Category Archives: TTW Contributor: Justin Hoenke

The Transparent Library Director

I’m not a library director.  Heck, who knows if I’ll ever be a library director.  But spend some time working in a public library and you’ll see a common theme: most employees and the public have no clue what a library director does.  There’s this belief that the library director is some person way high up in the sky making all these decisions and pulling all these strings to make the library work. With such little information known about the day to day happenings of a library director, employees and patrons end up getting confused about the direction of the library.  In turn, that can sometimes lean towards anger, poor morale, and communication breakdown.  The victims here?  It’s always the patrons.  When the library staff doesn’t know what the hell is going on, the patron’s suffer.  They lose out on valuable materials, services, and more.

Social media allows us to be more transparent than ever.  We can check in at every place we visit, we can tweet quotes from conversations we’re having, we can share pictures at the tap of our screen.  Blogging/Video blogging makes it super easy and quick just to share your thoughts/actions for the day.  To some folks, this transparency is scary.  Most everything you say or do can be found on the web.  Here’s where I burst your fun bubble.  THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU.  I’m just as guilty of this as you are, so I’m not pointing fingers.  We have to remember that when we’re working in a public library that we are public employees.  Our salaries and benefits are graciously paid for by public taxes paid by the people we serve.  Living in the era of the Tea Party and slashed library budgets, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our country is pretty darn upset about taxes and will do anything to get rid of what they consider unnecessary spending.

USTREAM
Have a UStream feed running in your office all day as well as during meetings.  What have you got to hide in these day to day meetings?  If you’re talking about people behind their back, you probably shouldn’t be doing that anyway.

Opening up your office and your meetings to the public will give your community the primary resource they will need to understand your direction and vision.  Instead of hearing half true rumours from other employees and around your town you’ll be giving the information to the public as it was meant to be heard.

*Yes, I understand that some meetings are meant to be private.  These meetings should totally stay that way.

FOURSQUARE/FACEBOOK PLACES/GOWALLA/ETC
Check into every place you’re visiting in the community.  Give us a little info about why you’re there.

I don’t have a solid example for this recommendation, so instead I’ll point you to my Foursquare account (http://foursquare.com/justinlibrarian).  Just imagine that all those restaurants I checked into are different meetings and locations I’m out scouting for possible collaborations.

TWITTER
In my own opinion, this is the perfect tool for the director who is on the go to use.  Tweet quotes from meetings you’re attending.  Give your followers a brief 140 character synopsis about what’s going on.

Don’t think you have enough time to tweet?  That’s a lame and outdated excuse that everyone uses.  Look at Newark, NJ mayor Cory Booker’s Twitter stream for inspiration.  He’s running a whole city and he can still tweet! http://twitter.com/corybooker

VIDEOBLOGGING
Fire up your webcam (chances are that your laptop already has one.  If not, get this one) and start talking.  If you’re a director, you should be well spoken and ready for the cameras.  A quick 1-3 minute videoblog about your day that can then be uploaded to your library YouTube account will give your staff and patrons always valuable face time.

I couldn’t find any specific library directors already doing this (although I clearly remember seeing one out there a few years ago) so instead I turn your attention to teen author John Green and his brother Hank.  They run the Vlogbrothers channel on YouTube where they just talk about…stuff!  It keeps them connected to their rabid fan fan base and provides quick and easy updates to keep them relevant and interesting.

LIFESTREAM
Jenny Levin’s blog is a beautiful example of how a lifestream can be used to keep people up to date with what you’re tweeting/blogging/sharing.  It’s easy to set up and use once you get the ball rolling and it will provide your community with more than enough information about what you’re doing while you work.

http://theshiftedlibrarian.com/archives/2009/08/17/experimenting-with-my-stream.html

There shouldn’t be this communication breakdown in libraries anymore.  Starting at the top and leading by example, directors who embrace social media can show their staff and the public they serve just what they’re doing to keep their libraries relevant.

For further reading, I highly suggest you check out these awesome articles by Michael Casey & Michael Stephens:

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

How to Raise Boys Who Read (Hint: Not with gross-out books and video-game bribes)

How to Raise Boys Who Read (Hint: Not with gross-out books and video-game bribes)

I think what I hate seeing in these types of articles is the general “GAMES BAD BOOKS GOOD” thing (for the full effect, imagine The Incredible Hulk saying that).  Perhaps I’m only seeing this because of my interest in gaming (I am one of the co-founders of 8BitLibrary.com).  I don’t know.  I try to read articles like that from the approach of my parents, who are middle class, everyday blue collar folks who have their high school diploma.  What would they think?  I think they’d come to the conclusion that games are bad and reading is good.  Especially with a headline like that.

That worries me a bit as someone who got a lot out of video games.  I didn’t read a lot, but I played a lot of games.  Some had great stories, some had crap stories.  The same thing applies to a lot of books out there.  I felt like what I was doing was the equivalent to reading in some way.  I was participating in stories with characters/drama/plot/etc.  The only difference is that my reading was a bit interactive.  I got a lot of enjoyment out of these stories.  The characters and their quests are still with me to this day.

I also think playing video games led me to a lot of reading which I wouldn’t have done before video games. I read a lot of gaming magazines and comics.  That led to graphic novels and some sci-fi (actual books!).  I wasn’t the best gamer in the world so sometimes I resorted to using strategy guides.  That’s reading too!

Do I think it ate into reading time?  I think it was my reading time.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

The Graveyard

At my library, we recently started up a circulating video game collection.  Since we didn’t have a huge budget and we knew the collection was going to be rather small, we opted to go stark naked with security.  There’s also an amazing vibe here in Portland, Maine.  People really have a lot of trust in each other and everyone has a lot of faith in each other.  We put the games out on the shelf in the cases, did our best to monitor things, and went about our business at the library.

Recently, we’ve had some stuff stolen.  Instead of going all hush hush about it, my teen library co-conspirator Michael W. and I put together a little graveyard to remember the games that have been swiped.  Our goal wasn’t to shame the thieves into returning the games.  Instead, we wanted to show our community that this is a real problem and that while, yes, we’re a bit upset, it’s not us who’s hurt the most.  It’s the community that’s hurt the most.

It sounds like a passive aggressive thing, but I assure you that’s not where we’re coming from.  Often times, when something bad happens in libraries we’re trying our best to keep it quiet.  Instead, we’re talking about it and attempting to create a discussion.  Has it worked?  Lots of folks are coming around to the teen library and when they leave we’re having to pick their jaws up off the floor.  They’re amazed that people could steal from a library and at the same time they want to know what they can do to help.  Sure, maybe we lost a few games, but in the end I think we’re creating a stronger, more aware community, one that respects and loves its library.

——

The aftermath?  We’re going to start storing the games behind our desk.  It protects our investment but even better yet it ensures that these games will be part of the library for a long time for the rest of the community to enjoy.

By TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke

Who knew a library could be so epic?

Last night, we held the first Teen After Hours event at the Portland Public Library.  This program was a collaboration between the library and Officer Ray Ruby of the Portland Police Department.

All in all, it was a great success.  We played video games, ate pizza, had a massive hide and seek game, and just enjoyed life.  It’s the best example of what I’m calling the teen “un-program”.  With the teen un-program, you have a program with lots of different stuff, you open it up to teens, and…well, just watch the video to see what happens.

I can’t wait until we have the next one.

(Many thanks to Portland Public Library Teen David Chu for filming/editing this video.  David takes awesome photos and videos and shares them with the world at his website)

*PS* At the end, the teens are very politely telling me to stop tweeting!  Ha!

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

The Google Translate Experiment

Two teens from Italy in Portland, ME over the summer.  One teen librarian.
What the heck is gonna bring them together?

It’s not a mind blowing idea.  But I will tell you this…it works.  Here’s our simple story about how we bonded thanks to some technology.

For the first two days, our interaction was limited to “computer” and “yes”.  They wanted the computer and I was happy to provide them with access.  It seemed to be the one bright point in their time at the library.  They could log onto to Facebook and chat with their friends back home.  Smiles erupted from their faces and for a brief moment, I was happy that I could give them that little bit of happiness.  But the librarian in me kept on brainstorming.  How can I extend their happiness?  There’s got to be more to America for these teens than just one hour of talking with their friends on the computer.

Enter Google Translate.  It started with one simple message:

Ti prego di perdonarmi. Non parlo italiano, ma spero che se io uso questo strumento posso parlare con voi.

Their first response?  They decided to forgo the Italian and communicate with me through a smile that went from ear to ear.

Their first use for the Google Translate came to me in the form of a question:

Una grande idea! Puoi aiutarci a imparare l’inglese?

Perfect.   I was able to see that the teens really wanted something more out of their trip than just some time in the states over the summer.  They wanted to learn English.  While I could not be their full time tutor, I could give them a start.  We exchanged some basic words and phrases in person, which we then went over using Google Translate to help us understand them a bit better.  Ciao, posso aiutarti con qualcosa oggi? was my first attempt at Italian and it has stuck in my head.  So, I guess this works…

Flash forward to a few weeks later.  The teens are regulars at the library a few times a week.  We learn some phrases each time they come in, but thanks to another librarian at my library the teens now have a tutor who speaks fluent Italian and teaches them English in the library.  Cool stuff.  Thank you Google Translate.

La biblioteca … la lingua universale

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Justin and the 8bit tat he got at Annual

One of the highlights for my very brief time at ALA Annual in DC was having lunch with Justin Hoenke, He writes for TTW as a Contributor, blogs at 8BitLibrary and other blogs, and was a 2010 Emerging Leader on Team J. I was the Team J mentor.

Take a look at this: http://blog.8bitlibrary.com/2010/07/08/project-brand-yourself-a-librarian-the-aftermath-part-1/

Justin added a Link (I had it wrong – updated!) tattoo to his collection, which also includes a library logo on the other arm. (See http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelsphotos/4743185541

What a unique way to spread the word about libraries (and gaming in libraries). It’ll be a great conversation starter for Justin on planes and out in the world. :-)

I must also say I’m so excited to see the young librarians like Justin working so hard at improving service – checkout some of his posts about what he’s done in libraries – as well as making change in our associations and organizations.

To Justin: Well done, Sir!

On ALA Emerging Leaders (the conclusion)

Team JBot (Justin Hoenke, Rafia Mirza, Jeannie Chen, Anne Krakow, Susan Jennings)

Phew…time flies.  It’s been six months since my first post on being an Emerging Leader and now that I’ve “emerged”, what have I learned?  Here goes.

THE PROJECT AND THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNICATION

To view the full report from our project, click here.

As a project, our group was tasked with surveying librarians about “how web 2.0 should ALA go with ALA.org”.  Before we jumped in, our first goal was setting up communication.  Be it ALA Connect, Google Talk, or even a simple email, as an Emerging Leader you learn to embrace any form of communication.  And you also learn how to communicate…

Working virtually is no easy task.  Things can get confusing pretty quickly.  The approach of the JBots was to create a never-ending open dialog.  For this to work, we all brought open minds to the table.  Five equal partners who share the same goal.  Sounds great, but did it work?  Yes.

Having had a long discussion on communication at the beginning saved us a lot of hassle as we dug deeper into our project.  When our project got derailed for a moment, we didn’t panic.  We talked and made it through.

DESTROYING THE STEREOTYPE

Over the past six months, I’ve heard just about every stereotype that one could dream up of about the Emerging Leaders project. It is an elite group.  It is nothing but busy work for ALA.  It’s all about the connections you make. Say what you want, but having gone through the project I will say this: it is all about the experience.

The Emerging Leaders program gives us a chance to grow both as a person and as a librarian.  Life has its ups and downs, and so did our project.  However, I’m not going to dwell on those or bore you with the details.  Everything I said in my original post on this topic still rings true.  I feel much more confident about moving forward as the teen librarian in my community as well as a professional within the greater scope of ALA.

Those stereotypes we talked about above?  They’re nothing but chains holding us back.  Let’s destroy them and grow.

WE ARE FAMILY

Cue that Sister Sledge song while you read this section.

Randomly tossed together at the beginning of the project, our little group (which we dubbed “JBots”) grew into a little family.  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Families are FULL of weird stuff.  But as I said above, let’s destroy that stereotype and look forward.  Families are units with a common goal who share a common love for each other.  I think that’s the way my group evolved.

All of our group interactions, decisions, and final output were the product of working together as a family.  Emerging Leaders groups grow from nothing into something that you will keep for the rest of your life.  You gain friends who will be with you every step of the way.  These friends will not forget about the little things.  They’ll be there with a simple “great job” or “thank you” just when you need it.  They’ll be there to share ideas and challenge you to be a leader EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.  Good stuff.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

—–

Info on the 2011 ALA Emerging Leaders program can be found here

Click here to read “On ALA Emerging Leaders“, which talks about my experience as I began the ALA Emerging Leaders program.

(as a companion  piece to this post, might I recommend this wonderful post by @charbooth)


The iPad (through the eyes of a teen)

(a brief interview between Portland Public Teen Library @justinlibrarian and Portland teen @davidchuphoto)

What are you using it for?
I’m usually sitting in bed and using it as a computer instead of a laptop.  I would go back to a laptop if I got a MacBook.
What are your favorite apps?
Twitter, ABC Player, Doodle Jump, Tap Tap Revenge 3, Safari
What would you like to see the library do with Ipads?
Libraries should lend them out as ebook readers or portable computers and people could read them in the teen lounge.  People could be more relaxed with the iPad in the library.
Do you use it in school?  For what?
I replaced my school netbook with the iPad.  I use it for notes, create slideshows, and look up things on the internet.
Do a lot of teens have iPads?
I only know one other teen with an IPad.
If not, do a lot of teens want iPads?
At first, they did (especially at school).  If I use it outside, people passing me on the street ask me about it quite a bit.
How much do you read on the iPad?
I read a lot of articles on the internet.  Ebooks?  Not so much.  I haven’t purchased any ebooks.  I’ve  just downloaded public domain books.  I haven’t bought any ebooks because I don’t have enough money and I don’t have much interest in them.
What would you like to see the iPad of the future do?
Take pictures, a higher resolution, more storage on the base model (32gb as the first model!), and multi-tasking.
If a teen were interested in the iPad, would you tell them to get one now or wait and why?
I’d tell them to wait because I think the next one will be better.  iPhone 4 already makes the iPad obsolete.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Dear Mr. President: Misinformation is the Real Distraction by Buffy Hamilton

http://theunquietlibrarian.wordpress.com/2010/05/09/dear-mr-president-misinformation-is-the-real-distraction/

In a little over a month, I—along with thousands of other librarians—will be in your backyard as we come to Washington D.C. for the 2010 American Library Association Annual Conference. I will be in town from Friday, June 25 through Tuesday, June 29 , and I am offering you my services to show you these kinds of tools and skills I have shared in this letter to help you better understand not only the possibilities for evaluating and managing information streams, but to also provide you a personal learning experience as to what librarians can do for the citizens of this country.  As a librarian who subscribes to a participatory philosophy of librarianship, I invite you to come join me in conversation so that we can learn together.    I, along with my librarian peers,  would be honored if you could join us in the Networking Uncommons for some fun and informal learning with cloud computing as well as gadgets like iPhones and iPads.   You have an opportunity to model lifelong learning for the citizens of this country by joining us at ALA.

You took an important first step last fall with your proclamation of National Information Literacy Month in 2009. Now is the time for you to take the next step by rethinking some of your statements and by taking action to provide libraries, librarians, and educational institutions the resources we need to mobilize and broadly implement your ideas so that the vision of an informed citizenry can be realized for everyone, not just a privileged or lucky few.  By formulating and implementing a plan to embed transliteracy as an essential literacy in our libraries and educational institutions, you have a historic and unique opportunity to shape the course of  this country by recasting and amplifying the power of education.

We need bold action and leadership from you to help truly realize the possibilities for a democratic society in profound ways—that is the kind of change we can believe in.  Are you willing to be a catalyst for this kind of change?  The invitation is on the table.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Buffy J. Hamilton, Ed.S.
School Librarian
Creekview High School
buffy.hamilton at gmail.com

I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired.  You can read the full blog post by School Librarian Buffy Hamilton over at her blog The Unquiet Librarian.
-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

A day in the life of a teen library

Three weeks have passed since the Portland Public Library reopened after a lengthy renovation (which I wrote about here).  The addition of a teen area is a completely new idea for the community of Portland, Maine.  At first, teens didn’t really understand that this was THEIR space.  However, over the last week or so they’ve started to trickle in and discover the space.

So what are they doing?  They’re connecting with their friends on Facebook in our computer lab.  They’re relaxing and tweeting on their IPads in our teen lounge.  They’re using their netbooks anywhere they can find a spot.  And don’t worry…they’re reading (on every sort of device be it book, phone, computer, ereader).

My words of advice?  Let them explore.  Say hello.  Let them know you are their friend.  Make sure they know that the teen library is THEIR space.

More Teen stuff at the Portland Public Library can be found here and here.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor