Adrienne De Luna didn’t set out to find her library career–it found her.
And while she wasn’t looking for a problem to tackle, the Luddy Indianapolis student found one at the Whiting Public Library–and was able to solve it, thanks to the generosity of donors throughout the community.
A new career and a degree path
“I sort of fell into being a librarian,” says De Luna, who began working at the Whiting Public Library in extreme northwestern Indiana after a 20-year career in online health care in Chicago. She is now earning her master’s degree in library and information science (MLIS) through the Luddy School.
“I was laid off and began working at the library part-time,” she says, eventually becoming Youth Services Librarian. Her Luddy Indianapolis online classes enable her to work on her degree and continue serving the community in Whiting.
The problem De Luna noticed at the library was a simple one. After school, there were lots of kids coming to the Whiting Public Library. And they were hungry.
“The library is housed on the same block as the only public elementary, middle, and high school,” she explains.
“So, we see many kids after school. Some stop in while they wait for their extracurricular activities to begin, some to study, and some to stay somewhere safe until they can be picked up by an adult guardian. Many stay until the library closes.”
And as all kids do after school, they want a snack.
“Whiting consists of just under 5,000 people. Within the public school system, about 65 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch,” De Luna says.
“The kids that were staying at the library for hours after school would inevitably ask if we had anything to eat. And that’s when the after-school snack initiative began.”
Getting creative to meet the demand
The Whiting Public Library’s budget couldn’t stretch to providing snacks every school day. “So, I began asking friends and community members to help support the effort,” De Luna says, getting the word out via social media and other channels, including a library gathering for adults at a local tap room.
An Amazon wish list was created, she said–and the snacks started pouring in.
“For two years now, we have been able to provide a snack to each kid who visits the library after school,” De Luna says, with items ranging from individually packaged nuts and fruit snacks to applesauce.
“The kids have been so grateful,” she says.
“As a bonus, we now see more kids sticking around for programs, getting library cards, and utilizing the library, so it’s a win-win for everyone!
“I now also have teen volunteers who come in and help distribute the snacks while gaining service hours towards graduation. All of this is made possible through generous donations from people, organizations, and businesses in the community and it hasn’t cost the library one cent.”
A community effort
De Luna never anticipated how the snack program would take off.
“I’m honestly blown away by how supportive people have been to keep this going for so long,” she says. “It is so rewarding to be able to give such a simple thing to a kid and see them smile.
“Whenever my stock looks low, I post something on social media, and within days, my shelves are replenished,” she said.
“I just received a message from someone in town who is running their own fundraiser to donate after-school snacks! This is just one of the many, many reasons I enjoy coming to work every day.”
A program tailored to her career
When the Youth Services position opened up at the Whiting Public Library, De Luna applied and was accepted, on the condition she would obtain her Certification for Indiana Public Librarians.
She did this by taking online classes through the Luddy Indianapolis Department of Library and Information Science.
“I decided to continue to complete the Master of Library and Information Science program,” De Luna says. “I am now taking my sixth and seventh course in the program and am looking forward to learning more ways to serve my community. I plan on continuing my career as a Youth Services Librarian here at Whiting Public Library.”