Justin Hoenke, the director of Gardiner Public Library in Gardiner, Maine, has been talking to all types of library staffers for A Day in the Life, his column in Information Today. Among other things, he asks them about their typical days, moments that made them proud, their current projects, and how they see the library field evolving. Here’s a look at his columns from March 2022 to July/August 2022, which have been lightly edited and condensed for the web.
Here are the previous parts of this series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
You can read the full interviews in Information Today, starting with the September 2017 issue.
If you’re doing something exciting at your library that you’d like to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @ITINewsBreaks.
30 Years of Connection With the Community
A career serving a community should always be celebrated, so I spoke with Anne Davis, who for the last 30 years has been the library director at Gardiner Public Library in Gardiner, Maine. Anne has cemented Gardiner Public Library, which serves several towns in its region, as the center of the community. After leading with kindness, understanding, and compassion, Anne is leaving her position.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE HIGHLIGHTS FROM YOUR TIME AT THE LIBRARY? WHAT WERE MOMENTS THAT CHALLENGED YOU?
I have so many highlights in my long career, it is hard to be specific. I am very proud of the renovations to the building that have gone on for most of my time here. I am also very proud of creating a state-of-the-art Community Archives Room and finding the perfect person to run it. It is very rewarding to know that city leadership holds enough esteem for me that they have called me up three times to be an acting city manager. I am extremely honored that my colleagues thought enough of me to nominate me for the Maine Library Association’s Librarian of the Year. Winning that award in 2015 was the apex of my professional life.
One of the most nerve-wracking things I did, but did successfully, was to debate Phil Harriman (a Maine politico who was anxious to curtail taxes in an extreme fashion). It was broadcasted on Maine Public Television, and I really held my own. I think I surprised him more than I can say—he seemed a bit dazed!
Another challenge was when a few years back, I found myself at odds with both the president and the secretary of the Gardiner Library Association Board. It became very toxic, to the point where I refused to attend their meetings. I can’t tell you the cause, but it was very painful. I asked the then-director of a powerful Maine state department to intervene for me. He facilitated a discussion with the secretary, who had tremendous respect for him. Although I wouldn’t say it was a successful meeting, we each aired our difficulties. The secretary resigned from the board, as did the president. In an ironic twist, the state department head took over that position for an interim time so that the board could recalibrate. It came back quickly as a thoughtful and professional board.
Finally, my favorite highlight of my tenure is the ability to hire and work with the best library staff in the world; they make me shine every day.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ISSUES FACING PUBLIC LIBRARIES OVER THE NEXT DECADE?
Libraries have to work very hard to remain relevant, pertinent, and important to their communities. One can no longer wait for people to walk into the hallowed walls of the library, and we must accept that we have great competition for the attention of our users. Create plans that bring the library to people by setting up community partnerships. Another concern is really a concern for our profession. It is such a great career, and I believe that we are not seeing a next generation coming into our profession. Now, this may be a bit myopic on my part, as Maine is an aging state and this lament could be used by many professions in Maine. In my opinion, it is the best job ever, hands down!