Welcome to “In the Field”, a new blog series here on the iYouth Blog. I’m Rebecca Z Dunn, a MLIS student here at the University of Washington iSchool, and I will be interviewing successful, innovative youth services professionals from all across the country. So hold onto your hats, and get ready to be inspired by amazing individuals doing amazing things for children and teens in the library-sphere.

Today, I’m excited to introduce Justin Hoenke, Teen Librarian extraordinaire from Chattanooga Public Library!


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you work, and what you do there?

I am a 33-year-old human being, male, who is married to Haley Hoenke and with her I have two boys named Finn and Aero. We live in Chattanooga, TN in a wonderful neighborhood named Highland Park and I work as the Teen Librarian for The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library. My job is to work with tweens and teens ages 8-18 and share awesome things with them. Those awesome things include books, movies, music, 3D printing, technology, video games, and just about anything else that comes up in conversation. I really like music, Nintendo video games, and going on adventures with my family.

What project or program have you recently completed/are currently working on at work that you’re proud of?

I really loved our DEV DEV: summer of code program that we ran for four weeks in July.  Read more about the program here.  The basic gist of the program is simple: we brought 50 teens ages 12-18 into the library and taught them about HTML, CSS, Python, and Robotics for four week.  The program was a partnership between the Chattanooga Public Library, Engage 3D, AIGA Chattanooga, and the Benwood Foundation.  Not only did it give a lot of teens an opportunity to learn about technology but it was also a very community driven collaboration.

When did you realize you wanted to work in libraries? And specifically with youth?

I totally fell into libraries and working with teens. My mother-in-law is an amazing librarian.  One day she told me “you know, you’d be great at this job” so I went back to school and got my masters degree in library science.  While I was doing that, I got an internship and they asked me “do you want to work with the teens?” and I said “sure, why not?!?!”.  And now here I am 5 years later.  What it all boils down to is this: I like helping people and I like doing things that are fun and exciting.

Looking back, what do you wish you’d learned in library school that you could utilize in your work today?

Less time in the classroom, more time “in the trenches.”  Some of the best things I’ve ever learned about libraries has come from being out with the public.  You learn to think in the moment, make quick changes, and make sure your community leaves the library with a smile on their face.

What advice do you have for library school students looking to… Well… Do what you do?!

Be honest, be genuine, be enthusiastic, and keep an open heart.  Libraries can be a tricky career.  The moment you think you have everything under control is the moment where everything changes.  Always be open to that change.

Favorite part of being a youth services librarian?

Sending a kid, tween, or teen away from the library with a smile on their face.  I like it when they run out of the building super exciting about something they discovered.  I like it when they lose all control of their emotions and start talking about the library in such a loud and enthusiastic voice.

How can we keep up with what you’re up to?

I tweet about the things I encounter in life @justinlibrarian.

I write about library stuff that I’m involved in at justinthelibrarian.com

I write about bigger library ideas at http://tametheweb.com/category/ttw-contributor-justin-hoenke

JH Avatar

Rebecca Zarazan Dunn is a first-year MLIS student at the University of Washington and a Youth Services Library Assistant at the Lawrence Public Library. She blogs regularly about children’s books and adventures in the library, among other things, at Sturdy for Common Things. You can follow her on twitter at @rebeccazdunn

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