Category Archives: TTW Contributor: Justin Hoenke

Sharing Life

There’s lots of talk about where we are headed these days.  What is our future?  Will we go the way of the dinosaur and suburban mall?  Seth Godin seems to think that we’re doomed while Toby Greenwalt and an army of librarians seem to think otherwise.  I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that the future of the public library is right in front of us.  And boy, does it look wonderful.

Teens at the Graphic Novel and Manga Club, Cape May County Library

We need to look no further than to the teens that are using the public library to see the future.   The library of the 21st Century has been characterized as being less of a library and more of a community center.  This practice is already in full effect when it comes to teen librarianship.  A great deal of a teen librarian’s focus is programming and getting teens into the library to create lifelong users.

Programming brings teens into the library and gives them community.  Teens get a chance to interact with each other and share an experience.  One element that cannot be taken away no matter how much technology grows is human interaction.  Think of the modern supermarket.  Sure, the self checkout is great in a pinch, but don’t you just always find yourself going to a regular checkout for the interaction?  People working and collaborating with other people will drive the public library into the future.  Creating a third space where people share ideas and media will keep the public library relevant in the 21st century.  The development of the teen space in the public library can be seen as a microcosm of this idea.  Teen spaces are designed for use by a specific age range (usually 12-18 years old) and include many forms of media and technology all packaged together nicely into one area.

The next step is to expand.  In order to accomplish this, we must embrace our sense of  adventure and open our minds.  Let’s take the ideas in teen librarianship and apply them to the organization as a whole.  For example, we need to take a look at the individual populations we serve.  It’s not as simple as children, teen and adult anymore.  Think about the specific needs of each group and create programming that suits their needs.  With programs designed for specific needs in place, users will feel more of a connection to their public library.

I put up the image of the teens at the Graphic Novel and Manga club to highlight this point.  Two years ago, graphic novels and manga were considered just an extra part of the collection at my library.  The genres were lumped in together with fiction (and sometimes non-fiction, specifically 741.547) and nothing was done to cater to the needs of this specific user group.  I recognized this and vowed to make a change.  My first step was to set aside an area for these collections.  It was a success.  Graphic Novel and Manga circulation rose 56% from 2008 to 2009 and a new breed of patron started using the library.  These were people who I had never seen in the library before.  My mission culminated with the development of the Teen Graphic Novel and Manga club, a program which meets once per month to discuss anything and everything related to the genre.  And it’s beautiful.  On average we have 13 teens every month attend the program.  These teens come from all different backgrounds and different high schools.  They are all unique in their own way.  Yet, they come together for 2 hours every month to share, collaborate, learn, and enjoy life.

The library is already the ultimate sharing institution.  We need to redefine what we mean by sharing to include all sorts of things.  I’m just gonna say it.  We have to get rid of the idea that we’re all about sharing books and media.  What we have to embrace is the idea that we’re sharing life.

-Justin Hoenke, Tame The Web Contributor

The Library as a Community Center/Third Place:  Links for further reading

Libraries Stand Ready to Help in Tough Economic Times by Jim Rettig

The Library as a Community Center by Barbara L. Anderson (PDF)

Libraries as the Third Place by Kelly Jensen

Library as Place via Library Garden

The Future of Libraries, With or Without Books by John D. Sutter

Library of the Future by David Lee King

Teen Third Place by Kimberly Bolan Cullin (PDF)

-Justin Hoenke, Tame The Web Contributor

On ALA Emerging Leaders – Please Welcome TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke

Note from Michael: I’m serving as a mentor for ALA Emerging Leaders Group J this year. One of the members of this outstanding group is Justin Hoenke, who’s joining the TTW family as a contributor. This is his first post.


What does it mean to be an ALA Emerging Leader?  I’ve heard a lot of things come out of peoples’ mouths.  Some have told me that it’s just something fancy to put on my resume, others that it’s just a lot of work that will remind you of a library school project.  I’m not big on negativity, so I’ve assessed the title my own way.



During our Emerging Leaders program at ALA Midwinter 2010, Emerging Leader Facilitator Maureen Sullivan tossed out this quote from Frances Hesselbein

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

The sentiment blew my mind. Upon grasping it, I realized all I held to be true about leadership—it’s all about you; you can do whatever you want, including pushing your agenda on the masses—was wrong. Hesselbein’s quote showed me that before I go ahead with this project, I’ve got to undo a lot of learning because it’s not about me, and it has never been about me (more on that in my next post).

I’ve now got a renewed energy when it comes to libraries.  I now better understand my co-workers and their ideas.  I now recognize the importance of waiting before adding my ideas to the mix.


Being an Emerging Leader does look fancy on your resume, but at the end of the day it’s all about growing as a person and as a librarian.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve got problems I can’t figure out on my own, and I’m nowhere close to being the best librarian I can be.  What being an ALA Emerging Leader has shown me is that all of that is OK.

Collaboration and making connections: that’s what it’s all about.  The more I get involved in my Emerging Leaders project, the more I see that the world thrives on collaboration and connections.  Without it, we’re running around in circles.


For our projects, Emerging Leaders are teamed up with four of our ilk and given a task.  Not to spoil the surprise or anything, but my group’s task is to conduct a survey about and make recommendations for possible changes.  Sounds fun and manageable, right?

The first thing I learned was to let go of any ideas I had, that is, contribute them to the group with the understanding that they were going to be embellished and improved by everyone else.  Being an Emerging Leader has helped me learn how to trust people more and to see their ideas and encourage them to reach a higher level.  Collaboration never seemed so important.


Creating connections can make a world of difference for you.  Two months ago, I was sitting behind my desk thinking about video games in libraries.  I wanted to get my ideas out to the world, but I didn’t know how.  Cut to the present, where I’m working with another current Emerging Leader on video gaming in libraries.  At ALA EL, I found people who are just as passionate as me when it comes to libraries.  And to think, I may have never met these folks if it wasn’t for the Emerging Leaders program.

Justin Hoenke is Teen Services Librarian at Cape May County Library