Justin Hoenke, the executive director of a small public library, 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 balance their library work with the rest of their lives. Here’s a look at his columns from March to July/August 2018, which have been lightly edited and condensed for the web. You can read the full interviews in Information Today, starting with the September 2017 issue.
Here are the other parts of this series: Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10
If you’re doing something exciting at your library that you’d like to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Brandi Scardilli, editor
Rust Belt Library Leadership
Like most towns in Western Pennsylvania, Erie is attempting to find its ground in postindustrial America. A region that was once dominated by factories and production is now faced with figuring out where it goes next. Luckily for Erie, there is someone to help build a path forward: Erie County Public Library director Erin Wincek.
You were one of the first people I noticed using 3D printers in libraries back in 2013. What inspired you to try something like this in the first place, and what do you think were the results?
I remember the exact moment it began—I was listening to NPR in the car with my kids, and we heard a story about the potential of 3D printing. It suddenly made sense to me as a path to transforming the way things are produced, and both of my kids (ages 7 and 10 at the time) began talking away about ideas for what it could do. Hearing this story changed what I thought was possible and instantly made me want to make sure my community knew about it too. At the library, we ordered lots of books on the subject, but without the tools to make it happen, we didn’t see a lot of interest right away. I was talking with a new member of our Friends of the Library group. Somehow, we realized we were interested in 3D printing and instantly connected. A few weeks later, she proposed that her business donate an Afinia 3D printer to the library. People came from all over to see the machine in action. I began teaching several Intro to 3D Printing classes each week and had to learn in real time how to print, design, and help patrons turn their ideas into a tangible object.
One of my favorite memories is of three generations of a family that came from south of Pittsburgh to see the printer. The eldest member of the family was at least 90 and took pages of notes during our conversation. By the end, she was in tears because she never thought she’d see something like this in her lifetime. I printed her a blue glow-in-the-dark ring, which she immediately attached to her necklace as a keepsake.
One of the projects your library recently finished was the Idea Lab, a collaborative space that is focused on inspiring people to create, try something new, and hopefully develop some interesting ideas. What has it been like since it opened?
We’ve witnessed so much positivity, and by that, I mean not just the attitudes and excitement of the patrons, but also the real things we hoped and wished would happen actually playing out. It’s like we can literally watch the future of Erie County forming right before our eyes.
I believe that Erie, as both a city and a county, is on the cusp of something more. Our library knew that we could help support our community through whatever its future becomes. Erie is a place of creative inventors who tinker their way through difficult situations and find solutions. That’s why we know that providing a space for people to follow their passions is a key to changing everything. It’s exactly what we’ve always believed about public libraries: that encouraging people to do what they love and giving them the tools to get there leads to life being better for all.