Getting to Know… Joel Hartung, Assistant Directory, Library Systems

Hi Joel–going to have to start at the same place we have for nearly everyone else thus far: why do you work in a library? I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather work than in a library. I love libraries. Growing up, I spent so much time every summer in the public library, voraciously devouring books (figuratively, not literally). I used to read so much in grade school that I would get in trouble for reading in class. My teacher would actually take books away from me. Imagine that. I worked part-time in a library all through college, never realizing it would eventually become my career. I’m very happy I had that opportunity.

What did you want to be growing up? I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Maybe I’ll have a second late-life, post-retirement career as a brewer, or a screenwriter, or a traveling bard. That’s a thing, right?

You and I talked not that long ago about what you’ve been reading recently, but do you want to fill our audience in who may not listen to the More Than Books podcast? I’ve been reading a lot of Kurt Vonnegut the past two years. I’m slowly making my way through his back catalog of novels and other writing. I have found his works to be extremely relevant to the current state of the world.

You’ve talked a lot about books thus far, but one thing that can be difficult to get people to understand is that working in libraries isn’t all about books. I very rarely touch an actual, physical book in my position. More often than not, I work with databases, electronic resources, and computer systems.

Fun question time: where would you most like to live? I would love to live in a large or medium size city, situated near nature and scenic views with easily accessible hiking, skiing, climbing, biking, and camping–some place like Colorado or the Pacific Northwest. Nebraska is home, but the landscape doesn’t do much for me.

What do you collect? I’ve always thought that collecting things is a more focused version of hoarding… I purchase most of my media in digital these days, and I’m still debating what to do with my old CD collection. That being said, I do have a slowly-growing collection of vinyl records and graphic novels.

Yeah, you’ve called collecting ‘selectively hoarding’ before, a phrase I stole completely without credit for my own interview. What keeps you busy during the weekends? I like a mix of things on the weekends. I do love to go out, grab food, meet up with friends, and do the normal weekend things. I also always try to make time for some personal downtime, which usually involves reading or playing video games. If I’m too busy on the weekend, I can get burnt out pretty quickly.

Last question: you and I trade ‘favorite albums of the year’ lists every December, and I always pick up something new from yours. I know asking a dedicated music listener what their favorite albums are is a big question, but what have been your favorites recently? Great question! It’s been quite a year for music, so it’s difficult to pick my favorites. I have been listening to the new Mitski album Be the Cowboy quite a lot since it came out. It’s really great–most of the songs clock in around 2-3 minutes, so the whole thing really flies by quickly. There is great instrumentation, sly humor, and some really emotional high notes. Another favorite this year is the new Spiritualized album And Nothing Hurt, which features some great melodies and a full, bombastic sound that punches you in the gut. Finally, although this may be recency bias on my part, the new Kurt Vile album Bottle it In is really fun and deliciously weird. There have been plenty of others this year, but those three stand out to me right now.


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