Libraries, Teens


I want passion! I want excitement! I want bold and inspiring statements and ideas from human beings! This month, Library Journal delivered in THREE ways. Here they are. Read them, share them, and be inspired to be a great positive force in your world.

Adversary or Ally? The trouble with fines and fees by Rebecca T. Miller


COPY AND PASTE all text by Rebecca because this is very important: Ultimately, we must reflect upon our bond with the people libraries are designed to serve. Interactions with patrons can become about the fine or fee, instead of the need addressed by the service. This risks turning librarians and clerks into cops and collection agents and diverting backroom capacity to fee and fine maintenance. In the process, it can set up an adversarial relationship between the library and its users rather than forging an alliance that supports a vibrant interchange. I vote for the library as ally rather than as adversary. Read the full article here. Good job Rebecca.

Barbie Bod Mods by Lisa Mudrakoff and Sasha Schertzer


A program that is not only FUN but a program that engages youth and gets them to think is a library program that I love and want to sing about from the rooftops.

Over the course of the program, we witnessed participants building a community of young people from all over the city, with relationships developing naturally as the teens worked on their dolls side by side. Some older teens, still working through their own identities, nevertheless found themselves mentoring the younger teens as they talked about their questions and struggles.

FANTASTIC JOB Lisa and Sasha. Read the full article here.

Speak of the Devil by Michael Stephens


The term devil’s advocate is defined as a role meant to encourage discussion of an issue from all sides by taking an unpopular approach. However, I fear it’s become something different. Many have come to understand that when we say “play devil’s advocate,” it’s a passive-aggressive way of bringing a point up without it looking like it’s our own. Same goes for those who blanket their opinions with, “Others are saying this about that….”

Michael is spot on here (he usually is with his ideas. I enjoy him very much). Don’t be the person that brings negativity into an otherwise healthy situation. I believe in debate and discussion and openness, but it doesn’t have to happen all of the time. Roll with the positive.




Great People, Libraries, Portland, ME, Teens

GREAT PEOPLE: Michael Whittaker

554372_433238246696075_1337366168_nOne of the hardest (and least talked about) parts surrounding taking a new job and leaving your old one is how the people that you’ve shared your life with will no longer be around daily.  This is the case with Michael Whittaker, a rad person who has been so much more than a co-worker to me.  He is my partner in crime, the Batman to my Robin.  He is my friend and I love him with all of my heart.



A brief background on Michael: He used to work in publicity for SST Records.  For those that don’t know about SST Records, here’s a basic bio: They were started by Greg Ginn, who started the band Black Flag, who basically started the whole DIY (do it yourself) indie record label movement.  That’s the important part of what you need to know.  He’s also worked for A&M Records and is all sorts of plugged in to cool things around Portland, Maine and the rest of the world.

People love Michael and with good reason: he is extremely caring, attentive, and to put it bluntly…he gives a shit.  He wants to see great things done in the world and inspire everyone to make the most of their lives.

Michael liberated my mind and taught me that anything is possible, especially in libraries.  Wanna make music with teenagers on cassette tapes and synthesizers? Do it.  Wanna hang out with teens, talk about their lives, and create connections above everything else?  Do it.  You have nothing to lose.


I want to put Michael into a box and ship him down to Chattanooga with me.  That’s not possible, but damn, I wish it was.

Michael, time for me to get sappy: thank you for all that you have taught me.  Thank you for being my friend.  Thank you for supporting my crazy ideas and at the same time adding even more insanity to them.  Thank you for having crazy ideas.  It is through you that I’ve learned how to be a better Justin Hoenke and Justin The Librarian.  I won’t say “without you, I am nothing” but I will say this: “without you, I am a fraction of what I can be”.  You are the best.  I love you dude.



Aiming for Balance

When I embarked on the teen librarian career path in 2007, I never understood what the possibilities were, where it would take me, and just what I’d be doing five years later. Thinking back to that moment in time, I imagined a career where I’d work in a library, buy new materials for the teens in the library, put on programs, and that was about it.  This way of thinking made me see librarianship as a job, not a career.  

But as we all know things never go as you think they will and all that you can do is do your best to keep up with the change that surrounds you.  Plus, I knew there was more to working in a library than just showing up, doing your thing and leaving.  No matter if you were on the clock or not, you always wore your librarian hat in the community.  This lead to me seeking out ways to share ideas, programs, and more with other librarians. Twitter, blogging, and Facebook were the tools that gave me the opportunity to reach out to a larger audience.  And it worked…I wasn’t just going to the library and doing my thing.  I was sharing and writing with a much larger audience than just my community.

Things changed for me professionally quite a bit in 2010.  I became the Teen Librarian at the biggest library in the entire state of Maine.  From what I understand, there was a national job search and I was the one they picked.  Wow.  That’s heavy.  I remember driving up to Maine one winter day for my interview, spending the night in what I’d describe as a fancy hotel overlooking all of Portland, ME, and that same day being asked to become a contributor for a blog that had changed the way I thought about libraries when I was back in library school.  After accepting the job, I was tasked with building a teen library from the ground up, putting on programs for the teen community, and meeting and collaborating with many different groups around the community.  All of a sudden I didn’t just have a job…I had a career.  That’s where the pace of the change surrounding me ramped up quite a bit.  The next thing that came was that I was asked to write pieces for professional publications.  Then I was invited to speak at conferences and share what I had been doing in our teen library with a greater audience.  This was a career path different than anything I had imagined.  While happy (and very humbled!) to be sharing knowledge and inspiring people in my professional network something felt a bit off to me.  This way of thinking made me see librarianship as a career, not a job.  This change in thought made me realize the need for balance.

This brings us up to the present.  I write this piece with mixed emotions, not knowing exactly what the future holds, not knowing exactly why I’m writing this in the first place.  Maybe it’s to collect my thoughts.  Perhaps it is to signal the beginning of the end of the “Justin The Librarian” phase of my life.  I do not know.  I will know someday though.

But in the meantime, all that I can aim for is balance…balance between having a job or having a career, being a husband and father, and just being Justin.  Life gets really interesting as you get older.