Tag Archives: teens

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Two of my grandsons, ages 10 and 13, seem destined to suffer some of the negative effects of video-game overuse. The 10-year-old gets up half an hour earlier on school days to play computer games, and he and his brother stay plugged into their hand-held devices on the ride to and from school. “There’s no conversation anymore,” said their grandfather, who often picks them up. When the family dines out, the boys use their devices before the meal arrives and as soon as they finish eating.

Taken from the New York Times article “Screen Addiction is Taking a Toll on Children” by Jane E. Brody.

It seems like every six months or so an article comes out that talks about the dangers of (insert here) screen time, video games, computers, iPads, etc on kids today. I don’t know if it’s a slow news day or its just something that gets a lot of clicks and likes, but hey, they keep on coming.

I see this argument from two sides: as a parent and as a librarian. I see what technology does to kids AND adults: it kind of totally mystifies us! We want to use it, we want to have it in our hands, and we want to play with it. I think it’s important to realize that this argument doesn’t just apply to kids. Adults too get sucked into technology. I see parents (myself included sometimes!) lost inside of their smartphones. It’s an escape from the world and sometimes a nice 5-10 minute break.

I also know that too much technology can have an effect on a person. I find myself getting tired and worn out if I’ve looked at my computer or my phone too long. I see my own kids getting cranky and bored when they’ve watched way too many toy review videos on YouTube.

Technology is awesome. Technology lets us connect and learn in so many different ways. This week, I’ll be part of an interview process at my place of work to hire a new Youth Services Librarian. You know what? We’ll be doing all of our interviews over Skype. Technology helps bring the world together. Technology like video games help us take part in stories and adventures and connect with other like minded people.

What this article, the many others before it, and the many others that will come, should be focusing on instead is balance and the importance of having conversations. Talk to your kids, whether you are their parent, their teacher, or their librarian. Talk to them about how important technology can be in their lives. While you’re at it, also talk to them about the importance of balance in their lives. It doesn’t have to be all technology all the time. You need balance. You need variety. I like to tell my sons that it would be AWESOME to have ice cream all the time but in the long run I’d probably die really quickly and that would suck. They get it. Don’t have ice cream all the time. Spice it up. Have some lima beans in there too. It’s that way with technology/video games/iPads/etc: sprinkle in a walk, play a musical instrument, have a conversation, etc. Balance 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.

The 2nd Floor PLUS STEM School Chattanooga

Over the past few months, the Chattanooga Public Library has collaborated with the STEM School Chattanooga on a project with juniors for the Project and Problem Based Learning curriculum. The project that the library presented to the students dealt with 3D Printing: How can we create a 3D Printing station that allows the community to walk up to the 3D Printer, watch a video tutorial that introduces 3D printing, and in the end have the customer leave with a great 3D printing experience and an object.

Over the next few months, the students and their teacher Michael Stone worked on what a 3D Printing station looks like, what it includes, and then spent the time building the station in their school Fab Lab. The end result? Check out the image in the tweet above! It’s a beautiful station like structure that was created by the students. The words 3D PRINTER represent the various stages of 3D printing….from first layer to the honeycomb structured middle to the end product. Using the laser engraver, the students also created a plaque that proudly displays the STEM School Fab Lab logo. Finally, the students put together tutorial videos for customers to watch so that they could get acquainted with 3D printing. You can watch those videos here: Beginner Video and Advanced Video.

I’m super happy with the results and I couldn’t ask for more. The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library is all about the public library as an experience, and the 3D printing station created by the STEM School fits perfectly in with the vibe of the 2nd Floor.  I look forward to working with the STEM School and their students on more projects in the very near future!

For more of my writings on 3D Printing, click here!

For the FAQ’s and details on 3D Printing on The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library, click here!

564 Days (or, the story of THE 2ND FLOOR thus far…)

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The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library has been in its current state, a place for ages 0-18 and their caregivers, for 564 days, or 1 year, 6 months, and 16 days as of today. If you’re visiting The 2nd Floor for the first time today or have visited us over the past 564 days, you’ve probably wondered what it’s all about up on the 2nd Floor.  This post is my attempt to explain all of that and more to you.

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The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library is all about people.  It is a place where the community, library employees, out of town guests, and more can connect, share an experience, and learn something. It is a place where lifelong learning and fun meet in the middle, get all messy, and create something awesome.

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The 2nd Floor is a constant work in progress. Repeat visitors to the 2nd Floor always remark how “things have changed quite a bit” and that there’s “a lot more” than there was the last time they visited. Their observations are spot on. We may not have the newest furniture, shelves, tools, and more around (it’ll come), but we change everything around enough to keep it fresh and exciting for the community. We use what we have to make this place a great experience for the community.  If something works, we keep it around and refine it. If it doesn’t work, we let it go and try something new. To be the best library for our community, we have to move forward and meet their needs.


When you visit the 2nd Floor, you won’t see endless rows of books in the space. Instead, you’ll find a well groomed collection that represents what the community wants. You may see two rows of The Hunger Games on the shelves, but they are there because the community asked for them. You will find our books arranged and presented in a way that best reflects the needs of the community. The picture books are as low to the ground as we can get them at the moment to allow for little hands to find what they want. The graphic novels have their own unique areas.  Our non-fiction shelves for middle aged readers are overflowing because that’s what the community wants.

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As I said above, the 2nd Floor is all about people. But we have to remember that a library is also made up of the people that work in it as well. The 2nd Floor is home to some of the most amazing colleagues I have ever had the chance to work with. Some have been here 15 years and some have been here 6 months. No matter how long they’ve been there, one thing connects us all: a passion for what we do and a great care for our community.  All of our 2nd Floor employees bring different attributes to the table: creativity, reliability, organization, energy, and more.  All of these attributes meet in the middle and create something amazing. Simply stated: the 2nd Floor staff are awesome.

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3D Printers, iMacs, button makers, video games, and more are just things that live on the 2nd Floor.  Yes, they are nice tools to have in the library and it is great that we can give our community access to them.  I am fully aware that not every library can have the same tools that we have in our library. But here’s the thing: they are just tools. The 3D printer will stop being the cool and popular thing over the next few years. The computers will need to be replaced. Items will break.  These are all ok scenarios. They are all just items. They are all just things. Without the community coming into the library to use the 2nd Floor, they are just empty, unused things. It is what the community does with these tools that makes their place on the 2nd Floor so special.

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The tools that your library offers to the community should reflect what the community needs. Does your community not want a 3D printer? That’s ok. You don’t have to get a 3D printer. It can start simple: pens, pencils, and paper. That’s an art and writing station. It can grow to include some hand-me-down or donated items, like a sewing machine. If it needs to, it can grow from there. In the picture above, one of our frequent library users is using an older sewing machine brought in by one of our library employees. They used it together to make a robe just like Hermione wears in Harry Potter.  It was a great experience using tools and items that we had all around us.

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The 2nd Floor is flexible. It has rules because it needs rules in order to survive and function properly. But the 2nd Floor is open to interpretation. The community will make it what they want it to be at that moment. In the photo above, the 3D printer has become the test subject for a teen’s interest in learning how to do time lapse photography. Flexibility and the desire to take a chance on something new allows your community to thrive and grow.

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The 2nd Floor is unique in that it doesn’t push kids, tweens, teens, and their caregivers into age specific corners. It’s about following your interests and sharing a positive interaction with someone…a family member, a friend, or someone you just met.  When you open up your library to interests and interactions like these, some great moments can occur. Instead of checking the IDs of everyone that enters the the library, the library employees are free to then interact with the community and develop relationships. They are able to chat and connect. This is where something magical happens and what I consider to be the best part of the modern public library experience: The library as the place where the community connects.

2014-05-03 12.54.56Sure, we have all this great stuff you can borrow. We have loads of programs and experiences for you if you visit our physical locations. We have loads of downloadables that you can enjoy on your device. All of that is great. But what makes the library magical is when people connect: all ages, all genders, all races. They come together to learn and have fun. They put everything aside and enjoy a moment together. From those moments, bonds and connections are made. Some last minutes. Some last a lifetime. Those connections are what helps our communities grow.  Healthy communities lead to happiness.  Happiness is something global. Happiness is something that spreads everywhere. It all starts with one interaction and it grows.

The 3 D’s of 3D Printing (Version 2.0)


Almost a year ago I wrote a post on this blog titled The 3 D’s of 3D Printing (Version 1.0)I’ve been meaning to catch up and post an update but I haven’t got around it until now.

This Saturday, our library will begin the following procedure with our 3D printer on The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library.  This is sort of the Version 2.0 of the whole 3 D’s of 3D Printing idea.

Anyone who wishes to use a 3D printer must have a Chattanooga Public Library card in good standing, meaning that they must not have greater than $5.00 in fines and their registration must not have expired.

Anyone who uses the 3D printer will be charged $0.06 cents per gram of PLA plastic used. The amount of plastic used will be determined when the library employee who is working with the patron previews the 3D print.

The 2nd Floor 3D Printer is for ages 0-18 only.

Users will get a maximum 30-45 minutes per day to 3D print an object, as the 2nd Floor 3D printer is designed to be used as a basic introduction to 3D printing.

So why the changes?  Well, to be honest with you there were really no problems with the first version of the program to begin! It worked well. Kids, Tweens, and Teens got their assignment and they completed them when they visited the library.  Megan Emery and I made every intent to add more challenges to the program but….simply stated we just didn’t have enough staff time to make those other challenges happen.

Our summer at the Chattanooga Public Library is what really made us rethink this program. We were slammed with visitors to the library this summer (a VERY good thing) and we couldn’t really focus on getting each kid, tween, and teen updated on the program. Instead, we took an introductory “here’s the 3D printer, here’s Tinkercad and Thingiverse, you have this amount of time, have fun and we’re totally here to help” approach.  It allowed us to give the 3D printing experience to more of our community which is something we wanted to do.

Why the charges you ask? It makes sense for the library to find a way to keep income coming into the library so that we can purchase the proper amount of PLA plastic needed. 6 cents per gram is not a lot in the long run. Will it deter some of the community from using the 3D printer? Of course, as money always will deter people from doing anything. But we are taking the approach of “it’s a small cost that helps us keep this service here for you” with the community. It’s a positive and honest message that needs to be told.

So hopefully it won’t take me another year to follow up on this, but I hope this is informative for everyone who reads it.  And if you have any questions, you can always email me about it at justinthelibrarian at gmail dot com.

Have a wonderful day!

Youth Services in Public Libraries (some thoughts that I’m having circa September 2014)

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I think about Youth Services in Public Libraries more than the average human being. That is ok as it is my job and I make a living to provide for my family with these thoughts, ideas, and actions.

My mantra with library services in general is to keep pushing ahead and try new things. To be in a constant state of change is to always be on the top of your game. When you are on the top of your game, I believe that you are better able to provide for the needs of your community. Flexibility enables you to have a quick reaction. Too many times in libraries we are bogged down by the planning and talking about it process. Once that’s over, it is sometimes too late to give the community what it seeks. OK, back to the subject of this post.

Here are some ideas that I have been having over the past few months. Enjoy them, borrow them, modify them, etc. If you don’t agree with them you can just close out your internet web browser and forget about everything I just said.

Youth Services librarians always think big. We plan big. We want our community to have the greatest possible experience in the library and at our programs. Never lose that. That’s what makes you special and that’s why youth services librarians are often looked upon as some of the best people in the community. We give a HUGE crap about our community.

But simplification is, in my experience, not a quality that most youth services librarians have. I know I am in that category.  I see others that I work with in that category. Simplification in this case is a good thing. Think about the resources you have around you. Can you take those resources that you’re using everyday (volunteers, 3D printing, Legos, community members) and copy/paste them into your library and programs? I suggest you give it a try if you are not doing this already. You will be using things that you are already comfortable with and in some cases already prepared. Simplification will give you less stress to knock everything out of the park. Less stress allows you to be a better librarian for your community.

What are you most comfortable with in the library? What does your work schedule allow you to accomplish? What are the skills that you have now and wish to develop in the future?

Mindfulness of those particular things allows you to work to your strengths. At my current stage of my professional life, I am most comfortable with the behind the scenes stuff, laying out the big picture, and making sure it connects. For someone that came through libraries working directly with the public for 6 years, this shift was difficult. I initially fought it very much. What that led to was stress and depression. None of that is helpful.

When you work to your strengths, you will approach your day to day work in libraries with a clear set of eyes. This clear set of eyes allows you to focus better on the job in front of you.

I am a big believer that having fun leads to more learning than we can understand at this point. My son Finn and I were recently interviewed for the Chattanooga Times Free Press about video games. I also point out this great post by Megan Emery (who I work with at the Chattanooga Public Library) titled Learning Through Fun.

The basic idea behind all of this is that fun leads to a lot of amazing discoveries and life moments. I think this approach works really well in libraries. We are in this very unique position of not being a school but also having a mission to encourage lifelong learning in our communities. We can try new things. We can experiment! Yes! I just said that! We are free to be unique.

Fun is a great approach to take. When you have fun at something you create a positive memory. You look back on that experience fondly. It gives you warm fuzzies.  There’s probably some kind of chemical brain thing happening that makes the warm fuzzies and fun so memorable…I don’t know. I’m not a brain doctor smart person type. All that I know is that my head is full of amazingly fun memories and I keep going back to those things.

IN closing….when I re-read this post one thought comes to mind: it is all about simplicity and getting back to the basics. Make things easy, for yourself and your community. Have fun. Don’t stress yourself out. I really believe this to be a great path forward for youth services in libraries.


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I earned all these badges, dagnabit.

Up until a few months ago, I was very bored by the whole idea of issuing badges for completing certain tasks, obtaining new skills, or just doing something in general. Foursquare was the first badge system that I had participated in and, quite frankly, I could’ve cared less about earning new badges.

Enter Mozilla.


This summer, I worked on some projects with Mozilla, specifically HIVE Chattanooga and the Mozilla Community Gigabit Fund. We helped out with the HIVE NYC Maker Party in the Bronx, NYC, threw our own Maker Party in Chattanooga, TN, and even dabbled around with Webmaker a bit for our Summer Program at the Chattanooga Public Library. All in all, it was an exciting summer filled with great collaboration and great work.

And every once in awhile when some work was completed, I would get an email from Mozilla saying “you earned this badge”. The image you see above shows the badges that I earned over the past few months, and dagnabit, I’m proud of those badges. They look awesome and they share that I’ve been a part of something pretty cool.

Now my outlook on badges has changed. I’m most curious about exploring Mozilla’s Open Badges and how we can use them at the Chattanooga Public Library for not only programs but also volunteers.  Just imagine the kids, tweens, and teens earning badges for being part of their local library. Take that to the next level and you can issue badges for your teen volunteers when they complete certain tasks around the library. When they’re applying for colleges or jobs, they can share those badges to show off the skills they have. Here at the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library our teen volunteers have become our unofficial “3D Printing Gurus”. They walk the patrons that are curious about 3D printing through the process from beginning to end.

Now just imagine if we gave them a badge to show how they’ve learned this particular skill. That’s some next level awesome library stuff we’re talking about here!