Library project focuses on community outreach


At the Jasper-Dubois County Public Library, the staff is all about making connections.

That emphasis led staff members to develop the Community Engagement Project, an ongoing community outreach effort that partners the library with community organizations to help meet the organizations’ needs. The project launched this month with a partnership with SIRS — Southern Indiana Resource Solutions — which supports people with disabilities who live independently.

“The main idea is to give back and strengthen connection,” said Library Experience Manager Jordan Schuetter. “Ultimately, that’s why [the library] is here.”

The library’s partnership with SIRS runs now through Feb. 13 and involves supply donation bins being placed at all four branch libraries — Birdseye, Dubois, Ferdinand and Jasper — and library staff running programs on-site at SIRS.

Library staff planned three programs on-site with SIRS’ patrons — two cooking-based programs and a yoga class. So far, library staff has offered one of the three programs, which involved making smoothies with SIRS patrons. SIRS Residential and Community Specialist Olivia Lehmkuhler said SIRS patrons enjoyed the program.

“It’s nice to introduce them to other members of the community,” Lehmkuhler said.

SIRS encourages its patrons to get involved in the community, Lehmkuhler said, and several people in SIRS programs regularly volunteer at the library. Having the library come to SIRS was a way to introduce other SIRS patrons to library staff.

In addition to connecting SIRS patrons to library staff, the Community Engagement Project also aims to connect library patrons to SIRS. Flyers at each branch tell patrons a bit about SIRS and the organization’s needs. Patrons can then help meet those needs through the donation bins, which are collecting office and craft supplies, dish towels, plastic plates, paper towels, Kleenex, bottled water and snacks.

Once the partnership with SIRS ends, Schuetter said library staff will review the program and look for ways to improve and continue it. The goal is to partner with two or three organizations per year as chosen by staff members.

“We’re excited to see where it goes,” Schuetter said.

The Community Engagement Project has two goals: to educate library patrons about different community organizations and their needs; and to provide the library’s resources and programming to people who otherwise may not access them.

The idea for the Community Engagement Project grew from the strategic planning process that took place in 2017. A major goal that came out of the process, Schuetter said, was ramping up the library’s community outreach. In the past, the library has had booths at various community events, participated in parades and run programs if organizations requested them. That will continue, Schuetter said. The Community Engagement Project is meant to add to those efforts.

“Community engagement is what we’re about,” Schuetter said.

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