How Avery Used Her Library to Spark Community Clean-Up

Written by Joe Armstrong, Content Specialist, Marketing, Downtown Main Library

We insist on being a library for all. All minds. All modes. All needs. More than 2.4 million visits are made to the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library each year from customers living in and working in our diverse, vibrant, and unique neighborhoods. Our series “Meet a Library Customer” shares the stories that minds of all kinds have each day at CHPL.

Hamilton County is full of beautiful natural scenery, with parks, trails, and wildlife to enjoy around every corner. But there are a few critters local nature-lovers have been trying to run out of town: litterbugs. For one fifth grader, her mission is to clean up their mess. And her home base for recruiting other litter-loathers? The Forest Park Branch Library.

Creating Change

One of Avery's favorite things to do is play in the dozens of natural spaces around Forest Park and see as many plants and animals she can. But one day she noticed litter scattered around the parks and her neighborhood – too much litter for her to pick up all by herself.

The Forest Park Branch Library is busy and has thousands of customers coming and going all year long. Among them is Avery. After thinking about how to protect the natural spaces she loves to visit, she saw the Library not just as a place to learn and grow, but where she can create change in her community.

“A ton of people come in and out of the Library every day,” Avery says, so she hand-drew a flyer and asked library staff to pin it to the branch’s community bulletin board. It catches your eye immediately with a simple message, “We Heart Earth,” and includes an email address that she and her mother, Shelly, monitor. 

We Heart Earth

Shortly after putting up her flyer in the Forest Park Branch Library, Avery was ready for the first clean-up organized under her new group. When she arrived at the clean-up location, she was met with a whole group of volunteers. Bearing “We Heart Earth” t-shirts featuring the design she created for the flyer, they were ready to get as much trash off of the ground as possible.

Shelly couldn’t believe how much litter—and how many people—came together around her daughter’s actions. “I'm amazed. I'm impressed.” she says. “Avery likes to help the Earth. I think that her biggest happiness was just knowing that the animals were safer.”

The first cleanup was a huge success, with We Heart Earth removing dozens of trash bags full of litter. What’s next for Avery's growing community clean-up group? “We want to keep doing this,” Avery says. “I want to keep making sure our parks and nature are clean for us and all the animals.”

Clearing Out Trash—and Shelves!

The Forest Park Branch Library’s Biography section is quite large, taking up entire shelves, and to Avery it’s a can’t-miss destination. On every trip to the Library in-between clean-ups or to put up fresh We Heart Earth flyers, she speedily picks out biographies, like ones written about Harriet Tubman, Nicola Tesla, Serena Williams, and Abraham Lincoln, without blinking an eye.

Shelly knows to bring a big bag every time they visit the Forest Park Branch. “I love bringing my kids here. We really enjoy the classes that are offered,” she says. “They learn a lot. They're engaged. And they like to read - a lot!”

Ask Avery and she’ll tell you herself, with a big stack of books in her hands, she sees a new thing to learn—and opportunity to connect her community—every time she visits library.

What change would you like to see in your community? Let us know in the comments below!