Guitars at the Library? Its Gonna Be Freaking RAD!!

I thought I’d share an update on the whole Guitar Lending Library at my library. It’s been a long journey but I think we are almost there. A whole lot of awesome has happened since we started this back in October. If you want to read about the genesis of the project you can check out the link to it here.

The first thing that changed is that we decided to not get our guitars from Guitar Center. I’d like to say that I love Guitar Center, but they didn’t really give me that level of service I was looking for when I went and told them I wanted to buy 15 guitars. I mean, I’m buying 15 guitars! At least sound like you want me to buy them from you.

So… I went and bought them from a great local guitar shop called Gelb Music. They totally bent over backwards to help me out. They sold me great guitars at a great price and I couldn’t ask for better service. I purchased Hohner Classical guitars, with a gigbag, tuners, extra strings, wall hangers, and I’m going go back and buy some capos too. I’ll let you in on a little secret too… They gave me a better price than guitar center!

I took the guitars up to the central library office and our great cataloger Ida hooked me up with the item record, and loan rules and all that. The guitars check-out for 8 weeks, they have a five dollar a day fine up to $50.00, and can be renewed, but can’t be put on hold. There are various reasons for all this, and if you’re interested in the finer details, I’ll lay that all out in a later post. (If anyone cares)

In preparation of the guitars arrival, we had county maintenance install the hangers. When the guitars finally came in after all the processing (RFID, Barcodes, etc…) we hung them up to be ready for our first round of guitar group lessons.

Our group lessons are being taught through a great partnership with a member of a local band called Vintage Music Collective named Justin Phipps. This partnership came about after their band played at the library and we found out that Justin taught lessons in the local schools. Justin was also the one who recommended the Hohner guitars and Gelb Music since that’s who he gets his guitars through.

Overall, I’m pretty stoked about this project so far. We don’t start checking them out until June 15th and I’m leaving a lot of details out of this post. In a future post, I’m going show you our loan agreements, staff guitar training guides, and various other details of the project.

-This project was made possible through the Eureka! program and an LSTA grant

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The #Partyhard Post: How Partying Can Make Libraries Better

This post stems entirely from @librarianjp and our conversations on FB and his youtube video. From what I understand, he got inspired by Andrew W.K. so I’m researching that guy too. Anyway, I wanted to give him credit for getting me to think about this in a more creative way. Here it is…

Librarians need to party more and party harder. Now I know what you’re thinking! Yes, I have been to ALA and I know that librarians do party pretty well, but my thoughts go beyond this and I can only explain them from some of the things that have happened in my experiences with partying with librarians and what I think can come from librarians embracing some aspects of the #partyhard community.

A Celebration of our Profession
One of the first things that JP said to me about the profession of librarianship and the whole party hard theory was to the effect of needing to celebrate our profession more instead of mourning it. This really hit home for me at the time it was said because I was just reading about layoffs, libraries closing, hours lost, budgets cut, etc… I really feel like there are quite a few people who are quietly mourning the loss of this profession. But there’s no reason that we need to go out quietly. If we do really wind up going out, we should go out loud, kicking, screaming, and celebrating everything that libraries have done for the people of this country for the last 236 years. Really, our fellow librarians have accomplished a whole lot when you sit back and think about it! So now let’s celebrate it!

This leads me to something I despise but I will name it here. It’s a book called “The Secret.” Let me state that I HATE this book for a number of reasons. *But really, the power of the theory behind the book is the power of positive thinking. By believing that what you want can be accomplished you can accomplish it.* So, as a profession we need to begin this cycle of believing we can accomplish everything we need to. I don’t think that this can start from the position of negativity or self-doubt that I keep seeing and hearing but needs to begin from a position of positive actions. What better way to begin this cycle than through a party and celebration of our profession?

Party With Each Other
This is a conversation that I have had many times. In fact, I said something similar here in Loida’s video. The summary is that I’m always a little weary of going to sessions and workshops at conferences. This is generally because these were put together up to a year or more in advance. The people I’m interested in hearing from all write about what they’re excited about online and whatever it is that they’re presenting on was talked about on their blogs, twitter, youtube, etc… when they first thought of it. I almost never learn anything new from sessions. I do, however, learn incredible amounts at the socials and meet-ups. The people I’m excited to learn from are talking directly with me and telling me about what they are working on and excited about right now. I get to ask questions and get feedback on what I’m excited about on a personal level. People say what they wouldn’t or couldn’t say at a workshop and there is a significant barrier that is broken down in the social scene. The end product of this is that I have never learned more than when I partied with the people who I am a geeky fan of.

My other problem was brought up by Andy Woodworth and I fairly snarkly answered that the problem could be solved if we partied more. The problem was that library systems don’t collaborate enough. I think that a large part of the lack of collaboration and sharing between library entities is that many of the people involved in those organizations never meet. So, to help with this, Andrew Carlos and I started some Librarian meet-ups in the Bay area. We have only had two and I’ve only been to one, but at just this one meet-up I found out about a project happening in my neighboring library system that is only about a mile away that would allow for some kind of partnership with a project that I’m working on. If we hadn’t partied together, we wouldn’t have had this opportunity to learn from each other and see what we are each doing. Now, I have new collaborative project for Fall, I know what other libraries in my area are doing, how we can collaborate, and I know new people to plan exciting new services and programs with.

Party with our Patrons and Our Community
This was a completely random and recent thought that I had in the ALA Think Tank group. I have not really tested or tried this so I’ll just throw it in here at the end in case anyone is still reading.

What if we partied with our patrons? What if we just went to the bars in our communities and hung out all night, danced, drank, and really got to know our patrons in ways that we don’t get to know them at the reference desk? What could we learn about their real needs and wants? What would they tell us in a social setting at a bar or restaurant or concert that they wouldn’t tell us in the library? What do you think?

I guess I should say that at some level I have actually done this but not exactly in the way that I was thinking. While I haven’t really tried to make connections by partying in my community, I have partied in my community and I have made some connections. The first was that I was introduced to someone who already knew about my Guitar Project and had been following it because he wanted his organization to donate money to it! He actually knew me before I ever met him! (I was famous in my own mind for like 10 seconds) and the second was that I found out about a local chapter of the group called Guitars not Guns and they also want to help with the guitar project. But again, I wasn’t looking for connections as I’m proposing here, just out for the night. What if I was actually looking to meet folks?

*that summary just saved you $14.00 on Amazon so buy someone a drink.

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Libraries Will Save the World (if we let them)

When I attended the Eureka! Institute we gave a presentation at the end about innovative ideas in libraries. Our group had a whole bunch of them and I presented them. The response was “it seems like your trying to save the world.” I kept my mouth shut, but what I thought was “Well… Yeah, we are!” I mean, I am obviously biased, but the intense amount of good that a library does is why I got into librarianship in the first place. Anyway, the reason I’m writing this is that I have once again found that libraries are one of the only institutions that can save the world.

I was watching a Ted presentation by Tim Jackson called Tim Jackson’s Economic Reality Check. While I totally agree with so much of what he says and am so excited to throw away my stuff and move aboard my boat for a couple months (Henry David Thoreau) I am more impressed with his statements at the end of his presentation. These statements make it perfectly clear that libraries, once again, are going to be the savior of humanity. But only if librarians allow them to be.

Basically, it comes down to people’s ability to achieve a new kind of fulfillment beyond material goods. We need to begin to not only provide the information to allow people to fulfill the needs in their life, but we also need to provide the materials they need. After all, what good is a book if you don’t have the resources to learn from them? I’m suggesting that these materials are our collections beyond books. Things like seeds, guitars, tools, video games, and maybe even augmented reality. But, as a great man once said, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”

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Starting A Library Guitar Collection

In case you haven’t heard (read) me mention it on Twitter or Facebook I’m putting together a collection of circulating guitars for my library. If anyone is interested, here is some background on this project, what I’m planning, and how we’re moving forward.


Fender DG-8S Acoustic Guitar Value Pack  While working at Lincoln Public Library my director and I had a discussion about various innovative collections we could start at the library. We had a great space and some good ideas but we weren’t sure how to implement them. Some of our ideas included video games, tools, and other musical instruments. The biggest barrier to us starting this collection was that we just simply didn’t have time. We were running a 40,000 square foot joint use building with a huge circulation number, a large amount of acquisition and cataloguing work, and just about everything else that comes with not only a brand new building, but a new staff and a new library system. Did I mention there were only 2 full time staff members? Anyway… Those are the reasons that Lincoln Public Library doesn’t have a guitar collection.

The good news is that East Palo Alto Library in the San Mateo County Library system where I now work will have a collection of circulating guitars. It was all made possible by my involvement in the Eureka! Program that is allowing me to apply for a five thousand dollar LSTA grant. This grant will be the seed money to start my collection. What follows is the VERY rough draft of some of the information that I compiled for the grant.

    Basic description of the project

The East Palo Alto Library will create a collection of guitars as well as offer two 8-week beginning guitar group lesson programs to include both those individuals who already own guitars and those who have checked-out the EPA guitars. There will also be 4-6 one time programs throughout the year that are focused on music. These will include performances, movies, artist visits, and game nights (Rock Band).


The project was identified as a need due to the lack of music programs for youth in the East Palo Alto community. Music classes are no longer offered at local schools and there are no local businesses that offer music lessons or sell musical instruments. The economic status of a large percentage of East Palo Alto residents makes it difficult to gain access to expensive music lessons as well as the instruments themselves even if such businesses did exist within the community.

However, this community has a long and rich history with music as well as a cultural identity in music. East Palo Alto is home to one of the largest populations of Pacific Islanders in the continental United States and Polynesian music has played a significant role in the culture of East Palo Alto with performances by local groups at churches and various community gatherings. There is also a significant Spanish speaking population that performs various forms of Spanish music. The African American Population in East Palo Alto has had a significant effect on the music since the early 1950’s when this population became the most prominent. Each of these stylings of music has led to a blended genre of music that is being performed locally by such bands as the Vintage Music Collection and the Hip Hop Orchestra. (Two groups brought to my attention by Sereptha Strong who is one of my librarians named)

These are not the only groups in East Palo Alto. In fact, there have been a number of self-taught musical groups that have arisen from within the community. The most prominent of some of these groups are primarily rap and hip hop groups such as Totally Insane, Sean T, S.I.C, Mac & AK, The Youngen, Chunk, Bigg Rigg, Band-Aide, Scoot Dogg, Ad Kapone, and Mac-10.

Many families gather to play instruments that have been handed down from generation to generation, and there are some residents who offer their backyards to local performers as a stage. There are also few homemade musical venues such as the House of Bigger Girls and some churches allow musical performances.

Moreover, music has been cited as a way for youth to express themselves in a positive and creative way. There have been numerous studies that have shown that music can act as a deterrent to violence. This, coupled with the understanding that EPA was the murder and violent crime capital of the United States throughout the 90s shows that there is an inherent need for a musical outlet.

    Anticipated outputs and outcomes

For the Community
Patrons who check-out guitars and participate in the 8-week group music lessons should have a basic understanding of tuning, parts of a guitar, major and minor chords, a few chord progressions, a number of strumming and picking patterns, a number of scales, and few basic songs.

Many other larger community benefits of music have been identified however, the measurements of such benefits can be difficult to quantify. A list of the potential benefits to the community with supporting documentation can be found at;

Some of the outcomes listed from various studies include

  • Improved reading comprehension
  • improved math grades
  • Improved standardized test scores
  • Improved social Skills
  • Many of these outcomes are difficult to measure, and in no way am I making the argument that this program alone will have the ability to accomplish all of these things in a short 8 week program. However, this program could be a small contributing factor in the growth and improvement of our community.

    For the Library
    Increased Circulation
    Increased level of programs and services
    Increased number of partnerships with EPA organizations

      Some identified community partners

    We have identified a number of organizations that have expressed interest in partnering with the Library to provide these programs. There are a few local bands/artists who would like to volunteer to teach group lessons. Other organizations who have expressed interest include

  • Sassy
  • JobTrain
  • YMCA
  • Ravenswood school district
  • Stanford
    • Budgeting

    This is the part that I’m most excited about right now. Just the fact that I’m thinking about the budget because I’ve made it this far gets me pretty excited so here is how the money will break down.

    The majority of the grant funding will be used to purchase guitars and supplies. We would prefer to find ways to have the guitars donated to the program. However, guitars may need to be purchased. Guitar starter packs from Guitar Center typically range from $150-250 depending on quality. I would like to begin the collection with 15 guitars and spend approximately $3,750 of the grant money on these guitars. That means I can spend about $250 on each guitar. I wanted to make sure that this was even possible and that I could even get a halfway decent guitar for this price so I walked across the street from my house to Guitar Center on Sunday (Guitar Center’s close proximity to my living space has not had a beneficial effect on my finances BTW) and started to ask them some questions about what kinds of discounts I could get if I bought 15ish guitars with a starter pack from them. I don’t want to say what the discount is, but the unofficial offer was very significant and might allow me to do even more. However, since the offer was unofficial I’m going to keep my $250 estimate and hopefully wind up with more money in the end to offer more classes or more learning materials.

    Happily playing guitar badly in my front yard in Santa Cruz
    Next I need to buy some of the supplies that I need to display the collection and to keep the collection going. These are just basic necessities like extra strings, picks, straps, and other general maintenance supplies. I think I can get enough for the first year with around $300. But then I still need to purchase a way to display the guitars and I think that I can get wall mounts (before the discount that I’m going to ask for) for around $20 each so I need about $300 for that. So now I’m up to about $4,350

    What I have left over is about $650 that I’m going to use to refresh our music learning collection. I want to purchase books, dvds, cds, magazines, etc… that will help people learn on their new instruments. I should also mention that the starter packs come with an intro to guitar DVD and I think that I will keep that DVD with packs when the patrons check out the guitars.

    The last purchase that the library will be making will be the cost of the instructors for the program. I don’t want to take this money out of the grant money because it is an ongoing cost. So I’m planning on paying a guitar instructor about $30 per hour for the group lessons and I have already found some teachers who are willing to do it for that price. Even more exciting, I’ve found some teachers who have offered to do it for free! However, I’m wary of these offers because I’ve my previous experiences with flighty volunteers and I don’t want the students to miss out because the guitar instructor is a flake. So I’m budgeting $480 for two one hour, eight week group lesson sessions. I’ll let you know how that goes.

      Fines and Fees

    Just so you know, I’m totally against fines and fees. However, we do need to be able to maintain our strings and picks and we do need to repair any damages to our guitars, and I need to ensure that we get these guitars back. So, depending on what kind of price I can get on all of these things, I will be charging some kind of fine/fee structure that is yet to be decided.

    While I don’t have the grant approved yet, I am very excited about even the possibility of having a funding source for this collection. If, in the end my grant is not awarded to me, I at least have the foundation for writing more grants! Not matter what happens with the grant, I’m pretty sure I can get this off the ground in a number of ways.

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    So Much To Do… What Should I do First?

    So I’ve been complaining about not knowing what to do next. I have my personal life goals sorted out as in this post, and I’m still figuring out my professional goals, but I’m just not sure where to start within my library system because there is so much that I want to do. There are quite a few large projects that I want to take on at the branch I work at right now, but I have no idea what I would do first. So I created this list because people asked me what it was that I wanted to do and also as a way for me to keep track of all my ideas. Let me know what you think!

    Volunteering Program
    Fully develop a volunteering program that establishes job roles and duties and outlines a training program. Implement this program to create a “staff” of volunteers to relieve staff of some of the day-to-day duties of maintaining the branch to allow them to perform larger duties with more significant results.

    Graffiti Arts
    The library needs some more modern art… Badly. Currently, the art on the walls was put there in the 80s but its from an African Art collection from far earlier and its representative of the culture of the community as it was about 25 years ago. Since then, the community has drastically changed and some new art needs to be displayed. The Police had a program that encouraged young graffiti artists to use their skills more positively. I would love to partner with this group to paint a graf mural on some of our blank walls.

    Establish a Friends of the Library Group
    This library has not had a FOL group for approximately 10 years. There are a number of barriers to establishing the group but I believe the need for community outreach and the ability to expand programs and services far outweigh the hardship of the barriers.

    Create a Community Newsletter
    A community newsletter could help to bring in more patrons for programs and services that are offered as well as notify patrons of new programs and services.

    Improve Wayfinding and use of Space
    The current configuration of the library does not currently lend itself to efficient wayfinding for patrons. Movement of furniture and better signage can create a useful library space as well as allow access to some of the “hidden” collections.

    Simplify the Organization of Digital Information in the Library System
    Currently the library system uses a wide number of information systems for communication. For example- staff email, Blogs, Servers, Websites, are all provided via different methods and therefore require a number of different passwords and access systems. Are each of these necessary? Can it be simplified?

    Centralized Ordering
    Develop and implement a plan for standardizing and centralizing the office supply ordering. The savings to the library system could be significant through the purchase of supplies in bulk and through re-negotiated contracts for larger orders.

    Development of instrument collection and system wide music programs
    The library could work to provide a collection of musical Instruments for check-out. Specifically, I was thinking guitars but this could be expanded or changed. For example in the library it might be hugely successful to check out Ukuleles. These check-outs would be in conjunction with a series of group classes lasting 8 weeks, during which time the students would have the instruments checked-out to them.

    Roaming Reference and Mobile Devices
    Develop and implement a plan to utilize mobile technology such as PDAs, smart phones, and other hand held electronic devices to assist in roaming (mobile?) reference and check-outs “on the go.”

    Development of a Social Media campaign
    Create a more robust online profile for the library system utilizing many of the online social networks and static sites to increase the library’s level of Online Social Capital. This could be done through the creation of a plan at the branch level to increase community involvement, or by creating one larger profile for the entire system.

    Text Book Collection
    There are a number of schools in the surrounding community served by the library. The library should establish closer partnerships with these groups and provide the services and materials needed by the students. These materials include research, book reports, and textbooks.

    QR Codes
    So, I’m not sure where I got this idea but I’m pretty sure I didn’t come up with it. I want to place QR codes around the community in significant areas where people can scan the codes to find more information about that place (or activity that occurs in that area) in the catalog. So, for example, books on hiking on mountain trails linked to a QR code placed at the head of the trail.

    My long list of MUST DOs in the next two years….

    So, with @joeyelle joining the Peace Corps and leaving for two years, I’m a little on my own and need some things to occupy my time. I’ve had a list of things that I’ve wanted to do that has been doing nothing but growing and growing. I think I’m going to take all of the free time that I’m going to have and fill it with completing all of these things that are on my list. It will be like my own little renaissance! If you see anything on the list that you are interested in doing and live in an area somewhat close to me, feel free to join me for any of these things. I might not finish them all because some take longer than two years to complete, but I at least want to get a start on them.

    So, here is a list of things Patrick needs to accomplish in the next two years….

    Buy and live-aboard a Sailboat
    Get a yacht surveying certification
    Run for ALA office
    Build an Electric Guitar From Scratch
    Speak fluent Spanish (in process)
    Scuba certification
    Become a Certified Public Library Administrator
    Ham Radio License
    Knot tying
    Guitar Lessons/Classes (In process)
    Bungee Jump
    Learn Celestial Navigation
    Present at two conferences
    Publish 2-5 professional articles
    Begin either a Masters in Business Admin or PHD in Information Ethics
    Finally finish reading the Harvard 5 foot shelf of books
    Captain’s License
    Publish a short story
    Learn HTML and other programming languages
    Hang glide

    Build/learn a bunch of stuff (I can do it here)

    • Build a radio from scratch
    • Welding
    • Build a Cigar Box Guitar
    • Build a Telescope
    • Learn Basic Cabinetry
    • Automotive/diesel repair

    And does anyone have any other suggestions?