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.

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“RESUME STUFF”

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.
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Chattanooga, TN, Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Technology, Titusville, PA

How the Internet Should Work in America

Today I received a check from EPB Chattanooga, which provided my family and I with high quality fiber internet while we lived in Chattanooga TN between April 2013-June 2015. The check was for $29.94 and was a refund for overpaying them during the time we used their services.

Here’s a photo of that check: IMG_0281

Let me also take this moment to say that when we were living in Chattanooga TN that our monthly bill for 100 Mbps/sec internet service was only $57.99 and that there was no data cap. Here’s a copy of that bill: Screenshot-2

I moved to Titusville PA knowing that the internet situation wouldn’t be the same and I was ok with it. I knew Chattanooga TN and EPB was special. But here’s what I’m running into month after month with our internet service provider here in Pennsylvania:

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What’s different? First and foremost, the price of the actual internet: $89.95 for a service that gives us 30-50 Mbps. FUN FACT: we just got an email saying that the price is going up to $99.95/month for this same service. What else do we see here? ADDITIONAL INTERNET USAGE fees. Yes, we have a data cap. How much data do we get? 400 GB/month. I know that sounds like a lot, but when you have 2 tech savvy homeschooling kids, a wife that does virtual assistant work from home, and your awesome mother in law lives with you and everyone streams YouTube and Netflix the data usage goes through the roof. We usually go over by 50-100 GB, but as you can see in January/February we went over by 350 GB, costing us an additional $70. That’s $70 taken away from either our monthly grocery bill or the money we’re spending to repair Fidelia Hall. It’s tough, especially when I believe that everyone out there should have equal, cheap (I also like free but hey I get it), and accessible ways to get the internet.

I’m not writing this to specifically call out Armstrong Internet because hey you’ve actually been really kind to us and have provided a great service. You may want to think about your ADDITIONAL INTERNET USAGE fees and how you should reconsider what those may be financially doing to a family living in the modern age where internet is needed to function from day to day.

I’m writing this to give a real world example of what equal and cheap internet access SHOULD look like in our country. America is pretty awesome and a lot of us have a really good life here. Access to the internet should be available to everyone and should be available at affordable rates. There should be no ADDITIONAL INTERNET USAGE fees. No one should worry about using too much internet. No one should have to pay more for using too much internet. HECK, no one should have to decide whether to pay a student loan or put food on the table or use the internet at home. These things should just happen.

I ask you to think about this. Armstrong, I ask you to reconsider your ADDITIONAL INTERNET USAGE fees. We’re not using your service for evil. We’re using it to learn and to enjoy a movie together as a family.

Thank you.

 

 

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries

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.

Family, Life

Small Towns

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Yesterday, my family and I visited South Pittsburg, TN (yes, no “H” at the end) to attend the National Cornbread Festival. It was a great festival full of great food, games, events, and more. The weather was absolutely perfect as well so we also had that going for us. All in all, it was a wonderful day.

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It felt great to be in what I’d call a small town. South Pittsburg, according to my observations, reminds me a lot of Meadville, PA.  That’s the town where my wife Haley and I met and lived in for about 3 years. There’s a “downtown” area, a few major side streets, and it’s surrounded by nature. The whole town felt rather clean even though there was a major festival with thousands of people running around.  The people that live in and around South Pittsburg, TN had a sense of pride about where they lived. They were locals and they seemed to be proud of it. They lived where they lived, ventured out when they needed to, and that was it.  There was something oddly out of touch with the modern world about it all. I think this hit me when I saw their local grocery store was Foodland, a store which I remember existing all throughout my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA in the 1980’s.

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I think I am out of touch with the modern world. I don’t feel that good living in the modern world. I think this is why my trip to South Pittsburg, TN and the discovery of this Foodland store hit me so much. I think it’s also one of the reasons why I look back on my time in Meadville, PA so fondly. I think I function best in a small town. Not only are they cheaper to live in, but they’re also a bit out of touch with the modern world.  When I lived in Northwestern, PA, a good friend once said that you could be immensely popular and well known in that area by emulating all the cool things that happened in “the real world” about 10-20 years later in Northwestern, PA.

I think I work best in small towns.

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries, Management, Teens

Management Style

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Thank to Finn Hoenke, Aero Hoenke, Haley Hoenke, Elias Spruill, Janine Veazue, Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Chuck E Cheese, Marvin Gaye, The cast of Star Wars, and many others for making my office a nice place to be.

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.

2014 was the year that I threw myself into management in public libraries. Was it scary and stressful? Yes. Did I survive? Well, either I’m writing this or clone Justin exists, so it’s up to you to decide.

The questions I’ve been asking myself this year go like this: What does a manager do? How does this change what I already do at the library? Do I need an office? What does one do in their office?How does one lead? I’d like to share my experiences here on this blog in order to help those in a similar situation out and to also maybe inspire other youth services librarians who are looking into management. Trust me: if I can do it you can too.

What does a manager do?
A manager takes the first step carves out the path for their staff to follow. A manager provides guidance and enthusiasm for the staff. A manager is a strong voice and supporter for their staff. I always refer back to a quote I learned in my ALA Emerging Leaders class for inspiration:

“The leader’s job is not to provide energy but to release it from others.”
Frances Hesselbein

A manager takes a step back and lets their staff shine. They listen to what the staff needs and does their best to communicate that vision to the rest of the library. Managers can make a job fun for their staff. I truly believe that when we’re having fun with our work some of our best ideas happen and in turn, those affect the community in a positive way. I tell my employees: have fun and see what happens. I think it’s working.

How does this change what I already do at the library?
I am one of those people that has an idea every minute. Let’s try this. Let’s try that. This is the vision and this is how we can do it. As I moved into management, I had to teach myself how to calm down, trust others with their ideas, and play the long game. Playing the long game gives you an insane amount of patience (FYI: having children does that too). It allows you to sit back and let things happen naturally.

Your idea of working in a public library will change considerably when you move into management. The focus is still and will always be the community, but in addition you have staff to manage. You will no longer be on the public service desk all day. It will be a shock. You won’t get as many of those hi-fives from kids, tweens, and teens. You won’t get as many of the awesome perks that come from working public service: directly helping people, making a little part of their life better, and more. But here’s the thing: your decisions as a manager and how you inspire your staff help make those moments possible. You may no longer have the direct connection to the public but you are still making a huge difference in your community.

Do I need an office? What does one do in their office?
I am a big fan of working in public. As public employees I think it is our job to show our funders how we work, what we’re doing, and be as transparent as possible. But you know what? After becoming involved in management I’ve started to understand the need to have an office or an “away from the public area” at times. When you’re thinking about big picture stuff you sometimes just need to be alone. You need to shut the door. What does one do in their office? These kinds of things. I also highly suggest filling your office with things that make you happy. Photos. Pictures. Drawings. Weird things that you collect. But don’t be a hoarder.

How does one lead?
I can’t answer that one for you. All that I can say is that you try, you fail and then you succeed and then you fail again and then you succeed and that cycle never ends. You find what works best for you, your staff, and your community. Note that I put YOU first because, yes, you have to put YOU first sometimes. Without a happy and fully functioning YOU things won’t move ahead. Treat yourself well. Once you do that, you will be on the right path.

Chattanooga Public Library, Libraries

David Weinberger at the Chattanooga Public Library

Not the best photo, but it's David Weinberger with an image of Sim City behind him so that's pretty awesome.
Not the best photo, but it’s David Weinberger with an image of Sim City behind him so that’s pretty awesome.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing David Weinberger speak on The 4th Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library as part of Startup Week Chattanooga. I have long been a fan of David’s work, especially his Library as Platform article in Library Journal, so seeing him speak was an extreme jolt of inspiration and excitement that came at the perfect moment.

I won’t recap his excellent presentation here but I did live tweet some of his key quotes (if you want to look through my twitter feed, here you go) but I will say this: if you have a chance to hear David speak about the library as a platform, do not miss it. His ideas make perfect sense in the world today. The library as a platform allows the public library to become an integral part of the community fabric.  It allows the public library to live and breathe along with its community.

I also got a brief chance to share what we’re doing on The 2nd Floor with David, and he had super kind things to say about our work today in his blog post (read the full post here):

Go down to the second floor and you’ll see the youth area under the direction/inspiration of Justin Hoenke. It’s got lots of things that kids like to do, including reading books, of course. But also playing video games, building things with Legos, trying out some cool homebrew tech (e.g., this augmented reality sandbox by 17-year-old Library innovator, Jake Brown (github)), and soon recording in audio studios. But what makes this space a platform is its visible openness to new ideas that invites the community to participate in the perpetual construction of the Library’s future.

This is physically manifested in the presence of unfinished structures, including some built by a team of high school students. What will they be used for? No one is sure yet. The presence of lumber assembled by users for purposes to be devised by users and librarians together makes clear that this is a library that one way or another is always under construction, and that that construction is a collaborative, inventive, and playful process put in place by the Library, but not entirely owned by the Library. Via Joho the Blog by David Weinberger

It was a great day to be a librarian yesterday. It was a great day to be living in Chattanooga yesterday. I’ll carry those good vibes on today and make a positive impact on the world.

Chattanooga Public Library, Chattanooga, TN, Great People, Libraries

GREAT PEOPLE: Lee Hope

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I wanted to take a moment to talk about Lee Hope, the Children’s Services Coordinator at the Chattanooga Public Library.  Since I arrived in April 2013, I’ve got a chance to work very closely with Lee on a number of projects involving kids, tweens, and teens in Chattanooga….and it has been an awesome experience, one that deserves sharing.

Lee worked her way up in the Chattanooga Public Library, starting as a shelver, becoming a kid’s librarian, and now as the Youth Services Coordinator.  She’s been with the library for over twenty years and has done great things for her community.  It’s been super awesome to work with her. She’s been a great manager and mentor, being there when I needed guidance but also listening to my ideas and letting me implement them.  There’s a great balance between the two of us and how we work.  We trust each other, we listen to each others ideas, and we question each other.

Maverick-and-Goose-Top-Gun

We call each other Goose and Maverick, a nod to the film Top Gun.  In our eyes, we’ve gotta have that balance.  Sure, (SPOILER ALERT) Goose dies in Top Gun, but that’s not the point.  The point is that Goose and Maverick work together.  They trust each other. Plus, it’s just really fun to be constantly making Top Gun references through the work day.

Lee’s mentorship means a lot to me. She helps me see the whole picture and has taught me how to collect my thoughts, create a plan, and put that plan into action. That’s huge. Her teachings have really helped me grow.

Now that I’m Coordinator of Teen Services for the Chattanooga Public Library, I get to work even closer with Lee. We’ve got one big project that’s almost ready to share. I can’t wait to put it out there in the world.

Thank you Lee for everything!