Of the more than 260 staff members employed by OPL, Youth Library Specialist Debra Paris probably spends the least amount of time in any of OPL’s 12 branches. That’s because Paris works out of the Learning Community Center of North Omaha (LCCNO), as a liaison between OPL and the North Omaha community it serves.
The LCCNO, a part of the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties, focuses on early childhood education and family engagement. Working with community partners including OPL, Omaha Public Schools, the Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative and Lutheran Family Services, LCCNO works to combat poverty and its impact on learning among children and families with programs like its Parent University and childcare training initiatives.
Paris says that promoting OPL resources at LCCNO can go a long way in helping people find success. On any given day, she could spend time signing up new patrons for OPL cards, helping adults prepare resumes and cover letters, ensuring people know about OPL’s digital resources and how to access them, checking out books from the LCCNO’s book collection and traveling to schools and childcare centers across North Omaha to read stories to children.
“Providing and opening up the world of books and other things that OPL offers is very important, especially because we’re making all of it readily available to a clientele who maybe would not make use of it otherwise,” said Paris.
Since she started as the point person in OPL’s partnership with the LCCNO two years ago, Paris has gone from being a part-time to a full-time staff member as a result of her increasingly busy schedule. While she initially made regular visits to host storytimes with pre-kindergarten classes at two local elementary schools, this year she began making biweekly visits to six North Omaha schools, where she meets with at least four classrooms of Pre-K students.
“This partnership gives OPL greater reach in the community,” said Julie Humphrey, OPL Youth and Family Services Manager. “Debra is making a lot of direct one-on-one contact with families and parents and working with them on a more regular basis than we’re able to at most of our library locations.”
Whether it’s with the mom studying at the LCCNO library for a CNA exam while her baby plays on the ladybug bean bag or a family of immigrants who sign up for their first library cards, Paris says she takes pride in helping connect people to the many valuable resources OPL has to offer.