Never Going Back Again: by TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke 1


When people ask me why I became a librarian, I offer them a two-part story. First, it’s so I could get married to my wife Haley. Her mom (who is an amazing librarian doing great things) told me that I would make a great librarian. Being that I really wanted to get married to her daughter, I took her recommendation and here I am today. The second part of the story was simply because of the fact that being a librarian allowed me to combine everything that I wanted in my life into a career: the opportunity to do really awesome and unique things for my community. I got into this to create and implement library programs. In 2007-2008, the teen community was where the most exciting and innovating library programming. My idea of what a public library should be doing for their communities and the what teens wanted from their library went together like peanut butter and jelly.

2008. Clarion Free Library. Clarion, PA.

The beginning. 2008. Clarion Free Library. Clarion, PA.

Over the next five or so years, my title was Teen Librarian but in all seriousness my role was Teen Programmer. My job was to make the library an exciting and worthwhile place for ages 12-18. We hung out in libraries. I organized some really cool programs and the teens seemed to dig them. I loved my job and the communities that I served, but I wanted to grow. I had ideas about how libraries could grow and better serve not just teens but all age groups in the community. I knew that I couldn’t be just a teen librarian anymore.

Growth. 2014.

Growth. 2014.

I came to the Chattanooga Public Library in 2014 to grow as a person and as a librarian. I have done both very much so. Inspired by my co-workers, over the past two years I’ve dove more and more into library management and planning. I schedule and supervise staff, I get the payroll into the HR Department, I help write grants and budget proposals. I spend a lot less of my time working directly with the public and even less of my time being a teen programmer.  It’s a pretty radical shift from why I got into libraries in the first place, but I enjoy it very much.  At the core, my work is still directed at doing awesome and unique things for my community. Seeing that just requires you to look at it with a new pair of glasses. Library work is all about people.

Megan Emery as the Joker. A pretty typical library day.

Megan Emery as the Joker. A pretty typical library day. Photo by Rickie Blevins.

Every day I get a chance to look at the amazing work that Megan Emery is doing with the youth community at the Chattanooga Public Library. I see the direct connection she has with the community and in head and in my heart I think to myself, “wow, I wish I was back there doing just that.” But as the title of this post and Lindsey Buckingham say, I’m “never going back again.”  I’ve grown and my roles have changed. My work now is to support the people who not only use the library but also help make it a beautiful and inspiring place for the community. If that means signing timesheets, scheduling staff, and focusing more on the back-of-the-house stuff that the public may never see, so be it. Library work is all about people; the people in your community AND the people you share your work experience with. I may miss being a teen programmer from time to time but as long as I can continue to help people, my job as a librarian is not finished.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor


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