Again and again we see just how deeply woven urban Appalachians are in the fabric of Greater Cincinnati. It is easy to point to Bluegrass night at a local pub or the even the Appalachian Festival as signs of Appalachian culture in the region. Less obvious are those who are simply driving the cultural life of the city in so many ways. One of the great benefits to Urban Appalachian Community Coalition are the many partnerships we engage in, and chief among those partnerships is with the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. David Siders is the Civic Engagement Coordinator with the Public Library. He is also an urban Appalachian whose work may be one of the less obvious features of Appalachian culture in Cincinnati.
Growing up in Clermont County then residing within the Cincinnati urban core for many years David Siders acquired an almost ideal combination of urban and rural experiences. In many ways, David Siders is emblematic of the urban Appalachian experience: “Fifty percent of me loves the rural, and fifty percent of me is completely urban,” David explained. Siders began working with the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in 1989, working at the Walnut Hills branch and the Corryville Branch. Yet, his involvement with a local public library is as much a part of his childhood as the rural setting that defined him in Clermont County. What is more, his childhood experiences with a local public library seemed to have set him on his course toward public engagement.
David Siders can trace his path to his current position and interests to some specific experiences from his life. David remembers that “as a teenager my family moved to Williamsburg. It was here I learned to garden. We kept animals. This gave me a distinctly rural perspective.” It was also during this time that he first got involved in working with a local public library: “It was here that I got my passion for working with a small, rural public library. I also began to develop an interest in working with the community here.” The ideal mix of getting his hands dirty in the land and getting involved in the workings of a local library that was deeply invested in the local community served to dispose David for the work he does to this day.
With a lifetime of contact and involvement with local libraries, David Siders transformed personal experience and personal commitment in the course of getting his Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Cincinnati in 1991, then continuing on to obtain his Master’s of Library Science at the University of Kentucky in 2001. He spent a number of years working in branches of the Public Library, including managing the popular library section of the Main Branch. Finally, it was his passion for civic engagement cultivated through a lifetime of actively engaging the role the library plays in communities that led him to take on the role of Civic Engagement Coordinator for Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
David Siders told me he has “developed a personal sensibility to people who have been displaced by urban gentrification.” He is a member of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. David Siders explained that he is “hopeful about our new Mayor, Aftab Pureval, and the current City Council. They appear to be making a real commitment to things like affordable housing in the city.”
Much of David’s professional work intersects with his personal commitments to communities in Cincinnati. A sampling of some of his projects as Civic Engagement Coordinator include getting out the library’s Summer Blood Drive Tour with Hoxworth Blood Center and Covid-19 vaccination efforts that include community education about the vaccine. He is also involved with the ongoing lecture series at the library such as the Aug. 3 event “Community Conversation: What Should We Expect From our Elected Leaders?”, and in partnership with Action Tank at the Price Hill Branch to promote the annual Stern Lecture featuring Doris Kearns Goodwin on Oct. 5.
David Siders was instrumental in partnering the Cincinnati Health Department to advance Covid-19 testing and vaccinations. This involved an information program to help educate people on the facts about the vaccine. The program culminated with a visit from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. Siders is also actively engaged with the Hamilton County Addiction Response Coalition. In this Siders explained that they are “building relationships with people who have experience addiction to help educate the public on the realities of addiction and recovery in order to de-stigmatize the problem of addiction.”
David Siders is involved a long list of projects as the Civic Engagement Coordinator at the Public Library. If there is a constant to all this, it is the process of building relationships with people and organizations. Finding the resources and connecting them toward achieving goals seems to be the common thread in all his work. It strikes me that this is completely consistent with the role of the Public Library in Cincinnati in general.
The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is a crucial part of the cultural life of our city. It is also one of the key partners for much of the work of the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition. As an urban Appalachian and as Civic Engagement Coordinator at the Public Library, David Siders is one of those people who drives community action in our city. The work involved in tackling complex issues that affect our city is not magically accomplished by one person or even a small group of people. It is accomplished by building relationships with the many and varied groups at work around the city. As Civic Engagement Coordinator for the Public Library, David Siders is one of those people who helps build these relationships.
Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.