A New Career In A New Town, Libraries, Life

A New Career In A New Town: The Emotional Roller Coaster of a Job Seeker

If you, like me, are looking for a new job or are seeking a change in what you’re doing with your career, this post is for you. I want to get a bit into the weeds, talk about feelings, and overall connect with you on this post. Let’s swap war stories and be there for each other.

I’d say I’m happy with my current job 40-50% of the time. It ebbs and flows and some days feel much better than others. After a lot of thought, I’ve determined the root of why I’m feeling this way at my current job: my inspiration levels are at a very low point. I’m a person that craves working with others. My time in every other job up to this point (read all about those jobs at my very recently updated CV here!) found me surrounded by people who pushed, pulled, and nudged me to keep on growing and trying new things. Here at the Benson Memorial Library, I’m the boss and a lot of that work goes towards inspiring others. And I think I have done OK (these are the good things), but I’m definitely not perfect in any way. I feed off the energy that others (or in this case, one person) put off and that’s helped me in my three years here. But overall I search for more inspiration and the lack of it over a large period have time have left my reservoir all dried up.

Realizing where you are at in your professional career, the good and the bad things, can be emotionally exhausting. Any journey deep into your head and your heart will be this way. Added on top of that is the universal truth that change always moves at such slow pace and that new job you’re seeking may not be right around the corner. There will be more job postings you have to read. There will be more cover letters to write (heck, I need to write an entire post on the absurdity of cover letters). There will always be more tweaks needed for your CV.

What do you do when there’s so much waiting, a few rejections, and some applications that are never even acknowledged by the potential employer? You’ve got this energy sitting inside of you. There’s the initial thrill of putting together your application, then the lull as you wait, and sometimes the energy drain when you don’t get the job or just not hear back at all. It’s all so tough, and it’s all so much energy.

Personally I’ve found that surrounding myself with my family and being as creative as possible to be the way to not get down when the job hunt doesn’t go my way. Am I down because I may not have got that neat and unique job in the big city? That’s ok. Let’s all pile onto the couch and snuggle. Pajamas and pizza and a movie with the family. WHY NOT.


I’m also hashtag blessed to have music as an outlet. Silly cover letters got me all anxious, tired, and worried? I will go over to my recording studio and work on a song or two. I may have struck out a few times on this recent job hunt, but damn have I been productive in writing, recording, and producing songs. I’ll have some new stuff to share with you soon, but for now enjoy this:


And finally, when I don’t get a job that I’ve applied for, I have this little mantra I keep in my head: “You missed out on so much. But luckily I still get to hang out with Justin. He’s a pretty good human being.” Just like Stuart Smalley…

Abigail Foster's Photosynthesis Machine, Benson Memorial Library, Family, Libraries, Library Director, Life, Management, Titusville, PA

Where Are We Now?

About a year ago I hung up a bizarre painting in my office at work. To me it was perfect and just familiar enough that I thought it warranted a place in my life. As a person who always thought it would be neat to have an office and fill it with interesting things, the painting, when mixed with the Lego creations and drawings that Finn and Aero have created for me over the years, helped me establish this place my home away from home. When I feel comfortable at work, I usually am able to some really good and meaningful work. On the other hand I could also see how the average “I shop for my groceries at Walmart every Saturday at 1pm and have to watch the game and/or my sitcom at the same time every week” American person would be appalled by it.

One day I came into work to find that my painting was taken down. My coworkers took it down because, yes they were terrified and appalled by it. I guess right now would also be a good time to explain that due to limited space we’re all basically working on top of each other and that we’re surrounded by glass. It’s like a packed fishbowl in here. But to fully admit my feelings, I was pretty let down by their actions. It felt passive aggressive and overall it felt unkind. But in the moment I didn’t react. I just went on and say “oh, well that happened.”

You see as a Gemini I feel a duality to everything. There’s this part of me that always sees things from my point of view and then I almost immediately put that aside and see it from how others may have seen it. In this case: Justin likes the painting and hangs up the painting, Justin feels disappointed when someone takes that painting down, but then Justin instantly forgets about that and says “well I bet they didn’t like the painting so I understand that and what I thought about the painting shouldn’t matter because that’s selfish to only think about myself.” Over time, I’ve taken that approach to even more of an extreme: I guess in a way that by my coworkers actions I was able to put the painting to a much better use. It became the cover for my album Prozac Is The Dam And I Am The Dynamite, and I think it fit really well for that album. Having the painting taken down by my coworkers made me take it home, where I stared at it more and through those hours of staring it gave the painting more meaning and purpose. It became a visual representation of my life at the time, and when it merged together with the music I was creating it became a complete package.

You take all of these things together, stretch everything out by a few months, sometimes years, and what happens? You start to think about the first part (yourself) less and less until it almost becomes silly to even think about it in the first place. I think that’s where I am at now…after awhile of doing this here I am, a person that may be very capable about thinking of others but at the same time a person who doesn’t think of himself as much as he should. I’m overwhelmed right now and a bell goes off in my brain to remind me that this may be part of the reason as to why I feel this way. When you neglect yourself in some way, it all adds up. I stare at a lot of spreadsheets these days, and I like to think that my soul has a spreadsheet where it has been keeping note of the times I’ve put myself aside for others. It’s finally getting to that point where the spreadsheet is just too long and unruly and it becomes a hassle to scroll down the page because there’s so much data.

I’m on the cusp of something here. It feels exciting and at the same time it fills my soul with great fear, but I know that as with everything in this life it will come, it will go, and the next thing will happen. I feel lucky to be able to share this journey here and to have others be able to maybe understand and maybe feel like they may be in the same holding pattern at the moment.

Music: David Bowie “Where Are We Now?” As long as there’s sun..As long as there’s rain..As long as there’s fire..As long as there’s me..As long as there’s you


Recommended Read: “Why millennials are making memes about wanting to die” by Deidre Olsen


I found the piece Why millennials are making memes about wanting to die by Deidre Olsen over at Salon to be a very worthwhile read. At first, I found the whole tide pod meme to be something so absurd that it was funny. The more I thought about it and the reaction it generated from those outside of what I call the Meme Economy, the more it dawned on me was that there was something unique yet oddly familiar with this whole thing.

Millennials — who were born and raised on the internet and produce and consume much of their culture there — have had our whole lives characterized by economic anxiety. We have a dismal economic outlook, the worst of any generation born since the Great Depression. And our own culture-making — this kind of nihilistic, cynical humor epitomized in memes like eating Tide Pods — is merely a reflection of our worldview. It is cathartic in a sense.

I think it is important for all of us to remember, especially people like me who are stepping into that next big “getting older” bracket where you get a bit more disconnected from modern society, that there’s just gonna keep being more in our world that we don’t understand. Guess what? It’s not our job to understand everything. But guess what? If you want to understand something, you can do that. Just look back at what you came from.

The early 90’s rock movement was the reflection for my generation. For this generation, it is tide pods and memes. The two things are very different but when presented through the lens of the generation identifying the movement and outlook for the world it’s all connected. How does another generation see the world? How do they feel about the future? Look at their creativity and their art. Through creativity and art we can understand each other and work together to create a better world.

By the way: read up on Meme Librarian Amanda Brennan. 

Idea Share, Libraries, Library Director, Life, Management

Management Style (Version 2.0)

Me in my natural library habitat these days. The standing desk is working out well. I feel better about life and my health because of it. I want to have plants all around me and in time this will happen. I want my work home to be like my own little personal room, surrounded by the things that inspire me. They help me to be a better leader.

The last time I did this post was in 2014, and my oh my things have changed. I’ve learned so much, I’ve been through so much, and it feels like the time to write more about management style. Here goes!

I opened up my post in 2014 with the following words:

Did you die?
Did anyone else die?
Did you burn down the building?
Did anyone lose an appendage?

If you answered “no” to all of those questions, you are doing a great job of being a librarian in a public library. -Justin Hoenke’s Management Mantra, 2014.

In many ways, my mantra has not changed. I didn’t fully understand what I meant by these words back in 2014, but in time I’ve grown to understand what I was saying. What I’m saying here is that I think librarians should be approaching their work with the least bit of stress and anxiety that they can bring to the table. Stress and anxiety, or so I have learned over the last few years of my life, are very detrimental to the overall health of a human being. There are many articles out there that talk about this, but this one is very helpful and direct. When we’re stressed and anxious, we’re almost a completely different person. Over longer periods of time where we are stressed or anxious we can begin to see changes happening. I noticed it within myself: I was weaker, my body ached, and headaches happened way too often. There were some other things that contributed to all of this, but there was also stress and anxiety. While I haven’t cut those things out completely, I’ve worked hard to be mindful of my stress and anxiety levels and to back down when I need to breathe.

I think this is what I was trying to get at in 2014. The best library managers and leaders are not the ones that push you to work constantly or to always be thinking of the latest and greatest things. The best ones are the people that remind you to breathe and to take care of yourself. Need to use a sick day as a mental health day? Sure, you deserve this. Feeling overwhelmed by the project you’re in the middle of? OK, set it aside for some time and eventually get back to it. These are behaviors that good managers and leaders will model themselves and then through their actions other staff will pick up on it.

And now will all of that said, let’s dive into the same format we followed back in 2014:

What does a manager/leader do?
As you can see, I’ve expanded this question to include “leader”. I like to use manager/leader in a very similar way. They manage a workflow, they inspire coworkers to try new things, and they’re the guide for keeping the library moving ahead. So what do they do? Everything I just said above. A manager/leader should have a vision as to where things are going and also at the same time be rooted in the present. A manager/leader will understand that the team they have is what they’re working with in the present but will plan ahead for changes in the future. A manager/leader will step up when they need to step up, be the front and center of the organization, and back up their staff at all times.

How does this change what I already do at the library? AND Do I need an office? What does one do in their office?
Your entire library life changes. I can’t believe that five years ago I was thinking all the time about how I could pull together a program and these days are now spent thinking about how I can pull together a policy. The day to day librarian who runs programs and talks to patrons is very different than the librarian who manages and leads. At my current job, I’ve tried to try to approach this with a balance. My office is right near the front door and it has windows all around it. Sometimes I feel like I am in a fishbowl but there are ways that I attempt to get around that (Curtains! Turn off the lights!).

I have no perfect answer with this one. Some days I feel so in tune with the administrative non public side of things, and other days I’m locked in and just wanna talk to people and check out books all day.  So what does that tell me? Do what I wanna do and go with the flow. I think this way of thinking is also something you should pass along to your staff if you’re managing and leading them. Of course, the day to day stuff has to be dealt with, but with everything there’s always a bit of wiggle room.

How does one lead?
Warts and all, I think you just do it. There is the good and that bad. Sometimes you screw up. I remember one time at my current job where I had to talk to an employee about something that ended up being a joke. I came down hard on this person when I really didn’t need to. I messed up and in the end I admitted that I did that. That moment taught me to give some thought to everything before reacting. In the times where I’ve had to have chats with people on my staff, I’ve learned to process everything in advance and give myself time to understand what needs to happen. I think as a result I’ve become more direct: this needs to happen, this is why it needs to happen, and so on and so forth. And the best thing is that there’s always room to grow. If you don’t like who you are and where you are headed, change it up. Growth happens through learning and all of this happens with patience.

So I’m gonna end this post with a cold hard truth: I don’t think you really ever fully know what you’re doing when it comes to anything let alone management and leadership. You’ve just gotta take it all in, process it, learn, and grow from it. I’ve found this approach to be the least stress and anxiety. With those two things minimized (or sometimes completely out of) my life, I feel like I’m the best Justin I can be. I am able to approach things with the best pair of glasses on.

A New Career In A New Town, Chattanooga, TN, Family, Libraries, Life, Portland, ME, Titusville, PA

A New Career In a New Town: Librarians on the Move

I make an effort to check into LinkedIn at least once a week. As a social network, it is pretty pitiful but as a place where you can update and display your resume it works like a charm. I mostly use it as a way to track what I’ve done in libraries in case I need my resume or to put something I’ve done into an official document/grant/etc.

I’ve been going on there recently because I’ve been updating my resume. Right now I’m in this head space where I am seeing what else is out there when it comes to library jobs and, if it fits some very specific parameters, I am applying to those jobs. I figure this: why not, I’ll only live once, and if something inspires me why not give it a shot? So…I’m applying to some jobs. We’ll see what happens. Maybe it will be my next step, maybe it will just be an interview experience, or maybe it will be nothing. It doesn’t hurt to try something new.

I’ve also had to come face to face with my work history as I update my resume. When I moved to Chattanooga, TN a lot of people told me I was nuts because it was another job and that my resume was growing to look like I go from job to job. This always irked me. To me, it wasn’t about moving from job to job. To me it was all about getting the  experience I craved and moving up into roles which challenged me. I guess it could be an age thing. The people who doubted my moves were also people who had been at the same library for 10+ years. At some point in my life I may like that, but for the moment (and I guess it continues to this day) I crave growth, learning, and adventure.


A new job at a new library in a new town is just that: a way to experience the world, to grow as a person, to learn more, and to give back something to a community. When I was younger I used to think this a lot: “if I’m not growing, then I must be dying” and as I write this post that comes back to me.

I also think about the librarian profession and how screwed up it can be for those searching for jobs or looking for experience in their current job. Not every library and not every state are created equally, and you’ll see this in the details of every state library organization page and their job opportunities page. For example, the Pennsylvania Library Association recommends a salary of $59,791/year for a “Full-time librarian who supervises at least three professional librarians”. At my current job I am the director who supervises 7 employees and I make $35,000 /year. Go ahead and browse the other jobs on the PALA Library Job Openings and see what else is out there. I see a Part Time Teen Librarian job that pays $30,000/year and a Children’s Librarian job that pays $32,000-$37,000/year. And let’s not forget how hard it might be to “level up” at your current place of work. What if there’s no way to get into management at your current library but all you want to do someday is be a director? What can you do? In both of these cases, you look for your next adventure, a new job at a new library in a new town.

To end, I bring it all back around to my experience and my time in libraries. Despite what others have said, I am not hopping from job to job because I’m discontent. What I’m doing is looking for that next challenge and that next growth opportunity. If I ain’t growing, I must be dying. In the name of complete honesty and transparency, here’s where I’ve and why I’ve made a move. Have fun. And remember, if someone tells you that you need to stick around just so it looks good, give them the truth. You wanna grow. You wanna learn. You wanna go on an adventure. Trust you gut. Follow your heart.

  • 2 years in New Jersey? I was an entry level teen librarian who wanted to gain management experience, plus I couldn’t afford to live and buy a house in New Jersey.
  • 3 years in Maine? I was a teen librarian who got basic management experience and was not able to move up in that library system so I left for a job who really wanted me to come work for them AND which gave me a lot of management experience.
  • 2 years in Chattanooga? I was a Youth Services Manager but I felt the urge to move into a Library Director role, plus life in the South just wasn’t what my family and I were looking for (too hot and muggy for us east coast people).
  • 2.5 years in Titusville? I am a director but I get paid $25,000 below state average and I am looking for work that pays me a better living wage so that my family and I do not need to be on food stamps. I also crave challenge, be that as a director of a bigger library or in a leadership/administrative role at a larger library.
Family, Libraries, Life

The Goal

Statues inspire me. I want as many of them around my property as I can get my hands on. This guy is a weird one but I love it. He sits in our strawberry patch and just looks on at whoever comes to our backdoor. He’s magical.

Life in our modern society is a pretty freaking weird thing. We have an overall system in place that works actively to help promote individual growth and also to thwart that same growth. We are creatures that strive for change through accomplishments and advances, but that change comes so slowly that in the day to day it feels like nothing ever changes. What we hear from each other, those in power and those with fame are usually positive and sugar coated in nature, but underneath those whispers of “oh yeah everything is alright” is a much larger story with complex moves like a chess game, ups and downs, and things flying all over the place.

The minute after I think I have my “aha! So that’s the answer!” moment is the minute that I’m back to the drawing board. You can go through this entire blog and see that evolving and growing day by day, year by year. The best thing to realize at this point, for me at least, was that the answer will never be there and then someday I’ll die without the answer and melt back into the nutrient ecosystem and be born again as a tree. That happened a few years ago and, boy oh boy, did things feel a lot better for me once I realized that. Cue Elton John and that Lion King song. It makes sense.

A nice holiday break to end 2017 helped end a year that was a bit confusing on a clearer note. I woke up when my body and mind were ready to wake up. I engaged in the pursuits which felt natural to me (music, video games, reading). I stayed in pretty much the same location for quite a number of days, surrounded by people that I wanted to be surrounded with. I went outside and used the snowblower to make nice little paths for people to walk along the sidewalk. There are great joys in the simple, mundane things. The seismic shifts which once fueled my days are no longer necessary. I am getting a lot better at understanding and enjoying the little stuff.

Claude Debussy’s piano music is a good musical representation of what I feel in my head and heart these days. When I listen to the piece above (a collection of six solo piano pieces composed between 1901-1907 titled Images) I feel a sense of ease, wonder, excitement, and content wash over me. It feels right to listen to this music. There is so much wonder and beauty in these compositions. My mind wanders and I think about Debussy and what he may have been thinking and feeling when he wrote these pieces. What is it that compelled him to create such a beautiful thing?

What I want is a life full of creativity. Creating something is the best things humans can do in this world. Make some art, make some music, plant some flowers, have some children. The end result does not matter; the act is what matters. It is the act of creation that is really the only thing that makes sense to me these days. In a world of falsities and sugar coating, the act of creation feels more real than ever. When I write words in a document, record some music, or capture some sounds I feel free and I feel happy. There’s really nothing better than that experience. It fills up my soul.

THE GOAL is to live a life of happiness, to spread positivity and kindness, to create beautiful things, and to do work that gives back to people. I want to find the truth and honesty in all things. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I want this whole thing to be one huge adventure. I am happy where I’m at right now and I will be happy with where I go.



Family, Life, Technology, Titusville, PA

Bluetooth Headphones


A few weeks ago I wrote one of my THREE THINGS posts that included a section called OPINIONS ON THE INTERNETIt basically boiled down to this: my family and I enjoyed the Justice League film and the internet hated it so much and were very loud about it and that made me think about how the internet has become a really horrible and tiring place.

Those thoughts about the internet, coupled with what may be the end of the internet as  we know it with the repeal of net neutrality, have been on my mind recently. These thoughts came up even more so after seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi and reading about the wave of negativity that ensued on the internet after the movie had premiered. And then these thoughts came up a third time because I went on a nice holiday break away from work and basically the rest of the world. In other words, I didn’t leave the house once (except for a family holiday get together) between Thursday December 21-Wednesday December 27.

Being away from people who are not in my immediate family for that long was refreshing. Don’t worry: if you’re reading this I’m not saying I don’t like you. I like you a lot actually. It’s just that as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate time away from other human beings a lot more than time with other human beings. In my twenties I was the opposite. If someone rang me up and wanted to do something of course I’d be out the door ASAP.  These days, I want to get up, weigh myself, brush my teeth, take a shower, put on some comfy clothes, and drink tea, hang out with my family all day. I’ll also dabble in some video games and write/record some music. That’s just the way things are right now.

And that brings me to bluetooth headphones, yes the ones you see me wearing in the photo above. Those bluetooth headphones were a gift from my mother in law, and a gift that I treasure so very much. I had a bad year with headphones in 2017; I lost them, I broke them, and I dealt with the horrible Apple Lightning to Headphone input jack dongle doo-dad. I love listening to music and podcasts as much as I can. They help me function and grow as a person. Art and conversation are two of the greatest things we have in this world. So this gift was more than just a pair of headphones. It was something that allows me to be more present in the real world. It gives me the chance to not have to plan long periods of time where I stay inside. It allows me to go out there, go shopping, and take walks. It gives me a way to be around people while at the same time staying in my own world.

I went to Wal Mart on December 27 to pick up a few things that we needed in the house. A trip to that place usually fills me with dread. Who will I run into this time? What kind of awkward conversation will we have? Why are at least half of the 5,000 or so residents of Titusville in this Wal Mart right now? However this time I had my bluetooth headphones on my side. I listened to Sunshine Tomorrow Volume 2 by the Beach Boys as I made my way through the aisles, grabbed what I needed, paid and left. The absolutely wonderful gem “Little Pad” from 1967’s SMILEY SMILE filled my ears, and for the first moment in a long time I felt pretty happy being in my own place while at the same time being surrounded by other humans.

This is the way that I will continue to exist in a world where more and more I feel like I don’t want to be a part of. These bluetooth headphones are my 2017 saviors. I hope yinz y’all find your own saviors too.

FYI: I liked The Last Jedi. I’ve seen it twice now and I think that despite one or two hiccups that it was an enjoyable film because the characters were all so great and WHO REALLY CARES it is just a film.