Three Things I’ve Learned as a Library Director by TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke


One year ago I made the jump from a career full of youth services to a life as a director of a small public library. It was a jump that I knew I wanted to make for awhile and when I had the opportunity to work at the Benson Memorial Library in Titusville, PA I jumped right at it.

YOUR COMMUNITY IS UNIQUE. UNDERSTAND THEM.

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Titusville PA. You may have never heard of it, but it is great.

We can’t rely on an article in a library related publication to spell out exactly what we need to do in our library. Every community is different, and with that you have to adapt to the community you have surrounding you. Once you do that, you will be the best librarian that you can be. What I did during my time at the Chattanooga Public Library would not work here in Titusville, PA. Some people in our community can’t even get an internet connection at their home, so a program like DEV DEV would just confuse everyone. Instead, Titusville is a place where people still read magazines, circulation of print materials is through the roof, and everyone knows everyone else and it’ll stay that way forever and ever. Knowing your community lets you do your job to the best of your ability. Take a lot of pride in that if this is something you have accomplished.

talk to everyone

When you are a library director, you become a sort of local celebrity. You are a person who holds a very important job in the community and people look up to you to lead and maintain the library, which most if not all of them hold in the highest regard. With that position comes a lot of added responsibilities such as the need to talk to everyone that you meet. You’re in the supermarket and you want some chocolate milk and nothing more. Well guess what? You may have to talk about the library to someone you run into. Enjoying a nice day off away from the library? That’s great! But if you decide to go out for a walk get ready to run into someone who will ask you if you’d like to partner with them on a project. A big part of the library director’s job is to talk to everyone in the community. You have to be a great listener, a great organizer, and be patient. Sometimes the conversations will lead nowhere, but that isn’t the point. What matters most is that the community feels that their voices are head. Once this is accomplished, they will become more invested in the library in their community.

MANAGING STAFF AND TAKING CARE OF A BUILDING IS TOUGH

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The Benson Memorial Library staff circa September 2015 (and Aero Hoenke)

One of the most difficult parts of my job is managing the staff and taking care of a 112 year old building. We have 8 employees (not counting myself) at the library. I sometimes say that we have 9 because the building could also be considered an employee as well. My “9” employees all have great ideas, habits, moods, and their own lives. When you get that many people together, you have ups and downs. Most of the time we’re all smooth sailing, humming along and doing our jobs to the best of our ability. However there are times where the waves are rocky and something is just off. It could be a slight miscommunication in the workplace. It could just be due to the library being busier than usual. It could be a number of things all smooshed together. As the director, I have to make sure that despite rough moments that everything has a friendly outward appearance and that we’re moving forward. Sometimes it requires some tough decisions and some uncomfortable conversations. In the end, my job is to protect this library, serve the community, and be there for our employees.

The building, my “9th” employee, is a beautiful 112 year old pseudo Carnegie-esque kind of building that is just simply amazing. The space is great and has been kept up really well through the years. The community really cares about this building and it shows: everything is well taken care of, well organized, and there for the community. But sometimes the air conditioner wants to break and the historic sandstone steps erode away over time due to use. It happens! I have to constantly be on my toes, thinking about how I can wrangle some extra money out of the budget or find someone to fund a project. These thoughts hum through my head almost nonstop.

All in all, this part of the job is the toughest. But every decision I make has the same end goal in sight: to make this library exist for hundreds of more years to come in this amazing community.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor