Shifting. I have been shifting for many years. Here. There. Everywhere. Physically and mentally. I have worked hard to unite the head, the heart, and the hand. Am I there? Nope. Will I ever be? I doubt it. But all that one can do is keep trying. We all have ups and we all have downs. Balance is an amazing thing. Balance is a very difficult thing to achieve. However, I believe that if you have the goal to of achieving balance at the forefront of what you do then that is the right path to be on.

My music habits shift. Sometimes it’s just a mood that I am seeking out. Other times the world around me influences what I want to hear. The Grateful Dead fills the room for me these days. This year they are celebrating their 50th anniversary. This is a joyous occasion. I have not paid much attention to the band before. I blame this on living in Western PA and going to college at the apex of the jam band resurgence. I didn’t want to be in that scene. But I knew the music was good. I did not know that I could have balance though! Oh! How great it is to grow up!

I love how the notes that the Grateful Dead play swirl together in harmony. I love how a group of individuals come together to form a solid unit. I love seeing their history and how the band has shifted so many times over the course of their 50 year career.

I learn a lot from the history of many popular music acts. I see that they have ups and downs. I see that they shift. It’s not always pretty along the way, but what remains matters most: the music. I think about this in terms of how I approach my family life and my library life. What are those things and how can I remember to focus on them when I am in a moment where things are not “pretty”. I believe that I will leave behind happiness and togetherness. I am OK with that.

Things will shift. I may not feel this way in July 2016. This is part of the journey. I will keep up with these shifts. Everything is awesome.

Managing the Future: Supporting Your Youth Services Innovators ALA 2015

First and foremost: I’m sorry to everyone who came to this awesome event and to my fellow colleagues Abby, Cory, and Kendra for missing the presentation! I was convinced that the presentation was on Sunday June 28, 2015 at 8am PST. Turns out I was very wrong and it was Saturday June 27, 2015 at 8am PST.  I will blame it on two things: my brain is so full of moving these days and also general Justin Hoenke forgetfulness. I am sorry about my no-show and I hope the following makes it up to you….

My presentation! I believe I was actually recording my presentation at the same time that the actual in person real time presentation was happening. Anywho, here you go and once again I am sorry that I could not be there in person and/or in real time via the Skype/Facetime/Hangouts train.



Chapter Five of my professional life begins. Who knows what chapter I’m on in my personal life. No longer will I be focusing on kids, tweens, and teens. These days, my thoughts are focused fully on the entire community, the employees, and the physical space of the Benson Memorial Library. My view of the world has become wider, and with that I grow a little bit. I am excited to go on this adventure. I think about how we can make the library a better place for all the community. I think about the big things (what can we do to better everyone’s life?) to the little things (how can we repair the cracks in our steps?). All of these things matter. The little things and the big things work in harmony to create a great experience.


We’ve moved from our first real home…an orange house with a lot of heart and soul…to a new home that needs some love and attention. We have many repairs to do. The carpet must go. The bathroom needs an overhaul. Like the old house, this one needs some gutters and some paint.  We’ll get there.

The new home has double the space. Over the years we’ve simplified our lives so much that we just don’t know what to do with this space! In time, we’ll fill it with all the special kinds of things that our family needs. It will be our base of operations. It is our new home, and it will be our home for a long time coming.


With the new home comes…wait for it…a second building. An old church. This is one of the big reasons why we decided to make this leap. The second building (what do you call a church that’s no longer a church?) represents the future for our family. We want to turn it into a community space or a bed and breakfast. We’ll see what it takes. Who knows what it will be. But what we do know is that we have an amazing opportunity to take something that was not being used and turn it into something amazing.


Right now the church sits empty. The house doesn’t have too much inside of it. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Old pipes need fixed. Roofs need repaired. Everything just needs a nice cleaning. It’s going to be a long and difficult process. How will we pay for the heating bill in the winter? That’s what a lot of folks ask us. I don’t know just yet. But I do know that this was a move that our family had to make. We’ll figure out all the details later. But we’re all in right now.


Moving makes me anxious. All of the housework that needs to be done makes me anxious. All of the stuff that I want for the library to be to this community keeps me up at night. I have to constantly remind myself to take it slow. Everything will be alright in the end. I like looking out the window. I like to see the trees and the gardening. I like knowing that the world that we’re building around our family will be amazing.


I live five blocks from the library. I can walk down the street from our home to the library in just a few minutes. There’s a woman who’s always sitting on her front porch reading books. I say hi to her a lot. I walk by a small creek called Church Run. The water flows and the sound is beautiful. I walk a little bit more and I’m in Downtown Titusville. It’s good to be in a small town. I’ve enjoyed my time in big cities but my heart has always been with these small towns.


It’s very important to have fun in all that we do. We have to laugh and enjoy every step of the way. That is the most important thing I’ve learned in my 35 years on Earth.


And love. La la la la love. Always love.

Chickens in Chattanooga

IMG_2147For most of our time in Chattanooga, TN, we raised four chickens in our backyard. Blaster, Leia, Skittles, and Clara were the tenants of a pretty wonderful little chicken run in. Their rent? They gave us 3-4 eggs per day. They also gave us a lot of love.

IMG_2178On the weekends we’d scramble most of the eggs and eat them as a family for breakfast. Sometimes Finn would join in with the cooking. It was absolutely amazing to watch a 6 year old cook. I myself never really learned how to cook until I was in my twenties. It was a joy to see my son learning skills that had taken me so long to learn. Other times Haley would make what we call “Toad in a Hole”, a nice egg dish that involved toast and egg-y goodness.

IMG_2139The lovely ladies were lovely indeed. Chickens may not be the smartest animals out there, but when you bring them into your family and show them love and attention they quickly become your friends. The girls would often times be out in the backyard with my sons Finn and Aero. They’d chase each other around. When my wife Haley and I called for the chickens or whistled at them, they’d follow us around. They knew what to expect from us. We feed you and you feed us. We love you and you love us.


The weird part, and kind of the reason why I’m writing this blog post, is that chickens were illegal in backyards in Chattanooga, TN. While no one ever complained about the chickens, there was always the threat of “oh my gosh what will we do if they take our ladies from us?”

Just two miles away from our home was a chicken processing plant. I don’t know what they made there, but they had hundreds of chickens going into the plant daily. It had a smell of chickens and industrial meat processing hanging over it. Our backyard? It smelled like grass and happy, well kept chickens. But for some reason, our chickens were illegal. I understand what’s most likely happening here. The chicken processing plant brings in money and jobs to the community. I am all for that. If our city didn’t have it, somewhere else would. I’m glad we were able to give people jobs.

I wish it could be different for Chattanooga residents and other cities that don’t allow residents to keep chickens (or goats!) on their property. Our lovely ladies were amazing for our family. They brought us not only eggs but a whole lot of love. They taught our sons how to take care of animals and how food comes from things all around us.

Personally, it taught me to slow down and enjoy the little things in life that we don’t always talk about. Birds are always flying around us, chirping away. The grass, the plants, and the trees are always growing. Your family and friends are growing up and getting older. These are the things that matter. Clara, Blaster, Leia, and Skittles helped me realize that.

Before chickens, there was a big part of me that was determined to be the best goddamn human being and librarian ever. I wanted to show the world that I could do it! I wanted to travel the world, push boundaries, and blow people’s minds! I wanted to be the best. After chickens, I want to go home, cut the grass, hang out with my family, and take care of our home. I still want to be an amazing librarian but you know what? That’s way down there on the list.

It is amazing when you finally see what matters in real life. A couple of egg laying beasts taught me. Life is bizarre. Life is awesome.

Chattanooga and other cities….make those backyard chickens legal!

(All photos by the amazing Zachary Cross)

Thank You Chattanooga

As you read this, my family and I are heading North through Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia on our way to the next stop in our journey…Pennsylvania. A moment in time like this…a moment of great change and growth…lends itself well to looking back on growth and transformation.

I’ve loved every moment of my time in Chattanooga. I have watched my family and I grow in so many different ways. We’ve become more of a solid Hoenke Family Unit than ever.  We know what we want to do in life, how to do it, and how to stick together through it all. We’ve watched our boys grow from little dudes into even bigger dudes with great imaginations and ideas. They have friends that they’ve met here in Chattanooga that have greatly influenced their lives. These are the kinds of friends they will have through their whole lives. The South has been super kind and amazing to our family. When people ask me what makes Chattanooga great, I tell them this: It is a town full of good people who want to do the best for the community.

Aero, April 2013

Aero, April 2013

Finn, April 2013

Finn, April 2013

In April 2013 I had no idea what it took to be a manager and a leader. Over the past two years, I have dove headfirst into these topics with the help, guidance, and mentorship of all of the folks I’ve worked with at the library. I’ve learned to take my ideas, harness them, craft them, and collaborate to make them work. I’ve learned how to delegate, a VERY important thing that all librarians should learn. I thank the Chattanooga Public Library and everyone that I’ve worked with over the past two years for the great experiences we’ve been through and lessons that they have taught me. As a librarian, I think I’m at my best these days because of these great opportunities in Chattanooga.


Day Three @ the Chattanooga Public Library. The 4th Floor. With the great Mary Barnett.

All in all, Chattanooga and my experience in the Chattanooga Public Library have once again reinvigorated my belief in that the public library is the epicenter of the community. It is the place where amazing people come together and share an amazing experience. The photo you see above was taken on The 4th Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library on my third day working at the library. The entire space was turned into a disco, a librarian party and get together for the Tennessee Library Association Conference. It was quite a beautiful experience where great people came together over something they are passionate about….libraries. I connected with some of amazing co-workers (like Mary Barnett who you see above) for one of the first times. These connections were key to the work that we all did in Chattanooga. We came together, go to know and understand each other, and we gave the community the things they needed.

I’ve learned a lot in my time here in Chattanooga and I will always remember these times. It has been great and now it is time to move onto the next journey. Here we go.

Thank you Chattanooga. We love you.


Aero and I up on top of a rock. Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga TN.

Aero and I up on top of a rock. Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga TN.

My brain does not stop. I think about things a lot. My brain acts like a computer program. IF THIS THEN THAT. What comes next? Where do I stand? What do I do? Where do I go? I call this the blessing and the curse. I am thankful that I can always remain mindful about what’s going on around me but at the same time I want it to stop at certain points of the day. When I get this way I like to write. I’m thankful that I have this blog for this reason.

When I started this blog back in 2009 I had the idea to make this a place where I shared anything and everything that was in my mind. Somewhere along the line it became a blog all about library stuff. Last year it felt like it became a place where I only talked about the library stuff that I was part of these days. I’m traveling here! I’m traveling there! I am doing this! Things didn’t feel quite real and authentic to me. I wasn’t painting the full picture of who I was. 2015 has been one big quest to reclaim that authenticity in my writing and in my life. I can’t fully explain it but I’ll try.

I don’t feel that connected to the world. I imagine my family and I as part of the world, but maybe just floating on a hoverboard right out of the view of everyone else. We’re part of it all but at the same time kind of right over here just doing our own thing (on our hoverboard). Over the past five or so years of my life I have made a very strong attempt to get away from all of that and be part of the rest of the world. It has been a most interesting journey. There were times where I thought that it would all work out well. There were other times where I felt like I was this weird person that I did not know. All in all, things have been back and forth.

I buy into the whole “I am what my astrological sign says I am” and I am a Gemini. I feel this pull from one extreme to the other every day of my life. My wife Haley noticed that about me from the first day we met. She’s always told me to find the middle and to not be so extreme. We’ve been together 10 years now and I’ve always listened to her….and I think I’m getting closer to the middle. The middle is what I want it to be. I make up my own middle. Every step of my journey…from Pennsylvania to Washington to Pennsylvania to New Jersey to Maine to Tennessee and now back to Pennsylvania has helped me understand “my middle”. The cast of characters, my family and my friends, all along the way have helped me get to this place….and for that, I am eternally thankful. I can’t list everyone here but just know that if we’ve interacted over the past ten years in this journey of mine you’ve been a positive part of the whole thing. I thank you for that.


When our family finally closes on the purchase of our house/church combo as our primary living space later this month/early next month, I will say that I believe have found the perfect physical representation of my middle. There’s something about owning this property that makes me feel very content and happy. I like the possibility that both the house and church offer my family. I am excited for my kids to tell the story that they lived in an old church. I am most excited to build a fence between the two properties that will act as a courtyard/portal between the two locations! It’ll be very fun and eye opening to build this with my family. It will be great to open up this property to our friends and family who want to visit and live with us and share moments together for a brief time.

All of this? Awesome and exciting.

“But we always came back to the songs we were singing”

Big_Blue_Piano DSC_0064

*title of this post taken from the Paul McCartney song “The Songs We Were Singing“*