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A Day in the Life of Five Librarians, Part 11
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Posted On October 1, 2023
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Justin Hoenke, who has worked in public libraries in the U.S. and New Zealand, 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 April 2023 to September 2023, which have been lightly edited and excerpted 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 | Part 9 | Part 10

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 itletters@infotoday.com or find @ITINewsBreaks on X, formerly Twitter.


Talking to the Community

Amrita PatelThe rallying cry to get out of the library and get into the community has been central for such a long time for all libraries, and there’s a reason for that: It’s our best way to interact with the people we serve. I’ve long been a fan of Amrita Patel’s work: Amrita has dedicated her library career to talking to people where they are. Her work serving seniors is particularly an inspiration to me.

YOUR CURRENT ROLE AT CML IS IN SENIOR OUTREACH SERVICES AT NORTH CAROLINA’S CHARLOTTE MECKLENBURG LIBRARY (CML). WHAT DO YOUR DAYS LOOK LIKE?

I love working in library outreach because one of the biggest goals is trying to connect library services and resources to populations in the community who may not be able to visit a brick-and-mortar library. The work varies, based on the needs and interests of the groups I’m serving, and evolves into new opportunities over time. My focus is serving older adults, including those in assisted living centers, adult day programs, rehabilitation and skilled nursing units, and memory care facilities, and working with agencies that serve homebound or transitional adults. Among the groups I serve, digital literacy and adult literacy are of significant interest, as well as literacy engagement opportunities like book clubs, cultural explorations, and conversations centered around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

YOU DEVELOPED A 5-WEEK PROGRAM CALLED HOW TO TALK ABOUT RACE WITH DENISE LAFORCE THAT YOU OFFER FOR FREE TO LIBRARY EMPLOYEES TO HELP THEM LEARN THE SKILLS TO RUN EFFECTIVE AND CONSIDERATE BOOK DISCUSSIONS, LEARNING CIRCLES, GROUP CONVERSATIONS, AND OTHER PROGRAMS ABOUT RACE. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY FOR SOMEONE WHO IS LOOKING TO RUN THIS PROGRAM TO GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU TO SET IT UP?

That was a wonderful opportunity Denise and I got a few years back. Our library system selected The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas as our Community Read title, on the heels of the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott that happened in our community, and we had a lot of staffers who were not sure how to facilitate the book in a group setting. Our manager, Meryle Leonard, invited Kristin Lahurd and Jody Gray (from ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services) for a train the trainer session on hosting conversations about race. After Kristin and Jody’s training, we received approval to create something new, and that is how How to Talk About Race came about. We have been able to share How to Talk About Race as a result of their kindness and generosity and have been fortunate to present to communities far and wide. We welcome all opportunities to present and tailor our content to each group’s needs. Feel free to email me, and we can set something up!

IF YOU COULD BUILD THE LIBRARY OF YOUR DREAMS, WHAT WOULD ITS FOCUS BE?

If it’s my dream library with unlimited funds, we would offer a variety of special collections (books, tools, bakeware, seeds, instruments, fashion, etc.); host financial and adult literacy programming, job fairs, and sensory programming and services; and college and career readiness library outreach services would be embedded in local schools (not to mention outreach everywhere with a fleet of mobile libraries). Our mission would be to offer a person-centered approach to librarianship with the support of licensed social workers.


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Justin Hoenke is a library consultant who is interested in public libraries as community centers, supporting youth services staff to help them achieve their goals, and video game collection development. You can learn more about his work in libraries at justinthelibrarian.com. Hoenke previously worked in public libraries across the U.S. and New Zealand in leadership and youth services.

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