Tag Archives: Programming

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

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

Nintendo 3DS and the Louvre

What a great partnership.  I’ve been playing Kid Icarus: Uprising on my 3DS for the past few weeks and have been enjoying the experience quite a bit.  The 3DS is a neat little system and from what I see here in this video it makes the Louvre experience even cooler.

-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor

Fictional Band at Your Library?

The backstory:
I’ve been working with a fellow Portland Mainer named Kirsten Cappy who runs the book consulting company  Curious City to come up with a program to promote the new book Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham (out June 2012).

We had the idea to send the book out on the road, much like the characters in the story.  We asked “how can this work and how can we help out libraries?”  My response was: “make it easy and simple for teen libraries and give them a summer reading program in a box”.  Simple things for the library to host and give their community something neat and exciting.

This is what we came up with.

We’re looking for libraries between Boston, MA and Austin, TX to join in on the ride.  It’s simple: you host our traveling road show, you get free stuff and a program for teens, and that’s it.

If you’re interested, check out our official press release here:
http://curiouscitydpw.com/2012/03/28/fictional-band-at-your-library/

-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor

Programming is great, but…

Have you ever given your all for a teen program, only to feel less than spectacular about the end result? We’ve all been there. Maybe we don’t attract the attendance numbers we hoped for or that our well thought out plan didn’t go exactly as we expected it to go. It’s got me thinking about life in the library beyond programs.

Programming is a great tool for libraries, but it can only get us so far. Real interactions, friendships, and something as simple as saying hello to our patrons is one of the best practices for a teen librarian to learn. I’m inclined to believe that librarians who spend more time interacting, building friendships, and communicating with their patrons have better results with the community that they serve.

How many teen craft programs can we host? Do teens even really like Star Wars/Harry Potter/Twilight themed events? Is gaming really one of the main solutions we have to keep turning towards?

We shouldn’t abandon programming all together. Think of programming as the first step, the gateway towards something deeper. Plan ahead with teen programs, but don’t spend a majority of your energy and focus on the programs themselves. Spend this time and energy on people. Take the time that you’d be taking to plan and implement an event like, say, teen after hours, and instead funnel that energy one day towards sitting down with your teens. Ask them about their day. Tell them about your life.  Listen to their stories. Have a laugh.

Another idea, although slightly pricey, may be to think about investing in staff. Sure, employing even a part time staff member can even have a tremendous effect on your budget, but you can’t think of it in business terms. An employee whose main priority is to interact with teen patrons and make them feel like part of the community can bring such a great positive energy to a library.

The next time you want to focus your energy and budget on a Twilight themed prom style event, think about your other options? Is it worth spending your energy sitting and chatting with the teens in your library instead?

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Teens Through Time Movie Series

As much of a fan of putting together elaborate and  unique programs at my library, at the same time I feel it’s good to balance things out with some laid back stuff as well.  This lead to my desire to seek out a movie license so that we could show some films.  It was a program that could easily happen and at the same time give our teen patrons something to do.

I tried a Random Movie Night program at first.  It was probably the least amount of work I put into a program and I had hoped for high results.  It wasn’t that big of a success.  I’m still trying to figure out why, but I feel like it had something to do with uncertainty.  If someone’s gonna make the trek out to the library to see a film, they want to make sure it’s something they’ll enjoy.

With that, my colleague Michael Whittaker and I put our thinking caps on.   How could we effectively use this movie license and still keep the program simple?  It was Michael who came up with the theme Teens Through Time, a film series showcasing teen movies through the years.  Our hope was to show that what people call “teen angst” wasn’t just something that was happening to their generation, but instead a problem that teens have faced through the years.  We quickly came up with a list of films we were enthusiastic about and put our creation out into the world.  For the full list of what my library is showing during our Teens Through Time series, click here

We got some great feedback on our program.  Our local newspaper covered the Teens Through Time series two weeks before it began, drawing some great feedback from our community.  If that wasn’t enough, the same paper ran an very positive op-ed on the program titled Our View: Portland Library film series shows teen drama is not new.

Students who watch the movies will see that fashions may change but people don’t, and the issues that they are wrestling with have been constant themes.

They also may recognize that, like some of the actors on the screen, they will likely play different roles in the course of their own lives, as they have kids, who also grow up.

The series is a great use of the renovated library facility and should give teens — and adults — plenty to talk about this winter.

So far, we’ve gone through two movies.  At the screening of Blackboard Jungle, we had a grandmother, her daughter, and granddaughter show up for the film.  The grandmother told us that she had seen the movie in the theater when it came out and that her daughter had seen it on VHS many years later at home.  It was the granddaughter’s first time seeing the movie.  Three generations of family in the public library, enjoying just one of the many services we offer.  Awesome.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor