Journal Excerpts, Life

June 26 and June 28 (afternoon thoughts)

(originally part of the THE WORK JOURNALS OF JUSTIN WILLIAM HOENKE, copied and edited for this post)

The idea of isolation has been in my mind a lot recently. It has been coming up here and there over the years but 2017 seems to be the year where it is all making the most sense. Being away in Maine in the middle of nowhere for about 10 days was glorious and perhaps the closest I will get to isolation in the near future. Let’s remember that my version of isolation still has me attached to my close family. I’m not all about complete isolation. Perhaps if my life had been different and I did not have a family I would be all about complete isolation, but for me for the rest of my days it is about my own version of isolation.

John Lennon’s ISOLATION is a great song. Heck, the whole 1970 PLASTIC ONO BAND album is great. Our friend Jeremiah recently loaned me a DVD on the making of the album. It is one of those “Classic Albums” series DVDs and I just watched it. Listening to the isolated parts of the songs renewed my interest in the album. The song ISOLATION, of course, really fits this time well. Let’s take a look at the lyrics:

People say we got it made.
Don’t they know we’re so afraid?
We’re afraid to be alone,
everybody got to have a home.
Just a boy and a little girl,
trying to change the whole wide world.
The world is just a little town,
everybody trying to put us down.
I don’t expect you to understand,
after you’ve caused so much pain.
But then again, you’re not to blame.
You’re just a human, a victim of the insane.
We’re afraid of everyone,
Afraid of the sun.
The sun will never disappear,
but the world may not have many years.

What I’ll call the “breakdown” part (bolded above) is what stands out to me. The big reason for my desire to have isolation is other humans. But I cannot blame them…they’re a part of a system that uses and manipulates them. I am trying my best to not be a part of that system by removing myself from it as much as possible. I fucking failed at this last week and I am reminding myself to get better. There will be ups and downs. The thing I have to remember is to always be on my best as a human being. Staying away from capitalism, consuming less sugar, and focusing more on the things that I can create in this world is the path forward. Family, Library, Self, Fidelia Hall, Music. These are the things that have the most worth to me. It seems silly to focus on anything but these things. We only have a limited amount of bandwidth in our heads.

Along with isolation, the phrase the wool has been pulled over your eyes”has popped into my mind recently. Part of the reason I have taken up journaling so much this past month is that I am trying to understand what the words and phrases that float in and out of my head mean and how they apply to my current life. 

“THE WOOL HAS BEEN PULLED OVER YOUR EYES” is a simple thought: most of what you’ve been told or taught is wrong. While I believe that not everything that is around us (the government, the super wealthy, companies, organizations, etc) is evil or corrupt, I must say that everyone’s guard should be up when they deal with one of these things. Ulterior motives are a real thing, and it seems like these days that everyone has them. People and organizations whose aim is to help others should not have to resort to using ulterior motives to accomplish a goal. We need a change.

I know I could issue a blanket statement like this right now: everyone is using ulterior motives to accomplish their goals and we don’t know the true meaning behind what everyone wants to achieve. Of course we don’t know every side of the story, but we can safely say that there are a good number of people and organizations out there that at the bottom of it all really don’t care or they only care about themselves.

What I think I’ve got buzzing around my head is this: think before you act and trust someone or something. Realizing that not everyone has good in their minds and hearts is a major way to level up in this world.

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Libraries

“The Importance of Connecting” over at the State Library of Queensland Blog

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A panoramic view of the first level of the State Library of Queensland. This is probably my all time favorite entrance to a library. It perfectly blends the outside world with the inside world of the library.

I was super honored to be asked by the State Library of Queensland to write a guest blog post for the new blog. I got a chance to visit their amazing library in November 2015 and I was blown away! Not only is the building amazing, but the people working inside it are some of the kindest, most forward thinking people I have ever met.

Here’s my favorite part from that piece, and you can read the rest of The Importance of Connecting here.

Just look at your local library and the slate of public events happening there: story time, crafts, book groups, and public art events. The specifics of these events are what bring people into the library, but it is the connection to each other that is the important thing that community members take away from these events.

These connections come in all forms: the parent who meets another parent at a story time and is able to share the joys and frustrations

Libraries, Life

“This is Your Library” by Gary Wasdin of the King County Library System

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(you can read the original post and the comments here)

I’ve been struggling with my place in a post 2016 election world, both at home and in my work as a librarian. I know that now (more than ever) is the time to stand up for what I believe in and what is good in the world. I totally totally totally get that. I’m shocked and disgusted at a possible world where peoples beliefs and rights may be taken away.  I’ve never been the kind of person to get louder and political over things. The message that I want to put out into the world is one of kindness and love, and to do that I believe in acting in a kind and loving way at all times. I don’t want to yell or fight. I want to get there through kindness and conversation.

CURRENT STATUS: I just don’t know how to say what I want to say anymore. If I approach things from my typical kind and loving way, I fear that I’m not doing enough. If I approach things from a louder and more aggressive standpoint, I feel as if I am no longer myself.

The message you see above from King County Library System’s Director Gary Wasdin was great for me to see because it really captured everything that I’ve wanted to say over the past few months, especially in regards to libraries. I want the library that I am a part of to remain open to everyone, and to those people who chose to enter our building a place of discovery, knowledge, and freedom. I want to be part of the human experience with you and have a conversation about the things around us in a civil and polite manner.

Thank you for listening and reading.

 

 

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Library Director

Library Stuff That I Am Proud Of

I don’t blog much about what I’ve been up to at the Benson Memorial Library because every time I sit down to do it everything ends up sounding so boring that what I was up to in libraries in the past. I mean, what can top The 2nd Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library? We had a freakin’ arcade there!

When it comes to being a library director, my life is very different than it was when I was involved in Youth Services yet at the same time there is a whiff of familiarity in this job. No matter what I’m doing in libraries, I find that the common thread that connects everything is that I am advocating constantly for services for our community members. That’s really the core of it all….trying to get a safe and fun spot for teens is the same as figuring out a way to get my employees better pay and benefits. No matter what I’m doing, the end goal is always to make the community where I live a stronger place.

All of this hit me when I was putting together our yearly fund drive. You’ll see the end result of that work in the two images at the top of this post. While I was in Chattanooga I learned a lot about the value of the numbers we collect and how they help tell our story to the community. Our numbers at the Benson Memorial Library so far this year (Jan 1-Aug 31) blew me a way so I shared those with our community. It was great to finally send out these Patron Fund Drive letters last week and I look forward to seeing what the community thinks about the Benson Memorial Library once they read up on what we’ve done recently.

Here’s a few other things that we’ve done that I am most proud of. It may not be as fancy as getting a 3D printer in the library or something like that, but I think that the work we’ve done here so far is pretty awesome and I sure am proud of it.

  • June 2015-August 2016: 82058 items have been circulated
  • January-September 28 2016: 40698 visitors to the library
  • June 2015-Present: 313 free events held at the library
  • Renovated the front steps: The sandstone steps were in dire need of repair, and this summer we did just that; we not only got them fixed, but we made some repairs to them that will help them last for many more years.
  • Weeded the entire collection (yes, all of it) in order to reorganize most of the library and give the shelves space so that we can update our collection to fit the needs of the community today.
  • Got some grants to help with quite a few things: building improvement, Youth Services, programming, and more.
  • Updated most if not all of the library policies
  • Updated our Employee Personnel Policy and got 2 months maternity/paternity leave for employees.
  • Decreased our yearly health care costs by $5000-$8000 and increased benefits for the individuals on our plan (they went from a $500 deductible down to a $0 deductible)
  • Kind of sort of restarted the Friends of the Library group (it’s a long story, but we’re getting there very slowly) and ran 3 successful book sales.
  • Hired 3 new employees (two youth services folks, one all purpose staff member who I’m hoping will become our future local history guru)
  • I was asked to join two boards: Titusville Regional Literacy Council and the Titusville Senior Center. These help the library keep in touch with two key demographics and gives us a great chance to work with these organizations to make sure we are helping out everyone in our community.
Life, Online Identity, Social Media

Let’s Be Patient With Each Other This Year

February is a pretty wretched month any year and 2016 is even more wretched than others. February is the time of colds, flus, and other ailments. February can’t figure out whether to have 28 or 29 days. February is the month that we all hope that winter ends and spring finally begins.

This year, February hit us with all of those things and a few more. Here in Northwestern PA we’ve been struck with El Nino Climate Change Weather Deluxe 2.0, where one day we get 6-8 inches of snow and the next day we’ve got temperatures in the 50’s and everyone is out in their shorts. This is not only confusing but it also leads to everyone eventually getting sick. We’ve also got the 2016 USA Presidential Primary and Election coming up. That seals the deal. The pundits and the political commentators come out of the woodwork and every day we’re treated to another amazing set of headlines bashing this and criticizing that and then the social media comments start to flow in and wow everything is just a hot mess. I’ve never been a fan of these election cycles and this year is everything to the extreme. I don’t like extremes. I like balance.

This is a good time to think about how we treat each other. We are all unique and interesting creatures. We all have ideas, beliefs, and thoughts. Some of those thoughts are good for the universe and some of those thoughts are bad for the universe. I understand that it is very easy to get upset when someone puts something down that you believe in so very much. It hurts me too. When I was in middle school, someone made fun of Asians in front of me. My brother is Korean. That really upset me. I punched him! It is not very nice to put down a group of people just because of how they are born, how they look, or something that they believe in. But at the same time, I understand now that it was also not very nice to punch someone! I know that somewhere in this there has to be balance. I don’t know exactly what that is and what that looks like, but I am constantly reminding myself to find that balance even in the hardest times.

Let’s be patient with each other this year. All of us are gonna get through everything that we’re going through. There are peaks and valleys. There are ups and downs. Be patient with the people you interact with in your community. Be patient with the people you interact with on the internet. We are all different, yet I believe that at the core we are all the same. We are all human beings. Think about that.

Family, Keynotes, Libraries, Library Director, Management, Presentations, Travel

Travels/Growth/Future Stuff

The past month of my life has been pretty awesome.

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I’m back from my travels, most un-jet lagged, and ready to take on the world again.

Long before libraries came into view my wife and I spoke about New Zealand a lot. We wanted to move there so that she could go to midwifery school. To us, it was a magical place full of wonder, beauty, and kind people. Well, I’m happy to report now that I’ve been there that everything we thought was true. The people, the views, and the atmosphere in New Zealand is top notch.

If you were to analyze this blog you’d see that the most frequently used word is community. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about New Zealand and the LIANZA 2015 conference. Even though there were well over 500 attendees at this conference it still felt like a family of like minded individuals coming together to share and learn from each other. It was a beautiful thing. No other conference that I’ve been to starts with a pōwhiri. Imagine about 500 people gathering outside of the conference venue and then being led into the space by Maori leaders. There was singing! There was storytelling! There was dancing! It was the coming together of amazing people to share an amazing story. I’d post a video but it wouldn’t do it justice. You had to be there.

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If you have the chance to visit New Zealand DO NOT TURN DOWN THE OFFER. Go there, soak it in, and grow a little bit. It’s even better if you can go to a LIANZA conference while you’re there. Yes, I did just say that. An actual library conference with true, genuine worth. LIANZA is it my friends.

I just have to put out some love before I move on from NZ: Jerome, Rachael, Ned, Ines, Jess, Sarah, Michael, and all of the other people who I spent a lot of my time with: FAMILY AND FRIENDS! That’s what we are now. Thank you for everything.

Next on the agenda was Australia, where I spent 8 days in Sydney and Brisbane. I was a guest of both the State Library of New South Wales and the State Library of Queensland. I gave a few talks (I’d post my slides here but what good are slides without the stories?), met a load of amazing people, saw some amazing libraries (the State Library of Queensland and the Edge are BEAUTIFUL!), and in general my head and my heart grew. I caught up with my good friend Warren Cheetham in Brisbane. It was so wonderful to see him and walk around the city. That man is my Australian brother and no matter where we are it will always be great to come together. In Sydney, I finally met my longtime Twitter friends Ellen Forsyth, Mylee Joseph, and Katrina McAlpine. In person, they were just as lovely and amazing as they were on Twitter. Authentic, real people. That’s what I am talking about. Isn’t that emerging as a theme in this blog post? That’s what this trip was about. Authenticity. The people of NZ and Australia are about as authentic as you get, and I think all of us can learn from them.

And libraries! Of course I visited libraries. The Katoomba Library was one of my favorites. Why you ask? Well because it showed me physical proof of something that I’ve been thinking about recently…public libraries need to breathe! It was refreshing to see a building that was not super heavy on packing physical items into the library and instead focused on providing PEOPLE with the space they need. Chairs, desks, tables, couches, and more were EVERYWHERE. The collections on the shelf had space…for more materials and for easier browsing. This is the way public libraries are going. They are a place for the people to visit, share, and connect.

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Traveling always leads to personal growth. If you’re not getting that out of your travels, you must be doing it wrong. You’ve gotta look around at all the little things: the signs, the trees, and the birds. You see just how small this world that we live in really is. We’re all connected. Some of the details may be a bit different but in the end you start to see that this is all the same. We are one.

 

I came back to Titusville, PA with nothing but love waiting for me inside of my home. As much as I enjoy traveling, there is no better place to be than in the arms of Haley, Finn, and Aero. Life is awesome. The biggest thing I learned on this trip? These three and our home is all that I need.

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ChurchHouse HouseChurch is now Fidelia Hall, which will eventually house the Titusville Creativity Center. Like any good idea these days, we’ve already got the Facebook page all set up and ready to go. Winter is here and it’s time to heat the building. That’s the first step. You’ll be hearing more about this in 2016.

The cold weather and snow also gives everyone a good time to hunker down, put on some pajamas, and prepare for 2016. I hope all of you reading this can do just that. Enjoy Thanksgiving and all of the other upcoming holidays. We all deserve to slow down a bit.

 

 

 

Libraries

Some thoughts on “THE SECRET LIFE OF A PUBLIC LIBRARY SECURITY GUARD”

Me, Dillon Bates (who is now a Maine State Representative), and Marko Petrovich, February 2013.
Me, Dillon Bates,  and Marko Petrovich, February 2013.

Sometime this past week, a very well written and interesting essay titled “The Secret Life of a Public Library Security Guard” made the rounds on the internet. I was immediately drawn to this article because of my strong belief in the importance of having a strong security staff at urban public libraries. What’s that belief? It’s simple. A strong security staff at all urban public libraries is critical for the health of the organization. When an urban public library has a strong security staff, this allows both the community and the librarians to better utilize the library as a community center. Everyone loves a happy, healthy, and safe place. Security in an urban library setting allows the public library to establish that “safe place” setting.

The second reason I was drawn to the article was because I had a professional connection to the subjects of the article. From 2010-2013, I worked at the Portland Public Library and as manager of the Teen Library had a great working relationship with the security staff at the library.  The security staff at the Portland Public Library is top notch. Marko, Paul, and the other members of the staff run a tight ship that allows the library to be the community center for Portland, ME.  Simply stated, the security staff at the Portland Public Library puts forth many of the qualities of what an urban public library security staff should be: safety first, community oriented, and human focused. This comes directly from the security staff, a group of employees who at their core care about the public library and the community. You can see this when Petrovich states at the end of the essay, “You don’t need to respect me,” he reminds patrons. “Respect this place. Respect this library is public.”. They’re at the library to help keep it a safe place for the community.

I know that to most non library people who read the article that the entire “sex, drugs, booze” slant of the article stood out the most. I bet many people thought “THIS STUFF HAPPENS IN THE PUBLIC LIBRARY WHERE I TAKE MY KIDS TO STORY TIME/PICK UP MY DVDs/USE THE INTERNET?” The answer is yes. This stuff goes on at pretty much any library around the country.  I’ve worked in big libraries and I’ve worked in small libraries. It happens everywhere.  It’s a part of the job that all librarians have to face, understand, and come to terms with. It will never fully go away, and this is another reason why it is important for larger urban libraries to have a security staff. They’re the people that make sure this kind of stuff doesn’t happen in the library or if it does, they make sure it doesn’t happen again. They do all of this without the community and staff (usually) knowing that anything happened.

Marko and the security staff at the Portland Public Library have done an amazing job at making their library a safe and welcoming place for their community. Their efforts and care for the library and the community show in their day to day work. Their leadership and management of all things security related at their library help make the community of Portland, ME a better place for the citizens.

Public libraries, take note. The Portland Public Library Security Team have developed a great model for how we should manage our spaces.