When people hear the word “library” a few things typically come to mind, namely librarians and books. But a library is run by people working in many different roles. They’re all helping community members with much more than book recommendations. Our series Spend a Day with a Library Worker takes you inside the lives of our library staff in different roles and follows them on a typical workday.
Deep in the heart of the Downtown Main Library lies a department few in the public actually see but that’s felt throughout the community: Outreach Services. While the dedicated staff of Outreach Services calls the Downtown Main Library home base, a majority of their work comes to fruition in the communities of the 41 branches they serve. Bob Drew, an Outreach Services Reference Librarian, is one of the folks who make so many amazing programs happen.
A Lifetime of Library Work
Bob came to CHPL’s Children’s Learning Center in 1998 from the Clermont County Public Library where he had been a branch manager.
“The idea of doing all kinds of children’s programming for various ages was super appealing to me and seemed like fun,” said Bob. “And it was! For 20 years or so. When an opportunity in the Outreach Services Department opened in 2017 for a librarian whose main job was senior programming, well, that seemed like even more fun, so I made the switch to adults.”
Bob organizes and conducts around 180 hour-long programs every year in senior residences, nursing homes, and memory care facilities. He puts a lot of thought into choosing interesting topics, researching those topics, then finding props, pictures, and activities to support the themes.
“All Outreach Services staff assemble giant collections of books (called “trips”) that we individually select and deliver, monthly, to the doors of seniors in long-term care facilities,” said Bob. “I am a part of this process and have my own monthly trip to assemble. I also put together monthly teacher collections for a group of schools. There is a lot of communication with activities directors, teachers, and seniors themselves, to make these things happen, so the first part of the day is emails, phone calls, and scheduling. Then you get to work on whichever project appeals to you. Constant deadlines keep things from getting out of balance.”
The most rewarding part of the job is seeing the community response, especially when people react enthusiastically to a program, and share their own memories and stories with the group. “It completes the experience, I think,” said Bob. “One time I did a program on ‘Daredevils’ and everyone shared how they had been daredevils themselves.”
Making an Impact in Unprecedented Times
When COVID-19 hit last spring, like the rest of the world Outreach Services had to pivot their strategy, especially for vulnerable populations. “I had to find an effective way to reach seniors,” said Bob. “Everyone seemed so far away and so walled off. With my grandmother as an inspiration, I decided to communicate the way she always had, very effectively, when situations forced us apart, and that was by writing letters.”
Now, Bob produces a monthly letter, that is more personal than his usual program, including a story and lots of pictures. It is sent to activities directors so they can share it in small groups and use it to have their own program/discussion, or sent directly to those who have email. “My favorite letter was one I sent in December, titled 'December Disappointments,' about holiday happenings and gifts that fell a little (or a lot) short,” said Bob. “I think that’s something anyone of a certain age can relate to!”
Keep up to date with all the amazing services Outreach provides, from door-to-door delivery, traveling storytimes, teacher collections, and more by checking out their webpage.