Written by Lisa Mauch, Content Specialist, Downtown Main Library
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.
What does the “Public” in our public library really mean? Of course, it means that it’s a public space with materials, events, and services available to the public for free. But there’s a bigger meaning to the word “Public.” It also means we’re a part of the surrounding community, and what concerns you concerns us. This is why being active in local civic engagement is another important aspect of the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library (CHPL).
You can find a combination of both in Civic Engagement Coordinator David Siders’ background. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Cincinnati and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Kentucky.
Originally, Siders worked at the Salvation Army in Over-The-Rhine serving older adults, families, and caregivers as part of its Adult Day Program. Then he switched to working at the Library, first as a shelver in the closed stacks at the Downtown Main Library and then as a library assistant in the old Films & Recordings Department. Next, he served as a librarian at the Corryville Branch, branch manager at the Walnut Hills location, and Popular Library Manager at the Downtown Main Library.
“I have enjoyed so many roles at CHPL—almost too many to list. And I loved just about every minute of each job. Now, it is an honor to work systemwide as the Civic Engagement Coordinator,” said Siders.
So, what exactly does a Civic Engagement Coordinator do?
“I strategically plan how the Library provides necessary resources based on community needs assessment, with a focus on supporting the needs of underserved communities,” said Siders. “My days are so varied that no one day seems to be typical.”
As just a sampling of a week in the life of a Civic Engagement Coordinator, Siders was rolling out the Library’s Summer Blood Drive Tour with Hoxworth Blood Center. He also helped develop the Aug. 3 event “Community Conversation: What Should We Expect From our Elected Leaders?” in partnership with Action Tank at the Price Hill Branch to promote the annual Stern Lecture featuring Doris Kearns Goodwin on Oct. 5. And he met with Hamilton County Public Health Department to find more creative ways to further promote free COVID vaccination efforts across the county.
“The most rewarding part of my job is helping people from all backgrounds, viewpoints, and neighborhoods to ensure equity of access to Library resources, materials, and community resources,” said Siders, “and to help improve individual and family well-being, to support lifelong learning, to help break down barriers to resources, and to help bridge the Digital Divide.”
A lot of us have fond childhood memories of Saturday morning visits to the local library. But for Siders, those visits were life-altering.
“My mom would take my sister and me as kids almost weekly. I often think about the time when I took a book to the counter to check out, and the librarian said, ‘You’re too young to read that,’ and my mom promptly checked the book out for me,” said Siders. “That experience is how I always identified with the principles of a library being free and public, something for everyone, and how libraries represent democracy and all viewpoints. These principles have all been influential in my passion for my career in public libraries.
He frequently gives presentations about library resources to community groups, such as job seekers, workforce development organizations, and social services providers, to educate the public about the wide variety of online resources that are available to them for free. He often talks about LinkedIn Learning, Homework HelpNow, Universal Class, Creative Bug, free meals, and the new LGBTQIA+ Resources webpage. He is currently developing Tenants' Rights and Eviction Prevention workshops in partnership with Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME).
Connecting the Dots
This year, Siders received the John Philip Outreach and Community Engagement Award from the Ohio Library Council (OLC). In its citation for the award, the OLC stated, “David Siders always works to develop community partnerships, but during the COVID19 pandemic, he found unique ways to connect his community to the library and other needed services.”
The citation also mentions Siders' work with community partners such as UC Health, The Christ Hospital, the Legal Aid Society, and the Community Action Agency. It goes on to state, “As a result of Siders’ tireless efforts, traditionally marginalized groups in the Cincinnati area have a true advocate. The pandemic showed that Siders knows how to best leverage library resources to help those in need.”
Read the full citations on the OLC website, opens a new window.
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