I love my city. 

I was planning on talking about my last
week at grad school. But I can’t. 

Right now I’m waiting for a plane to take me back to Chattanooga. I’m watching the news and obsessively reading through Twitter to try and gain some understanding about what just happened in the city I love and have adopted as my home. 

I picked this city to raise my family in. I’ve had people try and talk me into leaving and I just won’t. There is something amazing happening here. It is the most optimistic place I’ve ever been. Since the minute I got there I’ve been met by a feeling of “of course we can change the world, we’re already doing it!” 

Mayor Andy Berke leads a storytime on the second floor

There is art everywhere. 

   
    
    

There are more trees here than I’ve ever seen in a city.  

   

  

We have a deep river that doesn’t divide our shores, but seems to enhance them.   

  
   

There’s so much more than this. I’m ready to try and help when I get home and I don’t know how much of that will be within the walls of the library I love our outside those walls. But being ready to help us what makes me from Chattanooga now. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I love my city. 

First Day of School

When I was in high school I had an incredible Latin teacher. Liz was intensely dedicated to her students and the art of language. She taught the class in Latin. There were 2 grades: A or F. We were all required to take the National Latin Exam every year (We all always medaled. Seriously. All of us. EVERY time.). We also had summer homework. We would be given a text to translate from Latin to English each summer at our leisure. I loved it. I hated the pressure during the school year but when Summer came I could devote all my focus to the class I loved the most and just read, think and write.

So far, that’s what grad school has been like. Well, sort of. I mean, there’s still a lot of stress from work, home ownership, new marriage, dog, cat, book and a few other monkey wrenches the Universe decided were appropriate for just this moment… But seriously, I have finally reached a point where I’m studying only the thing I’m obsessed with. Can you imagine!? I think about libraries. All. The. Time. But NOW! Now I get to think about libraries and do extra projects about libraries and (here comes the best part…) challenge myself when it comes to what I think I know about libraries.

I’m a weirdo in basically all aspects of my life. I’ve never quite fit into any of the molds I tried on. Snowboarder with no patience for the cool factor. Beat poet enthusiast who can’t stand Ginsberg. Seamstress interested in making intentionally tacky or inappropriate costumes resulting in social discomfort for my friends. Punk Rock lover who does not like Sid Vicious. Loudest librarian in the building interested in adding more loud people who will do weird things with me (Wool felting for cat lovers! ).  These are not historically popular niches.

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Now HERE are two beat foxes! That is literally one lucky dog.

I like being a weirdo. I’ve gotten comfortable living on the edges of all these colliding identities and library land has actually started encouraging people to work the way I work. I can’t wait to see what cool new versions of weird this experience is going to pull out of me.

I’ve been doing homework for the iSchool for weeks now. Prepping for an intense week long trip where I get to study for 7 days with peers. It feels a lot like when I was 9 and we moved to Maine – “Will they like me? Will I be too weird? Will I make friends?” It also feels like starting a new job – “Will standing up for what I believe in make people angry at me? Will I get to do what I want?” and somewhere sprinkled on the fuzzy edges it feels like falling in love – “I can’t sleep! I want to look nice!”

So I’m finally here and ready. It’s 7:45am and I’ve got on the special outfit I picked out and I tried to make my crazy hair cooperate and it’s my first day of school. I hope that I don’t cry (for any reason) and I hope that I don’t get a tattoo. Even more than that I hope my ideas are good enough. That all this weird has culminated into the kind of person this community will think can make a difference.

  
 

A Chat with Stacie Ledden – Director of Innovation and Brand Strategy for Anythink Libraries

Stacie is rad. SUPER rad. I met Stacie last year at Public Library Association (PLA) and we got jazzed on the oddball things we were both creating at our libraries. Soon after we became Facebook and twitter buddies where I learned more about the amazing initiatives she’s involved in which include Outside the Lines (http://getoutsidethelines.org/ – #getOTL) and being one of the minds behind R-Squared – The Risk + Reward Conference (http://rsquaredconference.org/). Seriously, this woman is a prime example of why people from the non-library world NEED to be involved in what we’re all trying to create.

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Over the course of our interview (or should I refer to it as more of a conversation which occasionally reached fevered pitches?) we discussed a lot of big ideas.

First we tackled what people in Youth Departments can bring to a leadership role. Her thoughts? Youth librarians have the ability to add whimsy, color, and opportunities for all ages to learn through play. Anythink Director Pam Sandlian Smith was once a youth librarian and during a  visit last year from Rebecca Miller, editor of SLJ, Rebecca remarked that Pam had basically turned the whole place into a children’s library. Stacie found that exciting and believes these opportunities for libraries to capture the attention of adults using methods youth librarians already apply – color, marketing, and attention – have the ability to focus on our audiences in a way they aren’t used to receiving. That attention will make youth librarians valuable voices at a leadership table and will keep our public involved in a dialogue we need to stay relevant. She believes we can’t simply rely on the fact that people love us forever, we need to involve them.

We also threw around the idea of not viewing failure as failure. That each experience, be it good or bad, is always an opportunity. Being in a position of innovation she gets asked a lot about failure and never feels she’s giving the answer people are looking for. My question is are we looking for stories of failure to learn how to weather our own? If so, when is moving forward not the answer to encountering failure? We both agree what is important is to recognize the quiet failures, our dying or dead ideas and to throw them away. Holding onto them is maybe the only true form of failure.

There’s far more to our conversation and to Stacie than could ever be captured in 500 words. She’s someone I feel a deep commune with. A fellow library outsider who loves the driving force of libraries and has always been a librarian. We have no piece of paper to prove it, but it drives us from the most deep down punk rock place. It is the only way to stay hardcore and facilitate change from within a system. The best way to create change by actually embodying the change. Becoming the system instead of railing against it.

You Know What I Love About My Home?

We all know it’s important to focus on the small things from time to time so I thought I’d just share a bunch of stuff that I love about where I live.

  1. My town is a bird sanctuary. Yup. My WHOLE TOWN. Not just the parks, the whole freakin’ thing. Our house came with a bird feeder and Karl is REALLY into keeping our feathered friends well fed. His absolute favorite birds are a couple of cardinals who hang out on a branch nearby and take turns carefully choosing seed from our feeder and then flying back to feed the seed to one another. It’s adorable. (Still working on an action shot of this phenomenon.)
  2. Dibley is a muppet. He looks like a muppet, he makes muppet noises and sometimes he also moves like a muppet. Do you know how hard it is to say goodbye to a muppet every morning and then see that muppet looking at you sadly through a window as you walk away? It’s shocking that I make it to work every day.dibley
  3. My house is straight outta’ Mad Men. It’s a midcentury modern ranch that is almost entirely original. When inside it I drink as many liquids out of martini glasses as possible.                       house
  4. Surprise flowers! There are so many cool plants that I can have now that I live in the south. Whenever I get into a new house I love the year long unfolding mystery of what plants are living with me. So far we’ve discovered wild roses, day lilies and ton of mature tulip trees surrounding our house.

Take a couple minutes to look around and appreciate, folks. We get one ride on this big spinning ball and the more you can appreciate the small stuff the happier your ride will be.

Countdown: 1 Week til the Book Comes Out!

Whoosh. That’s what just happened with my past year and a half.

It feels sometimes like I still just arrived in Chattanooga in a Jetta packed to the gills with all the possessions I’d need to make a go at living alone for 6 months and diving deeper into a library than I ever have before. (Dishes? No. Paper Punches? Yes. Sheets? No. Upcycled teddy bear turned into a cyberman from a teen? Of course!)

The Book fell into my lap because of Justin, really. He was contacted about writing it but didn’t feel he had the time. Plus, as he put it: “Programming is why you’re here now. You should do it.” I replied to their inquiry and nervously pitched a chapter all about STEAM activities one could do with just Legos. Turns out it was just what the folks at ABC-CLIO Libraries Unlimited were looking for and I was set free to create a work truly my own. They just cut me loose and told me we’d talk in about a year unless I had questions.

I obsessed, I hid from my friends, I worked hard and I put my brand new marriage at risk. My husband made me write when I didn’t want to, ordered me pizza and put up with me frantically reading him sentences about everything from the pH balance of our hair to time stamps in vampire videos. I demanded answers about appropriate adjectives. I forced uncomfortable discussions revolving around my status as a “non librarian” in the big picture of The Book. The man is a saint.

I worked harder. I shaped and reshaped my work before the editing process even began and I held my copy editor mother at bay. (“I just don’t want them to know what a bad writer you are!” She’d say. “They’ve already seen that and still want The Book!” I’d plea.)

I met my deadline! I breathed a sigh of relief.

I met my editing deadline! I breathed another sigh of relief.

Turns out there are multiple editing processes that take place. I kept breathing. (But by this point it was just normal breathing because I didn’t think I would ever actually finish.)

I wrote an index. (And breathed no sigh of relief. That part was just stressful.)

And now, in 1 week The Book will be released. It will arrive in libraries, schools and houses in cardboard boxes – a fleet of my ideas and successes pounding the pavement and stretching across the world. (I have a library friend in Sweden who tells me how excited she and some colleagues are for the book to arrive. SWEDEN!!!)

Because of the world we live in there will be a fleet of people who will probably be really mean about… whatever. The way I program, My abundance of space/lack of space/inability to be their exact library, one of those adjectives I obsessed over, who knows. The truth is when we create something we leave ourselves open for criticism. I have a tendency to take criticism lightly on the surface but I internalize it much more deeply. I can’t help but wonder how this experience may change me.

After every program or event my mind reels with what I could have done to make it better, bigger, cooler. I’m finally getting to a point where I can accept that I work hard and the results of my hard work will vary because this world is not a frictionless, sterile environment catered specifically to my programming needs. People will go on vacation, they’ll get sick, their parents will ground them, new movies/skate parks/organizations/coffee houses will open and steal my thunder. I keep working hard and giving to my community in ways that make sense to us and that makes my work better. I hope my library community can use The Book to do the same. Cater and bend it into what works for their communities. Hearing about all those adaptations, mutations and inspired changes are something I can NOT wait to hear!

Only 1 more week til we get to start the conversation!

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