Head of User Services
John F. Kennedy Branch, Piscataway Public Library, NJ
MSIS, College of Computing & Information, University at Albany–SUNY, 2006
Turn It Up!
Photo by Barbara A. Landi
When a patron donated his entire collection of cassette tapes to the Piscataway Public Library (PPL), head of user services Allen McGinley saw more than a big box full of has-been technology. He saw a chance to delve into the cassette tape culture of the 1980s and 1990s. So in late 2011, McGinley and PPL adult/youth services colleague Kate Vasilik created the all-ages “Turn It Up!” program, which included cassette tape crafts for teens, music demonstrations, authoritative discussions, and the making of a collaborative oral history “mix tape.”
That’s just one of the innovative programs McGinley has developed since joining PPL in 2008. Others include an oral history project for local World War II veterans and Retro Gaming Day, “one of the purest and best intergenerational programming ideas in libraries,” says JP Porcaro, head of acquisitions at New Jersey City University Library (and himself a 2012 Mover & Shaker). “Seniors reminisce about the invention of video games, parents love showing their kids what Super Mario Bros. was like on an original Nintendo, and kids love to play on video game systems with family and friends of all ages.” The event drew 125 people.
McGinley’s bridging-gaps approach applies to other collaborations as well. In 2010, he created the unconference Libraries Connect for the Libraries of Middlesex, NJ, a free one-day forum for library professionals at all levels to discuss topics selected that very morning by the participants. The event is now in its third year. For the 2011 New Jersey Library Association conference, he organized the Future of Libraries Unconference and the New Librarian and Library Student Shindig. He is also one of the creators of the American Library Association’s Think Tank, which, with more than 600 members, bills itself as Facebook’s largest active group for info-sharing among librarians.
“In recent years, I’ve become passionate about and dedicated to creating opportunities for others to collaborate,” McGinley says. “To me, collaborating is about engaging and building, and this really frames the way I approach both my colleagues and the community that I serve.”
That’s among the reasons McGinley has so many fans. “Some librarians have really excellent ideas. Some librarians create wonderful, original programming opportunities. Some librarians are unconditionally dedicated to their communities. Some librarians have enough enthusiasm to spread the excitement around to everyone around them,” says Vasilik. “Our Allen McGinley has it all.”