Portland Public Library, ME
MLS, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, 2008
2013 YALSA President’s Program Planning Task Force
“The leader’s job is not to provide energy but to release it from others.”—Frances Hesselbein
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images for Library Journal
“My goal was to come to Portland [Public Library] and make the teen library a success,” says Justin Hoenke, aka Justin the Librarian—blogger, music enthusiast, “retro video gamer,” and fearless programs creator. “Being a teen can be a crazy thing…. We want to help teens 12–19 find the best path toward adulthood.”
As the first teen librarian hired by Portland (in March 2010), Hoenke is more than meeting his goal. Innovations include Make Music at the Library, a program in which teens create their own tracks and albums (and edit them in Hoenke’s office), and a storytelling-focused “make your own video game” that’s a joint venture with the Telling Room, a local writing organization for young people. [Hoenke recently accepted a position as teen librarian at Chattanooga Public Library.]
The collaborative-minded Hoenke also tapped the talent of Maine College of Art students to launch Make Art for the Library at PPL, and he hosts weekly gaming nights dominated by FIFA Xbox soccer.
“Not only does he create innovative programs, but he shares them with the broader LIS community,” says nominator and LIS professor Michael Stephens, who invited Hoenke to share his wisdom on Stephens’s blog Tame the Web. Stephens cites Create, Play, Read, Hoenke’s bold strategy for lending ebooks and app-loaded devices to teens, as an example. “What did I learn from this? You’re gonna lose items…and it’s OK,” Stephens says.
Over 1,000 teens attend Hoenke’s programs annually; 60–100 teens come in daily. “I like to get teens to think creatively about the world around them,” he says.