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January 29, 2024

The Library Behind-the-Scenes: Community Engagement

What do librarians and library workers do all day? It’s not just sitting behind a desk reading a book! Get to know how the public library works behind-the-scenes! This year, we’ll highlight different departments and services the Hamilton East Public Library offers to give you an inside glimpse into how the library serves our community.

Today, Julia W., Community Engagement Coordinator, will answer some questions about how the library goes beyond the building to meet our community in the places they hang out most – parks, schools, city events, and more!

Q: Tell us about a typical day in your position as Community Engagement Coordinator?

Julia W. and Brad H. at an outreach event.

A: Every day is different! Most of my job involves outreach, which is how we engage with and provide services for residents of Fishers and Noblesville outside our buildings. We had 96 events in 2023, so a lot of my job involves planning and managing our events and equipment, as well as making connections in the community. I also manage the library’s volunteer program, which includes onboarding and communicating with about 300 volunteers, and it’s growing all the time! I’m also a member of the Seed Library team.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

A: I love getting to work with so many people in the community! I enjoy meeting people where they are, introducing them to library services, and helping our volunteers feel more engaged with the library and the larger community. Over my career, I’ve worked in many different roles, although I’ve mainly worked with adults. Now, I get to work with people of all ages!

Library staff member manning the prize table at an outreach event.

Q: What do people not realize about library outreach?

A: We bring services and activities that you can find in the library to places you may not expect: the YMCA, the farmers markets, food pantries, or just about anywhere that we can be of assistance. When feasible, we offer library card registration/renewal and help with library apps, and you may see fun activities, art projects, storytimes, book checkout, Ignite resources, seeds, and more. We’ve even taken a 3D printer out in the field so people can see it in action! The Ignite Studio Maker-in-Residence makes appearances at select Saturday farmers markets to demonstrate their art and connect with community members.

Q: How many people do you typically interact with at library outreach events?

A: We go to events of all sizes with the goal that each person we talk to is inspired to explore and use the library’s resources. Some events are small, and we may see a dozen people, while other events, like back-to-school celebrations or the Fishers Boo Bash, may see more than 1,000 people stop by our booth. We reached more than 20,000 people at 96 events in 2023 – an increase of 41% people reached over the previous year!

Julia W. assisting a young visitor with an art project.

Q: What goes into planning library outreach events?

A: The first step to planning outreach is networking with organizations and leaders in our communities. We look for ways we can meet our mutual goals and support each other, and often, that means partnering for community events. Everyone in our communities is entitled to library service, and we want to ensure we’re meeting people where they are. Outreach involves a lot of preparation and teamwork: designing activities, exploring which services we can provide outside our buildings, organizing supplies and gear, coordinating with different library departments, scheduling staff, and much more! Afterwards, we always look for feedback and evaluate events so we can make improvements and make sure we’re finding ways to best serve our communities.

A young visitor showing off her new library sunglasses.

Q: Where can people learn more or hear about opportunities to meet the library out in the community?

A: We list our warm-weather park visits and farmers market booths in our events calendar. You’ll also find them in our spring HEPL on the Move blog post, Discover Guide, and on social media. We also pop up at school events, food pantries, city and parks events, festivals – just about anywhere! We are always open to working with organizations and even businesses in our communities, so please get in touch if you’d like to partner with the library.

Thank you, Julia! Stay tuned to the HEPL blog each month to learn more about the library behind-the-scenes!