Head of Adult Programming
Darien Library, CT
MSLIS, Pratt Institute, NY, 2011
Photo ©2014 Michael Pilla
Programs: Go-To & To Go
Hooking commuters on the library can be a bit of a rough road, so Erin Shea decided to take the library to the people. Through her popular “Read, Write, Imbibe” book club, Shea met commuters on their way to and from New York City and Darien, CT. In early 2013, she took 20 copies of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In to the train platform and lent them out. During a one-month period, those books circulated 75 times, leading up to an evening discussion at a bar near the railroad. In comparison, the second most popular business book only circulated five times that month. Shea also reached 261 people by setting up a stand at the local farmers market, offering shoppers a chance to sign up for library cards and check out books. “This kind of library outreach, programming initiative, and creative problem-solving is exemplary of the kind of librarians we need…in the future,” says Andy Woodworth, a 2010 Mover & Shaker and adult services librarian at Burlington County Library System, NJ.
“Enthusiastic” is the word most often used by Shea’s Movers & Shakers nominators to describe her, and her enthusiasm extends to the brick and mortar library, too. Shea recently created a Senior Advisory Board after noticing that older residents—16 percent of her service population is over 60—frequented the library when the Senior Activities Center was shut. She worked with a panel of ten locals to create a monthly discussion series, as well as classes to help to select ereaders and download books.
Since the board formed in February 2013, program attendance has grown significantly. “One woman on the board started regularly attending programs after she lost her husband and was laid off,” says Shea. “She confided that the library ‘saved her life’ because she made new friends and had a place to go to discuss books and other intellectual pursuits.”
Other initiatives include workshops on beer and coffee brewing, cake baking, and meditation. “I am continually amazed at the breadth and depth of the programs Erin makes available to our community,” says John Blyberg, the library’s assistant director for innovation and user experience.
That’s because Shea sees the library as the go-to place for people “to dive into something new.”
“People like to say that libraries are so much more than books these days,” she says, “but what they’ve always been best at is being a place for lifelong learners to broaden their horizons—[w]hether it is through reading or hands-on workshops.”