St. Louis County librarian grows kids through learning and outreach

Gina Sheridan is an ordinary person doing extraordinary things

Michael Calhoun
October 15, 2019 - 8:00 am
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — All this week, KMOX is introducing you to "Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things" in the St. Louis area.
 
Today, we introduce you to the Missouri Library Association's Outstanding Librarian of 2019 and what her branch is doing to plant roots in the community.

"Libraries are one of the few places where anyone is welcome and you don't have to buy anything," Sheridan points out.

Gina Sheridan runs the Lewis and Clark branch of the St. Louis County Library, smack-dab in the middle of north St. Louis County's Moline Acres, surrounded by homes and vacant stores.

"We have a lot of patrons that come on foot, so if that building was not there, I don't know where a lot of these kids and adults would go throughout the day. It's definitely a community center."

Sherdian says her bosses nominated her for librarian of the year, because she's been innovating with what a library can do — and be — for its neighbors.

"People are interested in health-based initiatives. They want to get healthy and maybe can't afford to get to yoga classes. We have yoga, we have different nutrition classes...our local grocery store closed down the street, so we invited the St. Louis Metro Market to come and stop here every week, and it's one of its busiest stops in St. Louis!"

Oh, and there's a surprising partnership with the St. Louis Diaper Bank.

"We are a site for parents to come and get an emergency supply of diapers. So when you're choosing between getting food and diapers, you can come to the library, get a one-time supply, and get a referral to an organization that provides long-term help."

All of this doesn't sound very bookish, but Sheridan says they manage to fit reading into everything they do.

"What we're promoting is, not only bring your baby for lap time and storytime, but during diaper time is a good time to talk to your child, bond with your child, and really just improve some of the literacy skills of the baby and things like that. So, there are a lot of little surprises with our unique programs that have something to do with literacy still."

Ask Sheridan, and she'd tell you she's surrounded by extraordinary people! And not just her co-workers. Sheridan says it turns out imagination is contagious.

"Not too long ago, I got a little handwritten list from a seven-year old who wanted to have a serious of programs. So she had them all listed: coloring club, field trip day, movie night with snacks. And she had it all figured out! She told me she would take care of marketing and I wouldn't have to do anything! So it was the most wonderful surprise and it just made our day."

The Lewis and Clark Library also offered summer lunches for kids five days a week, which Sheridan paired with games like chess.

Gina Sheridan. An ordinary person doing extraordinary things.

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