Category Archives: Libraries

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.

Titusville

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Hello Titusville, PA!

Benson-Memorial-LibraryHi everyone! I am very happy to announce that I have accepted the Executive Director position at the Benson Memorial Library in Titusville, PA. I’m pretty excited to head back to Northwestern Pennsylvania and work in Crawford County. Ten years ago, my wife Haley and I met in Crawford County (Meadville, PA) and we started our life together. We’ve traveled and lived in Cape May Court House, New Jersey, Portland Maine, and Chattanooga Tennessee over the last 8 years. We’ve loved every place we have lived and worked, but there was always something inside of us that knew that one day we’d be back to Crawford County.

I am really excited to lead the awesome team at the Benson Memorial Library and to serve the community of Titusville, PA. Titusville is a great town full of wonderful people. I am very lucky to be the leader of a library that will continue to be such a vital part of the community.

Before I head out, I want to thank everyone that I have worked with at the Chattanooga Public Library over the past two years (I can’t believe it has been two years….which reminds me of this scene from “The Jerk”). I have enjoyed every moment of my time here in Chattanooga. I have grown considerably as a person and librarian and I thank everyone for being patient and trusting with me.  The team that Corinne Hill and Nate Hill have worked to assemble at the Chattanooga Public Library is one of the great all time teams. I will miss you a lot but we shall always be connected.

In the meantime, we’ll be packing up our orange house over the next month and tidying everything up here in Chattanooga, TN as we begin the next step in our journey. Thank you all for your love and support.

Little Things

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I have written  in the past about the little things and how I believe that they are extremely important when it comes to libraries. Here’s my own personal example of how the little things bring a smile to my face and help me enjoy the library experience more.

Almost every Monday, my six year old son Finn visits the library for the Kids Quest program, which is a program where 5-8 year olds take part in “mind-boggling experiments, challenges and hands-on projects using fun technology and books.”  It’s an amazing program and every time Finn goes to the program he builds something that he is extremely proud of and always shares what he learns with my wife and I.

At the beginning of the program, the participants all write their name on a different name tag. Not only is this a good way to remember names, but it also gives all the kids a chance to practice writing. What a brilliant way to slip in a little bit of learning to the program!  At the end of the program, Finn always gives me his name tag and asks me to put it on my desk at work. I’ve amassed quite a collection as you can see above.

Something as simple as writing your name on a name tag is an act of learning and engagement. It also gives a proud parent like me a souvenir to proudly display on my desk at work.  I see it every day and I think about my sons and how quickly they are growing up and learning about the world. I also see it and am reminded that learning happens everywhere and at all times.  We don’t have to reinvent the wheel with learning. We just need to connect with each other.

The little things mean a lot.

Our Third Place

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Young. Twenty-something. Full of energy, excitement, and the strong desire to change everything that you see around in the world. That’s why I got into this library thing and that’s how I started on this path.

But time passes, moves forward, and things change. I’ve started to slow down a bit. I’ve stopped thinking about the big things all of the time and start to look up and see little things like birds chirping, grass growing, etc. I watch my two sons Finn and Aero as they grow from little babies to dapper young men who have unique personalities and ideas about the world. I see the energy that I used to have in them. I see them thinking about the big ideas and how they can possibly change them.

IMG_0760I grow older with my amazing wife Haley. She’s my best friend and my partner in everything that happens from day to day. We make the big decisions (where do we wanna live?) and the small decisions (do we want to get rid of all of our couches and get bean bags for our whole house?) every day. We grow together and we have fun doing it. There have been ups and there have been downs. But we do it all together and it is an amazing ride. I now understand the whole best friend thing.

IMG_0769What has happened to the librarian part of my brain is kind of remarkable…it kind of went away. That’s not to say that I’m done with being a librarian. I still have a lot in me. But that ever nagging feeling to be the best librarian in the entire solar system is….well it’s gone. It’s been replaced by a steady sense of calm and understanding. I am just a human being whose is first and foremost a husband and a father. The librarian thing? It’s a great way to connect with the community and have an impact on the world. It also pays the bills, and that is very important too. It is not everything. But it is something.

IMG_0790My best “library programs” these days happen at my home with my family. We watch movies together. We record songs together (see the photo above). We cook, clean, and eat as a family. We learn together. Our home has become not only the place where we rest our heads and hang out hats, but our library/school/college/community center/etc. It is our “third place”.

11035621_10100380350901200_2881243827750549727_nI am really enjoying this chapter of my life.