to the events and programs that best serve your community. Starting this month, the 2nd Floor started keeping track of how many people use the various areas of our space. The results so far have given us the numbers to back up exactly what all of our staff have been feeling: we’re very busy these days. As a manager, this allows me to look at how we’re working and how we can make improvements to better suit our staff.

CONSISTENCY IN PROGRAMMING
I’ve grown to really love strong, consistent programming in libraries.  If you do something well, you keep doing it and all throughout the process you keep on growing, refining, and making things better.  However, at the same time you have to recognize when something isn’t working and make those changes.  Consistent Programming gives your library something great to share that your community will remember.  Think of each program as a brand.  Get those brands into the minds of the community and they’ll be asking for more.

Just a few days ago we wrapped up the 2014 session of DEV DEV: summer of code at the Chattanooga Public Library. This program was created and ran by the Library, engage3D, AIGA Chattanooga, and the Benwood Foundation in 2013. Having this successful event repeat once again this year has helped us make the DEV DEV brand even stronger. When you mention DEV DEV in Chattanooga, the community knows that it is a program that teaches teens about HTML, CSS, Javascript, and Robotics.  DEV DEV has become a brand that stands out in the community. Besides working with great partners, what made this possible? Consistency in programming.

For more on DEV DEV 2014, click here! 

PEOPLE
Back in 2010 when I wrote my first TTW post I talked about leadership and working in groups.  At the core, that post was all about what really makes the public library work….PEOPLE.

It’s the people that work in the library that make things awesome for the community. No matter where you go in libraries, you always have to remember that it’s people that matter.  Treat them with respect and love.  Help them all along the way and let them know that their work counts in making your community a great place. I try to remind the folks that work on The 2nd Floor of that all the time.  Working in a public library is important work for the community and YOU are making your city a better place to live.

A Night Out at the Library for Everyone by TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke

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http://chattlibrary.org/events/night-out-kids-tweens-and-teens-2nd-floor

I’m very excited to share our new NIGHT OUT program that we’ll be running next month at the Chattanooga Public Library.  It’s a simple idea, but it is one of the best library programs I’ve put together. Why?  Let me tell you.

Basically it goes like this: while parents and guardians enjoy an evening at our June 5th event featuring New York Times Bestselling Author Jeff Shaara on The 4th Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library, their kids, tweens, and teens can hang out on the 2nd Floor (without their parents/guardians) and enjoy all that the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library has to offer.

Parents and guardians get to have a night out. Kids, Tweens, and Teens get to have a night out.  Everyone is hanging out in the library, and everyone leaves the library happy.

Why am I so excited about this? Because I feel that it represents a shift in how we are approaching programs.  To make something like this work, all parts of the library (including our great Friends of the Library group who are sponsoring this event) need to work together.  The adult program has to be all set up and ready to go.  The kid/tween/teen program has to be planned and executed properly.  We need to make sure we’re sufficiently staffed.  We need our security team to do their best to help us monitor all things on the 2nd Floor.  A program like this is truly a library wide effort.

Plus, it all brings it back to our community.  It is important for the public library to recognize what all of their community needs out of programming.  For parents and guardians, simply not having to worry about childcare for an hour or two can be a big deal in deciding whether or not they’ll visit the library.  Hopefully with this idea, we will see adults who may not have considered it a possibility to attend a library event all of a sudden enjoying our programs on a regular basis.  Do what your community needs you to do.

This message is brought to you by Justin Hoenke after 5 years of parenting and realizing just how important it is for adults to get out and enjoy library events and not have to worry about what to do with your kid/tween/teen.

 

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

 

Using an Apple TV on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library

Here’s one of the neat little things we’re testing out on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library: using an Apple TV/Projector/iPad/blank wall combination to stream random things while the library is open.

This morning, we used our streaming service Hoopla to show folks just how awesome your library card can be.  Then we listened to some Daft Punk for a bit and finally switched it over to a complete walk through of The Legend of Zelda which is running as we speak.

Why are we doing this?  We’ve got a lot of wall space on The 2nd Floor and more importantly it starts conversations among our library guests and our staff.  When our staff shares an example of a library service that we offer of something that interests us personally we open up the library to some great conversations.  In those conversations, we make connections with our community. These connections make our place in the community stronger.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Congrats to Jan Holmquist, 2014 Library Journal Mover and Shaker

 http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2014/03/people/movers-shakers-2014/jan-holmquist-movers-shakers-2014-tech-leaders/Movers2014webBigHolmquistb

Jan Holmquist’s nominators describe him as a “global librarian,” and it’s easy to see why. In addition to his current work as head of development for Denmark’s Guldborgsund libraries, Holmquist’s side projects tend to involve collaboration with librarians all over the world. He is engaged with ongoing international projects in Germany and the Read Watch Play Twitter reading group based in Australia. And in 2011 and 2012, he worked with librarians in the United States and the UK on the “Buy India a Library Project” and then built awareness of the program’s efforts with a presentation on crowdfunding for libraries at the Bibliothekartag conference in Hamburg, Germany.

Congrats to Jan Holmquist, who was just named a 2014 Mover and Shaker by Library Journal!

TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke: Congrats to Jan!  I’ve had the great pleasure of being connected with Jan via Twitter since 2010.  Jan’s tweets and writings inspired me from the start to be the best librarian I can be.  Jan is one of the most honest and sincere people I have ever met.  He is truly the “global librarian” whose thoughts and teachings are held to no international boundary.  Jan writes and shares from the heart.  I am proud to not only call him a colleague but a friend as well. 

Jan and Justin in Hamburg, Germany at the 2012 Bibliothekartag Library Confrernce
Jan and Justin in Hamburg, Germany at the 2012 Bibliothekartag Library Confrernce

 Michael Stephens: I’ve known Jan for many years and he’s been a welcome contributor to TTW. I will never forget a brilliant afternoon spent walking and talking with Jan  all over Helsinki at IFLA 2012. We had so much to discuss: libraries, learning, mobile devices, the future. It was then we decided to partner for research for the first iteration of the 23 Mobile Things program at his library. I am so impressed with his vision of staff exploring and playing with mobile apps as a means to experience what mobile tech offers to users and libraries. Jan was also an excellent choice to go a guest lecture on mobile technology for the #hyperlibMOOC and his innovative video playlist was well-received. (Look, a Moose!)

As Justin mentions above, I truly believe Jan is a perfect example of a humanistic, global librarian, one who embodies what Lawrence Clark Powell wrote about when he described “A good librarian is a librarian, a person with good health and warm heart, trained by study, and seasoned by experience to catalyze books and people.”  For Jan, I’d venture to say he’s helping to catalyze librarians, learners and everyone with the power of technology.

Jan and Michael in Helsinki
Jan and Michael in Helsinki

 Jan at TTW

Buy India a Library project

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor
23 Mobile Things

Oops I broke the 3D printer! by TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke

Oops!  I broke the 3D printer!  And you know what?  It’s OK.

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Bits of a 3D printer, post hacksaw

One night on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library I attempted to make 3 Stretchlet bracelets on our 3D printer at one time. We’re taking our 3D printer to the local children’s museum later this month and wanted to built up our arsenal of 3D printed giveaways.  My idea was to attempt to speed up that process and boy oh boy did it not work.

I came back to see the mess you see below.  Something went wrong and our whole extruder was covered in plastic.  I attempted to chip bits of the plastic but I had no luck.  I called on James and Geoff from The 4th Floor to assess the damage.  They took our 3D printer away, let us borrow one of theirs (thank you oh so much), and came back down 15 minutes later with the diagnosis: the electronics were a-ok, but they had to cut out some bits with a hacksaw.  They contacted MakerBot support and the final verdict was in…

Thanks for contacting MakerBot Support! The part that are you are inquiring about can definately be purchased by contacting MakerBot Support at 347.334.6800 Option 2, MOnday through Friday 9am-6pm (EST).
 
The name of the part is called Extruder Carriage and the cost of the part is $12.
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Phew. The 3D printer will be good to go in a week or so, and the damage wasn’t too bad.  What did I learn besides the obvious “don’t make too many stretchlet bracelets at one time”?  Well, it helped me see that even if I make a mistake with this 3D printer thing that it’s all going to be ok.  It’s just a machine that can be fixed.  It’s not the end of the world.
Now I have this awesome pile of plastic and bits of a 3D printer lying around that everyone on the 2nd Floor can show to tweens and teens and say “see, we messed up and that’s OK because we learned something.”
-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

 

Making mistakes in our daily work: A TTW Conversation between Warren Cheetham and Justin Hoenke

Warren: Hi Justin! I found this weird avant garde art video online that you’re featured in! I didn’t realize you were into that – tell me more!

Justin: No, not an art video…I was actually testing out On Air Google+ Hangouts with my co-worker James McNutt. We’re using the On Air Hangouts to record the guest speakers we have for our DEV DEV:<summer of code/> camp at the Chattanooga Public Library.

W: So it was just a test? Why put it online?

J: Yah, just a test.  We put it online because that’s the whole point of the on air hangout…to record a conversation and share it online.  Plus, it was kind of neat to watch how we worked through any trouble we had.

W: When I visited Chattanooga Library a few weeks ago, Nate Hill explained the concept of staff working in the public area on the 4th Floor, being visible to everyone, showing the library work processes on the big public white-board wall etc. – is sharing this video an extension of that thinking?

J: Yes. What we’re doing on the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library (our space dedicated to ages 0-18) lines up really well with what the 4th Floor is going for.  We want to try neat things and see if they stick.  We’re happy to show our successes, failures, and the road we took to get there.

W: Can you share any other ways you’re putting your tests and trials out there?

Photo by Warren Cheetham, June 2013.
Photo by Warren Cheetham, June 2013.

J: Sure!  We’ve got a bunch of extra tables just sitting around as we remodel/reshuffle how the 2nd Floor looks.  Instead of them just sitting around collecting dust, we’ve made them into what we’re calling creation stations.  One has a button maker sitting on it that kids and teens can use to make buttons.  Another has a whole mess of art supplies.  Another has a bowl in the shape of a bear that I found sitting in a closet.  That bear is now the AWESOME BEAR. Anyone can come up to it, write something awesome on a slip of paper and put it in the AWESOME BEAR.  The AWESOME BEAR will then share all of the awesome things kids and teens see around their community!  Somedays it works, other days it doesn’t.

W: But isn’t that embarrassing putting all the errors and mistakes out there for the public to see?

J: Not at all. Part of the fun is trying out new things and seeing how the community reacts.  If they don’t respond to something we do on the 2nd Floor, all that says to me is “keep on thinking, keep on trying.”  It’s actually pretty exciting.

W: That’s very cool. I think it’s good for us to remember that while we might be good at librarianship, and a few others things, there are people in our community who use our libraries who are much better at certain things, and their input and observations on our library processes and trials can help build better services.

So I see you’re doing a summer coding camp at Chattanooga – what is that teaching the teens about keeping your mistakes open and public? Software development is a wonderful example of how something (like computer code) can get better and better the more it’s distributed and developed by many people.

J: When I was a teen, I used to think that adults never made mistakes.  They were the ones in power and they never messed anything up.  Boy, I was wrong.  That way of thinking had a big impact on me as I grew into adulthood.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to be that “perfect adult” but what I was doing was something that I could not keep up with.  No one is perfect.  We all make mistakes and you know what?  We grow from those mistakes.

I think making these mistakes and keeping them public is a great thing.  It shows that we’re all human and that we’re all learning and growing.

W: We’re messing around with a 3D printer here, and one of my first pieces was dodgy so we finished the print before it was complete. I was going to throw it out but Neal my co-worker stopped me and pointed out that the print actually showed the insides and structure of a 3D print. Turns out, it’s a piece that other staff look at and are intrigued by the most!

3D print

J: That’s so rad to hear! When we create something, of course we want it to be perfect.  But our colleagues and friends will see things a different way.  Your idea of something that is junk may be someone else’s idea of gold.

A few weeks ago when you visited Chattanooga, you talked about how Australia is planning and implementing a country wide fiber optic system.  With a project that big, there’s gotta be some mistakes that are made along the way.  How has your country been managing this project and any mistakes that are made?  I can imagine that if there are any bumps along the way there may be a huge public reaction.

W: Such a big, expensive project comes with a lot of scrutiny, and every mistake or misjudgment can easily get blown out of proportion by the project’s critics. One thing that this and other technology related projects has taught me is the economic concept of ‘opportunity cost’. Some of the criticisms leveled at Australia’s National Broadband Network include the idea that we should wait until the relevant technology gets cheaper, more reliable, etc. The opportunity cost is that while we’re waiting for that time, we miss out on the benefits that implementing that technology now could bring.

I think this thinking helps to round out the idea of ‘making mistakes’ in our daily work. By not making mistakes, by not taking responsible risks, by waiting until someone else makes it perfect before can adopt it, we miss an opportunity to benefit from any success of the project now.

Mistakes

-Post by Warren Cheetham  and Tame The Web Contributor Justin Hoenke

 

 Warren Cheetham is the Coordinator of Information and Digital Services at CityLibraries Townsville. He has worked in public libraries for twenty-one years, and his professional interests include the application of technology to public libraries, and how to best deliver information services, reader engagement, corporate research services and training to library staff and customers in an online environment.

DEV DEV – Summer of Code at the Chattanooga Public Library by TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke

During the month of July 2013, my colleagues, community partners, fifty teens, and I were stationed on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library for DEV DEV: Summer of Code.  It was, to be completely honest with you, the greatest single experience I have ever had in a public library.  Let me tell you why.

PARTNERS
Since the program happened on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library it would be easy for everyone to think that this all happened at the library and it was all the library and that was that.  But that’s not the case and I’d like to take this moment to tell you about our partners.  Without the support of Engage 3D, AIGA Chattanooga, and the Benwood Foundation, DEV DEV would not have happened. Their support (educational, funding, brainpower, design, etc) and dedication to the program and the community of Chattanooga is one of the key ingredients as to why this beta test run of this program was as successful as it was.

It really takes everyone in the community getting together to make amazing things happen.

SUPPORT
Without the support of EVERYONE at the Chattanooga Public Library, DEV DEV would not have worked.  Every day, the circulation staff would wait on the teens that came into the library at 9am, making them their white hot chocolates and letting them in the doors before the rest of the public could get in.  The rest of the staff smiled and welcomed the teens every day.  They knew how big this was for the teens attending DEV DEV and they made sure they had the times of their lives.

Photo by @chattlibrary  http://instagram.com/p/chi99IiWnz/
Photo by @chattlibrary
http://instagram.com/p/chi99IiWnz/

The parents brought it all together.  Not only did they drive the teens back and forth from the library, but on the last day of the program they came out to show their love and support.  It is in moments like this where you can just see teens gaining so much love and respect for their families.  Awesome.

TEENS
DEV DEV would not have happened were it not for the amazing talent and dedication of the teens involved in the program.  For four weeks, you gave your attention and hard work to learning how to build websites, make robots dance, and program video games.  You blew all of our minds.  For me personally, as I get older, I am happy to know that the world is in such good hands.  To borrow from southern lingo….Ya’ll are gonna do some amazing things.

SO WHAT’S NEXT?
DEV DEV was not meant to be a one shot program but instead an ongoing series, a library/community brand if you would like to call it that.  As with any program of this size and scope, some time is needed to rest, reflect, and accurately plan the next steps.  We’ll be doing that over the next few weeks at the Chattanooga Public Library.  I already had a great discussion today with Engage 3D Education Director James McNutt about online learning communities.  He is a brilliant dude and I can’t wait to see his ideas in motion.

For more on DEV DEV, please visit our site: http://devdev.chattlibrary.org

For the full DEV DEV: summer of code story, please visit: https://storify.com/JustinLibrarian

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Heard Off the Street: Library’s 3-D printer spits out all kinds of fun and learning (By TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke)

Photo by Anna Bentley/Post-Gazette
Photo by Anna Bentley/Post-Gazette

Make sure you check out Library’s 3-D printer spits out all kinds of fun and learning over at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  I’ve been talking with Saxonburg Area Library Director Erin Wincek about 3D printing over the past few months and I am in love with the things she’s doing for her community.  I also love the support that her community and her board has for her passion:

“We’re going to grab up these fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders and show them their future,” said Ms. Wincek, who thinks the printer could influence some of their career choices.

Library board president Matt Phillips said Ms. Wincek’s enthusiasm is why the library has the printer.

“It’s prompted us as a board to share in her passion,” said Mr. Phillips, who owns an insurance agency in Saxonburg. “We’re not a big library, and we have something that many large libraries and institutions do not have.”

Erin’s got the vision and community support.  When you have those, amazing things can happen in public libraries.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Hire awesome people, make rad stuff (by TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke)

Yesterday I was reading Breaking Up With Libraries by Nina McHale. I had a few thoughts. First and foremost, I was bummed that our profession was losing such an amazing and talented person. Nina has done amazing work for libraries and she will be sorely missed in this field. Secondly, this one passage of Nina’s hit me really hard:

Also in the mix is my general frustration with library technology. We pay BILLIONS to ILS and other vendors each year, and for what? Substandard products with interfaces that a mother would kick to the curb. We throw cash at databases because they have the periodical content our clients need locked up inside them, and over a decade after the failure that was federated searching, we STILL do not have an acceptable product that provides a user-friendly interface and makes managing the data behind the scenes as easy as it needs to be for library staff. – See more at: http://ninermac.net/breaking-up-with-libraries#sthash.F7Wn43FP.dpu

I had been thinking about this same thing for the past few years when I made an attempt to look into a digital product for teens. My thoughts with that product were:

1) Wow, I don’t know any teens that would use this.
2) Wow, this is so expensive and there is no way I could ever afford this.
3) Wow, this product has such horrible design.

The outcome? I did not buy that product.

It was not until a few days ago that while under the influence of Nina’s post and seeing the amazing work that Dan Eveland (Web Developer, Chattanooga Public Library) and Mary Barnett (Social Media Manager, Library) did on the Chattanooga Public Library website that I had it hit me: we really need to start investing in employees who can make amazing things that do what we want them to do.

The calender over at chattlibrary.org. Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett. It looks great and the back end (where we do our work) is easy to use and well put together.
The calender over at chattlibrary.org. Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett. It looks great and the back end (where we do our work) is easy to use and well put together.

Like these calendars, databases, and whatever else that we buy from vendors, hiring awesome people to build stuff just for us is an investment. Sometimes your investment may not work out. But don’t think about that. You can always try again. But what if the investment in awesome people works out? You get awesome things that were built for what you need them for.

Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett with input and ideas from myself. I think it turned out pretty awesome.
Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett with input and ideas from myself. I think it turned out pretty awesome.

A good example is the website you see above, teens.chattlibrary.org. About one month ago, the team started talking about what we wanted to do with this site. We got some ideas and Dan put up a template and we slowly worked on it. Mary gave the project a deadline and said “let’s get this done” so all last week we put our hardhats on and did it. Dan and Mary built teens.chattlibrary.org to reflect what I thought teens would be looking for: quick awesome tidbits of information, news of big things going on for teens at the library, a hub for the Teen Advisory Board (TAB), and a contact page. All built with Drupal on The 4th Floor in about one month by some amazingly talented people on the Chattanooga Public Library team. The best part? It’s works super well, is easy to manage, and it is exactly what I was hoping for with the teen site. Another great part? If it needs fixed or modified, I only have to head up two floors to talk to Dan and Mary and it’s done.

Hiring awesome people to help you realize your library dreams? To me, that’s the way forward. Not only do you get amazing products that you can actually use for what you want, but you get to surround yourself and the library staff with talented and kind people who contribute to the positive vibe of the community. A win in every area.

(please note: This post originally appeared over at justinthelibrarian.com)

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor