Northeast Woman: Librarian Finds Empowerment, Service In Varied Interests
Justine Yeager splits her time between seemingly opposite worlds and knows it’s exactly where she’s supposed to be.
While libraries and boudoir photography don’t seem to fit together, each piece of Yeager’s life holds a common thread that weaves together her mission: helping others be their best self.
“I was called to public service,” the Throop resident said, her mouth breaking into a satisfied smile on a recent afternoon. “Empowering others makes you feel empowered.”
As outreach librarian for Scranton’s Albright Memorial Library, Yeager bridges the library and community. She works to bring awareness to what the library has to offer to people who may not know the resources exist.
Outside that job, Yeager works with Simply Lush Portrait Boutique, a boudoir photo studio in Scranton. As studio assistant to photographer and owner Ashley Matthews, Yeager is part of helping women find their confidence in front of the camera. Working with the female energy of the business is like no other experience, she said, and Matthews has a skillful way of making women feel comfortable. The women who come in discover their sensuality and self-love, Yeager added. She craves the artistic and creativity energy that flows through the room and said Matthews can capture the essence of who the women are. It’s exhilarating to be around.
“When you’re getting these photos taken, you’re just feeling powerful and beautiful, and you’re standing in your true value,” she said. “That kind of confidence boost, it’s deep. You walk with your head higher. To watch that transformation, it’s incredible.”
Yeager, who also serves as Simply Lush’s “blog babe,” connects with the subjects and beyond through her role as blogger and manager of the studio’s social media pages. There, she spreads the studio’s philosophy of empowerment and being one’s best self.
She also manages social media for other local businesses, including Maria Bonacuse, MakeUp Artist, and certified personal trainer Jonas Raymond, in addition to writing website copy and doing other digital work.
“I never, ever thought I could work with businesses or in this field,” Yeager said. “I realized it’s not about businesses as much as it’s connecting with people and bringing people together. That I can do. That’s what I love to do.”
While she fell into her tech roles, the library is in her blood. Her mom, Mary, worked for Scranton Public Library for years, and Yeager spent lots of time among the books as a kid. At 18, she began working as an interlibrary loan clerk and worked her way through departments, including a stint as bookmobile coordinator, which opened her eyes to the impact libraries have on the community. Yeager set out on a different path after earning her degree and decided to go back to school to be a librarian.
Through the library, she helps connect with community members about the library’s services. Whether it’s speaking at local nonprofits about the technology and resources the library offers or instructing a group of students on how to properly research, Yeager’s all about spreading information to give everyone their best chance at success. She also wants to knock down stereotypes that libraries are stuffy, quiet places, as they’re actually more like hubs of information and engagement nowadays.
“With today’s library, I think people are surprised to know it’s more interactive than ever before,” she said. “This is not your grandma’s library. There’s this stereotype of the librarian shushing with a bun. I’ll bun it up every once in a while, but shushing? That’s for amateurs. Librarians are here to help and talk to you.”
Yeager also takes her librarian role more seriously than ever. The internet, while an amazing tool, houses tons of information that becomes more difficult to sift through each day, she said. With so much available to the masses, libraries and staff are paramount to helping someone organize what’s true and credible, she said.
Though she spends most of her time connecting with people in the community and helping them achieve their full potential, Yeager still reserves time to work on herself. Pole dance fitness is way to build strength and self-assurance, Yeager said, and she loves to build her skills and learns to trust in the process.
“It was like I met my body for the first time,” she said of her initial pole class. “It was empowering, and I couldn’t get enough. You may not be able to do what the person next to you is doing, but that’s OK because it’s not about the competition (with others). It’s about competing with yourself and trying to be better than you were the day before.”
Yeager knows her work and interests may seem conflicting and puzzle others, but she realized over the years that her diverse interests and skills make her an asset. As a kid, she had a feeling of not fitting in to any one mold or place, and Yeager joked she spent much of her 20s getting her butt handed to her by life. She turned those experiences into lessons that guided her through the rest of her life. Through her life, she began to recognize it wasn’t that she was disconnected but rather highly adaptable and able to see and communicate from all different views and experiences. She uses that to lead her vivacious, fearless spirit on her path to make a difference.
“What I thought was a weakness turned out to be one of my greatest strengths,” Yeager said. “I’ve been humbled by life, and I was fortunate enough to walk away (from those experiences). That’s the beauty of failure. Life is not a straight line, and everything I’ve done has ultimately led me where I am and what I was meant to do.”
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-349-9127; @gmazurTT on Twitter
Meet Justine Yeager
At home: Lives in Throop with her cat, Veda
At work: Outreach librarian at Albright Memorial Library, Scranton; blogger and studio assistant at Simply Lush Photo Boutique, Scranton; freelance social media manager for local businesses and freelance writer
Inspirations: Her friends, family and colleagues; people’s stories; the ocean and the sky
Aspirations: To be a published creative non-fiction writer and to get a library card into the hands of every person in Lackawanna County
Diversions: Pole fitness, reading, writing and the zombie apocalypse
Aversions: Injustice and misinformation
Quote: “Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” — Mother Teresa