Change 7

Let me say this: change is extremely difficult.  It’s also not a quick fix, but a process that may go on for many years.  Change also has many hills and valleys and sometimes you can’t see the destination.

In the end, however, change is totally worth all the ups and downs that come with it.

Over the past few months, I’ve experienced a lot of change in my career as a librarian.  I started off the year as the Teen Librarian at the Cape May County Library in Southern, NJ.  In February, I accepted a position as the new Teen Librarian at the Portland Public Library in Portland, ME.  The task was quite daunting: in April 2010, the library would complete a $7.3 million dollar renovation which was funded by a bond approved by voters and donations from individuals and organizations.  One of the main features of the renovated library was a dedicated teen space, something that the library never had before.

Basically, it sort of went something like this: “There’s not a strong teen presence in the library and this is all a blank slate.  Here’s a brand new space, some money, and a bunch of great tools.  Work your magic.”  Yes, it sounds like a dream, yet at the same time it sounds like a scary task.  I accepted and never looked back.  Moving your entire family 482 miles is no fun.  Leaving behind a teen program and a wonderful group of teens that you worked so hard to build for 2 years is also really hard.  But what the Portland Public Library wanted was change.  They wanted to make the teens in the community know that the library is their building and that they are welcome.  They wanted change, and I was going to help them get there.

We reopened to the public on April 15, 2010 and welcomed our community with open arms.  Patrons are now back in the building, wandering around at their new library.  The response?  Overwhelming love and support.  I am inspired to reach out to the teens of Portland, Maine.  I cannot wait to show them what the library has to offer them.

So what am I trying to accomplish with this story?  Librarians and Libraries right now are in a state of change.  Where do we go?  Are books our future?  Do we focus on being the community center as the way forward?  What will the digital revolution do to us?  All of these questions are valid and very tough to face.  But here’s what I’ve learned in the middle of all my personal change…we’re going to be all right.

Libraries and Librarians are climbing up a really steep hill right now and it’s pretty tiring, but once we get over it, there is quite a beautiful view.  We can do this.  The library will survive.

Here’s the PSA that the Portland Public Library created to announce the reopening of the library.

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

7 thoughts on “Change

  • Madeleine

    Hi Michael,

    I’m delighted to read that your library created a dedicated teen space but your’s is the only on-line info I’ve found about it. Might I suggest that your library also reconsider revamping its website as there was a “kids” section I could find nothing on teens (on an aside I also personally found it to be a word hodgepodge and difficult to navigate).

    I would love to see some photos of your teen space and hear about some of the things/equipment/strategies you’ve found that help you get teens into the library as our library is currently planning for an expansion and has marked Teens as a demographic in our community that we’d like to focus on.

    You mentioned that libraries are in a state of change right now and questioned what the digital revolution means within the context of the library. I wonder if you’ve seen any direction coming out of your work with teens. To me, it often seems hard for librarians to consider the digital question as they are often not from the digital generation. Teens are our early adapters and often relect what we’ll see adults using 5 years from now.

    Thanks for any input-
    Madeleine Mundt
    IT Manager
    Teton County Library
    Jackson Hole, WY

  • Justin Hoenke Post author

    Hello and I hope you are doing well. This is Justin Hoenke, Teen Librarian at the Portland Public Library.

    I’m talking about a lot of my day to day experiences as the new Portland Public Library Teen Librarian through Twitter. You can also find some photos I’ve uploaded to Twitter on my Tweetphoto account (both links above)

    I know the website is a bit out of date and I can assure you that is something we are all currently working on. In the meantime, I’ve been promoting the new Teen Library using the following sites:!/pages/Portland-ME/Portland-Public-Library-Teens/111167408896028?ref=ts
    (sorry for that long URL)

    Getting Teens into the library: Right now, my main focus is on primarily two things
    1. Creating connections with local organizations to encourage programming and partnership
    2. One on one time with each and every teen that comes into the library.

    In my experience with technology as a teen librarian, I see teens more and more focused on their mobile phones. What do I think this means? That’s where they’re getting their information. We really need to be in tune with mobile technology,. I think ereaders may be all the rage with adults, but for now I think they’re still very up and coming with teens. Why? Quite possibly too expensive. I have heard that our local schools are now providing teens in high school with netbooks. That must be why I’m seeing most of my teens carrying them around!

    If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at any time!


  • Madeleine

    Thanks for responding Justin,
    Wondering how you keep the teen space “teen” without having tweeners and/or even younger kids moving in. Or do you? It’s the natural inclination of anyone younger than a teen to want to be doing what they are. I get that. But everytime I set up something dedicated to teens here in our library – say a dedicated teen gaming machine – the tweeners want to be included. We have wonderfully sympathetic children’s librarians here that feel their pain and allow their participation and that virtually guarantees that no teen will come. Within a month the teen gaming computer became the tween gaming computer, the teen games events became the tween games events. We still struggle getting in the true teenagers into the door.

  • Carrie S.


    I am so excited for you! I just got back from my first session of Synergy: The Illinois Leadership Initiative. I also learned that change is hard, but we’re all going to be alright. Good luck! The teens @ Portland Public are going to LOVE you!

  • Ann Marie Maloney

    As a former Maniac I lived in Portland for many years and worked as a branch library tech in the 80’s. Portland is a great city -the ocean, the islands, the restaurants, the museums, symphony, theatre, the colleges and universities and a very eclectic mix of people. If it were not so cold I’d come back. The teens is Portland need you badly! Reach out to the Refugee Resettlement program and as many of the great non-profits as you can to spread the word about the new teen space. Here is FL we have some great teen programs in libraries. Check out Largo Library ( in Largo Fl. They have a great teen program and room.

  • Justin Hoenke Post author

    Madeline: Keeping the teen space “teen” has been hard the first week, but I’m learning and so are the patrons. As the teens fill up the area, there is just this sense that this is their area. Of course, a few signs saying that this is a teen area do not hurt as well. There are some tweens that come in and out, but I just try to let them be and have them see how they fit into the area. Some work well and get along with the teens, whereas others figure out pretty quick that they’re not ready for the area yet. Perhaps in your situation defining tweens and teens at your library in terms of events, etc will work best. Have you tried to have a “Teen Game Night” and then a seperate “Tween Game Night”??? Something like that may work. It will most likely be confusing at first, but in the end it could work.

    Carrie: Thanks for the kind words! Can’t wait till the teens start filling up the library.

    Ann Marie: Rad! I am loving Portland. Such wonderful sights, sounds, and the food? SOOOO GOOD. I love what they’re doing at the Largo Library. I am gonna stay tuned to them for some ideas.

  • Melissa Arnett

    Hey Justin,

    I just wanted to say that it was encouraging to read a post about change in the library world that was optimistic. I, too, believe that libraries and librarians will be ok in the digital change (and in the general climate of all types of changes–yes, even economic change such as public library funding cutbacks) because librarians tend to be dynamic professionals who can make things happen.

    I know from personal experience with your work that the teens of Portland will love you as their Teen Librarian, as you are the perfect leader to guide them in the midst of this change. Good luck to you in your new position and with your family move, and I look forward to reading more of your articles about your thoughts and the new struggles you will face.

    –Melissa Arnett (aka a former Children’s Librarian at Cape May)

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