Category Archives: TTW Contributor: Justin Hoenke

Create, Play, Read – Lending Devices to Teens (PART 3)

Shirky, of course, advocates that we embrace “as much chaos as we can stand.” In this scenario, staff is encouraged to try out a new thing without regard to the way “it’s always been done.” This is messy, scary, and probably unwanted in most institutions. 

Ideas above are from:
Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky
Embracing Chaos by Michael Stephens

It has been a little over a month since we began our grand experiment with lending devices to teens (for the first post on this, go here.  for the second, go here) and I am here to check back in and follow up about the project with 100% honesty.

The Nook is still circulating and has a hold list.   The device has been loaned out, returned, and been taken well care of.  There hasn’t been as much interest in the Nook as there has been the iPod, but I think that’s to be expected with these types of devices and teens (for more on this, see Are Teens Embracing E-Books?)

The iPods have been lost.  They were lent out to two teens at the same time and like clockwork a week  later, they were gone.  The teens came into the library and told me about their story.  Both of them were using the device and let their friends borrow it to play a game and then their friends walked off with the iPod. I listened and explained to them that I understood where they were coming from but the fines for losing the device were staying on their card ($324).  I didn’t tell them outright that I was a bit sad by the loss (for the library, for the teens that wanted to borrow them, and for the teens that lost them…that’s a hefty fine), but I think they could see it in me.  Sometimes you don’t have to say much to get a message across.  Emotions are a heavy thing.

Am I bummed that this all happened?  Of course.  There’s a small part of me that’s sad about how it all went down, but there are two sides to every story.  The overall excitement that the teens had when they found out we’d be circulating these devices showed me that I was on the right track.  Sure, we lost two iPods, but you have to remember it’s just an iPod touch and not some one of a kind, priceless thing. I’m also happy that we tried something new, something out of the ordinary for our teens and we now have more experience for when we run this program again…and don’t get me wrong, we will try again.  I would be letting down the nine other teen patrons in the hold queue for the iPods if I didn’t.  In conclusion, this minor setback will not get me down.  I’ve seen many bigger successes – such as the one last week where one of my longtime teen patrons who just became a US citizen after being in this country for a few years – to put me down for the count.  Those are the things that matter.  An iPod touch?  Not so much.

What did I learn from this?

  • You’re gonna lose items…and it’s ok.  It’s all part of the learning process.  Libraries lose a lot of materials with high value – think about when an audiobook collection goes missing or a disc needs to be replaced in a multi item set.
  • The teens have to know that they’re responsible.  Fines may not be the best way to do this, but that’s a bigger issue for another time.
  • eBooks and teens?  There’s a limited audience.
  • Teens want to have an experience.

How will this work next time?

  • One of the observations I made with the teens that had borrowed the devices was that they were more into using YouTube and the web browser than they were using the apps.  A possible solution would be to limit access to YouTube and the web browser and limit the devices to what they were intended for: curated app experience devices
  • Credit checks/signed applications from parents/etc will not work no matter how hard you try to push this on teens.  Teens can barely keep track of what they’re going to do after school, let alone understand what signing a piece of paper means.  Perhaps a better way forward is for the people working with these teen patrons in the library to make individual calls on each lender.  It may be a good idea for those working in the teen library to take some time to sit down with the teens that potentially want to borrow these devices, show them what they can do, and explain in fuller detail what it means to be “selected” for this program.

I won’t call this program a failure.  I learned that there is a BIG demand for a specific kind of device (the iPods) and less of a demand for another (eReaders).  What the teens want is an experience they cannot get anywhere else. I plan on giving it to them.   I’ll make sure to check back in once our new iPods arrive in the next few months

-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor

Enriching the library experience: an idea

GetGlue and LibraryThing got me thinking about how we could make the library an even neater place if we could somehow integrate these services into what we do.  Imagine going into a library and heading for the catalog.  You start your search and because of LibraryThing you can read other library members thoughts on that item.  The stack map then will help you locate what you’re looking for.  Imagine if we took that a step further and GetGlue made a product called GetGlue for Libraries.  Members could opt in to the program and check in to what they’re checking out at the library.  Library stickers could be unlocked and shared.  Even better yet, the conversation and recommendation part of GetGlue could make the entire library experience even more social and community driven.  

Now you’re not just borrowing stuff, but you’re talking about it with your community as well.

To read the full post, please visit

-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor


Create, Play, Read – Lending Devices to Teens (PART 2)

(for the first post in this series, please click here)

Once I had the idea for lending out iPods with pre-selected apps to teens, I had to do some investigating and thinking about how these devices would be used.

I would describe the iPods as “locked down”.  By that, I mean that the borrower can’t do much other than use the iPods for their library defined purpose (play or create) and use the internet.











To access restrictions, visit your settings on your iPod.  Under the General tab, scroll down to find restrictions.











Once in the restrictions section, you will see a number of things that you can turn off for the user.  I turned off everything except for Safari, YouTube, and Camera.  This section is locked by a 4 digit passcode which the borrower does not have access to.

I’ve also decided to use Find My iPhone app as a means of locating the device as a last resort (if it goes missing, stolen, etc).  Find My iPhone relies on the borrower being in an area that has wifi, but also has an option which will notify the Apple account holder (the library) of the next time the iPod has connected to a wifi network.  I know that this will sound a bit “Minority Report/1984/we’re watching you and your every move”, but I assure you that this is not the point of using this app.  In order to keep our investment safe for other members our community to borrow, I decided that using Find My iPhone was in our best interest.  Luckily, we haven’t had to resort to using it yet and I hope we never have to, but if the need arises it will be there for us to use.

And finally, I’ve been asked the question “Do the teens have to sign some kind of agreement to take out the iPods?”  My answer to this question is…sort of.

While we do not have a print version of a lending agreement in place that the teens/parent/guardian has to sign, we do have a spiel that we do give the teens before we check them out to them.  It’s not the same every time, but it goes something like this:

Just so you know, but checking out iPod out is kind of a big deal.  If it gets damaged, lost, or stolen, you’re going to have quite a hefty fine on your library card that you will have to pay before you can use the library again.  So, if you’re ok with that and you can be responsible with the iPod, then you should totally borrow it.

We usually end this conversation with a funny secret society type of handshake.  My hope is that it resonates with the teens a lot more than signing some piece of paper.

-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor

Create, Play, Read – Lending Devices to Teens

We can talk all day about whether or not it’s a good idea to lend out devices to patrons, but in the end action is better than any kind of talk.  After listening to both sides of the lending devices story for a few weeks, I decided to say the heck with it and buy some Nooks and iPod Touches to lend out to my teen patrons.

My approach to lending out these devices was simple: sure, anyone can go out there and buy these devices and put whatever they want on them, but what about all of the cool stuff  they may overlook?  There’s so many great apps and games out there that there’s no way you could try them all.

I approached the devices as something that the teen library would “curate”.  The librarians of the future are also our community leaders.  They not only inform their communities, but they also teach, show, and introduce their communities to new things.  I took that approach when selected the apps and ebooks that would come loaded on each of these devices.  I also came up with a “brand” for the devices….PLAY, CREATE, AND READ SOMETHING.  It is my hope with the brand that people come to see the “____ SOMETHING” idea in the library as something unique that a library does not offer traditionally.

The criteria for selecting apps and ebooks was simple.  I asked myself “what would I want to experience on these devices?” and also “what could give someone who is borrowing this device the best experience possible?”  Each iPod came loaded with $50 in iTunes store credit, and for the Nooks I purchased $100 in ebooks (you can see the complete lists of what are on the devices below).
The program rolled out yesterday, so I don’t have any feedback to give yet, but I’ll make sure to follow up on this post soon.
Here are the details of each of these programs, what I loaded onto the devices, and more, please visit:


-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor

Hack A Kindle*

UPDATED ON 1/28/12 (see below)

*sort of


I bought a Kindle for these reasons and for the past few days, I’ve been using it in a few different ways.  I bought two books from Amazon totalling $6.99.  But most of the space on my Kindle is taken up by a collection of PDF’s.  Yes, this is how I’m hacking a Kindle.  It’s my PDF collection device.

Does your library subscribe to some databases?  Chances are, they do, and this will be where you will start your hacking.  My current topics of interest include empowering patrons to create “stuff” in the library, user experience, teens and technology, and The Beach Boys.  I dove into these topics pretty deeply one night and searched for PDF’s that interested me.

I was always happy to see this PDF Full Text icon

If I couldn’t find an article in PDF form, I turned to Google Chrome extensions to help convert that text into a PDF.

I highly suggest "Save as PDF"

Once I downloaded the articles, I sent them to my Kindle account using my Send to Kindle email address.  The next time I turned on my Kindle, I synced the device and viola!  My PDF’s showed up, ready to view, highlight, share, and cite.

At first, the process may be a bit cumbersome (and there may even be better ways to do it!), but once I got into the groove of searching/saving/uploading PDF’s, I had quite a collection in no time.  I highly suggest that if a librarian has a patron that has a Kindle and is interested in collecting their research that they at least think about using this way to aid the patron.

I got an email from @verbivoria last night (thank you!) that explained how to use Instapaper to  send web articles to your Kindle:

You can use Instapaper to save web articles you like, convert them to Kindle files, and then import to the device.

The neat thing is this: you install a “Read Later” button on your browser, and when you find something that you want to peruse later, you click the button. I find this invaluable.

I found these two articles to be really helpful if you need help setting up this process: Lifehacker

-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor

Good Twitter practice for libraries

I got these two direct messages via Twitter recently from two libraries who were acknowledging that I started following them.  They followed me back and then sent these messages.

To me, these simple DM’s really warmed my heart and reinforced the idea that customer service is one of the most important things that we can focus on in libraries today.  It also acts as a great way to open up the conversation with our patrons.

This is something I highly recommend that libraries practice when using Twitter.  It really can make our patrons feel welcome.

-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor

Library Director: A Possible Future

Thinking about the future has been very common for me in 2011.  I’ve asked myself time and time again, “what is my place in libraries?” but I haven’t come to a final answer.  I’ve had this feeling that I can’t be a teen librarian forever, but since it is the only position I’ve ever held I’ve had a hard time looking past it.  Could I be an academic librarian?  A self employed librarian?  These ideas have come and gone, but no one answer has really stuck.  Until recently…

I started thinking about a possible future as a library director after my participation in the 2010 ALA Emerging Leaders program. Maureen Sullivan, who was the ALA Emerging Leaders Facilitator at the time shared a quote by Frances Hesselbein with the class that’s forever changed me:

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

(you can read about my ALA Emerging Leaders experience here and here)

It’s a cliche, but I’ll say it…my mind was blown.  Up until that point in my professional career, I always thought that moving up the “library ladder” allowed you to do whatever the heck you wanted to do.  You were the person in charge…the big shot…the leader.  The way that the community views the library is now in your hands and you can mold it and shape it all you want.

How silly of me to think that I was the center of attention.  How very self centered. I went back and thought of the main reason why I became a librarian in the first place…to help people…and it all clicked.  If I was to become a library director, my job wouldn’t be to dictate others, but instead help those that were around me reach their goals. I would still be helping people, but that circle was now larger. Not only I’d be helping my community, but I’d also be helping other library employees in their quest to be the best for their community.

If I was to go in this direction, I thought I better have a plan.  This is a work in progress:

Library Directors need to trust their employees 100% and get their staff on board with everything that’s happening in the library.  If you were a teen librarian before you make the jump to library director, your tools used to be video games, graphic novels, craft events, and more.  Now, as the director your tools are your staff.  Believe in them, their ideas, and their abilities.  When you have a staff that’s feeling supported, the sky is the limit.  Your library will shine, and your community will embrace the services you offer them.

On the back of the life changing quote I mentioned above, I have to add this: don’t stop having ideas, and definitely don’t stop dreaming.  I’ve always been a dreamer myself, and if I ever become a library director, I’m sure that there will not be an “off” button which I can hit and change my personality to director mode.


It’s the public library directors who need to listen. Staff members need better tools and skills, while their youth need more space, materials, and computers. As Gómez says, “We cannot view out-of-school-time programming and services as an adjunct to core library services.”

For that to be true, a lot of public library directors will need to take a hard look at their library’s resources and how they’re spent. Maybe it’s time to stop moaning about that seldom-visited reference desk (now quiet because adults are using the Internet) and hire more staff that can serve your major clients: children and teens. Maybe it’s time to take your materials and programming funds and actually align them to your usage statistics.

-Brian Kenney

If your librarian comes to you with a plan or just a random idea for something to better the library, give them the ability to go for it. While I was a librarian at the Cape May County Library (NJ), I was a teen librarian chock full of ideas. I went to my director Deb Poillon and asked her if I could start a circulating video game collection.  She thought it over, found some money, and a few months later gave me the funds to start up the collection.  Two years and 554 titles later, the collection is going strong in the county library system.

My point is simple: don’t let money or your own opinions get in the way.  Give your librarians the tools they need to embrace change and help them make something positive happen for the community.


The public library is an excellent model of government at its best. A locally controlled public good, it serves every individual freely, in as much or as little depth as he or she wants.

 -John Berry III

Transparency is quite the buzz word these days, but it’s one of those buzz words I can get behind.  I define the public library as an institution that is available for the public to use which is generally funded by some kind of public sources.  Coming at it from this perspective, I see transparency not as a buzz word, but as something necessary to ensure the future of libraries.

I want to take this idea to the limit.

I wrote about this idea over 1 year ago.  While the tools may have changed, I do stand by the basic principles I set forth in this blog post.  Librarians, and to a greater extent, Library Directors, are interpreters for their communities.  We are here to listen to their needs and wants, and use our professional expertise to help make those requests come true.  As a library director, we need to clearly communicate our actions and decisions to our patrons. This involves fully embracing the idea of transparency.

-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor

Zukunftswerkstatt Gaming Roadshow @ the Mannheim Library

Gaming Roadshow Panel Discussion (from at the Mannheim Library

Christoph Deeg has been doing an amazing job touring libraries in Europe with the Zukunftswerkstatt Gaming Roadshow opening up discussion about gaming and libraries.  This past week, the Roadshow made a stop at the Mannheim Library and held their program and panel discussion on gaming.  If you’re interested, check out this write up of the event here.

The roadshow panel discussion brought up a great question:

We discussed how interactive games can be used specifically in the culture and knowledge of the role they play in society, which can help libraries, schools or other institutions to technology and how it even more into everyday life, eg for language and reading skills, can be integrated and used.

For more information on the Roadshow, please visit Zukunftswerkstatt Gaming Roadshow

-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor


Programming is great, but…

Have you ever given your all for a teen program, only to feel less than spectacular about the end result? We’ve all been there. Maybe we don’t attract the attendance numbers we hoped for or that our well thought out plan didn’t go exactly as we expected it to go. It’s got me thinking about life in the library beyond programs.

Programming is a great tool for libraries, but it can only get us so far. Real interactions, friendships, and something as simple as saying hello to our patrons is one of the best practices for a teen librarian to learn. I’m inclined to believe that librarians who spend more time interacting, building friendships, and communicating with their patrons have better results with the community that they serve.

How many teen craft programs can we host? Do teens even really like Star Wars/Harry Potter/Twilight themed events? Is gaming really one of the main solutions we have to keep turning towards?

We shouldn’t abandon programming all together. Think of programming as the first step, the gateway towards something deeper. Plan ahead with teen programs, but don’t spend a majority of your energy and focus on the programs themselves. Spend this time and energy on people. Take the time that you’d be taking to plan and implement an event like, say, teen after hours, and instead funnel that energy one day towards sitting down with your teens. Ask them about their day. Tell them about your life.  Listen to their stories. Have a laugh.

Another idea, although slightly pricey, may be to think about investing in staff. Sure, employing even a part time staff member can even have a tremendous effect on your budget, but you can’t think of it in business terms. An employee whose main priority is to interact with teen patrons and make them feel like part of the community can bring such a great positive energy to a library.

The next time you want to focus your energy and budget on a Twilight themed prom style event, think about your other options? Is it worth spending your energy sitting and chatting with the teens in your library instead?

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor