Lunch With Books-A Weekly Series of Unique Presentations
Meet Sean Duffy, adult programming director for the Ohio County Public Library, and learn about the weekly series known as Lunch With Books.
The Ohio County Public Library has served the City of Wheeling, and surrounding communities, since October 1882. While the location has changed many times over the last 140 years, the mission has largely remained the same: to provide free and equal access to resources. Nestled between the neighborhoods of Downtown and East Wheeling, the library continues as the preeminent “third-space” for people of all backgrounds throughout the region.
While most are familiar with a library’s primary offering–book rentals–it may surprise some to fully understand the breadth of services offered at the Ohio County Public Library. Along with printed and digital resources, the library offers notary and tax preparation assistance, public meeting rooms computer and internet access, archival materials, genealogical records, and programming for children and adults. These services allow the library to stay relevant in our modern world.
Of all the services offered by the Ohio County Public Library, the adult educational programming has been of particular interest for the Hudson Household Editorial. Lunch With Books–a weekly series on Tuesday’s at 12:00–offers a unique range of presentations on topics ranging from history, art, music, poetry, sports, culture, and many more. It was my sincere pleasure here at HHE to sit down with Seán Duffy, adult programming coordinator at the Ohio County Public Library since 2006, to learn more about his background and the Lunch With Books series.
Seán Duffy was raised in Warwood–a Wheeling neighborhood–and received his BA in History and his MBA from Wheeling Jesuit University–now Wheeling University. He went on to receive his JD from American University in Washington, DC. Duffy has authored four books about Wheeling’s history, co-founded Archiving Wheeling–a collaborative, virtual collection of Wheeling’s history–and serves as the Executive Director of the Wheeling Academy of Law and Science (WALS) Foundation. Duffy has served as the adult programming coordinator for the Ohio County Public Library for 17 years. He says the programming he oversees has expanded exponentially since first joining the library staff.
Lunch With Books was originally founded in 1970 by the Friends of the Ohio County Public Library, and served as an infrequent meeting time with catered lunch. Since then, the program has become a weekly series where guests have lunch and listen to a wide-range of presentations. Recently, the Lunch With Books series has honored Black history with presentations on the history of Black press in West Virginia (read an article about this event on the Hudson Household Editorial) and the destruction of Black neighborhoods in the city.
Asked what some of the most memorable Lunch With Books presentations have been, Seán Duffy mentioned Frank X Walker–former Kentucky Poet Laureate and Affrilachia author–Judge Thomas Buergenthal–International Criminal Court Judge and Auschwitz survivor–Art Rooney Jr–Steelers owner–and a performance by Quaternaglia—a classical guitar quintet from Brazil who happened to be transiting through Wheeling. Duffy says this series is a way to keep the library relevant by offering something they can do best–free programming.
Although these presentations are free to attend there are costs associated with putting them together. Seán Duffy said he would never ask a person to attend without offering assistance in transportation. 90% of the program's $20,000 budget is provided by the Ohio County Public Library, with the rest coming from donors. Lunch With Books also provides attendees with refreshments, such as coffee and soda.
When asked what future events the community could look forward to, Seán Duffy highlighted two upcoming presentations: Amy Spears—a roller derby historian from Columbus, Ohio—and Lisa Bella Donna—a transgender, Appalachian, electronic musician, who has been described as “the closest thing to a witch in the forest,” who “talks to the heavens with her music.” Duffy encouraged people to check out the Lunch With Books Facebook page to learn about upcoming events. You can also catch events live on their YouTube page, as well as view past presentations.
From our interview it was abundantly clear that Seán Duffy cares deeply about the work of the Ohio County Public Library, and for his hometown of Wheeling. When asked if there was anything else he wanted people to know about Lunch With Books, Duffy responded by saying he wanted to know what folks are interested in seeing. “I wish more young people would come and tell me what they want [to see]. I'll bring them in. That’s my job.” He added that folks will be “pleasantly surprised” when they come to see the programs.
Want to get involved with the Lunch With Books program, or other free events at the Ohio County Public Library? Check out their event calendar. Of note is a special Lunch With Books celebration of 50 years at 52-16th St on May 9. Dress in your 70s-best for a chance to win the costume contest, enjoy 70s music and snacks, and test your knowledge in a game of trivia! Follow the Lunch With Books Facebook and YouTube pages, as well as the Ohio County Public Library’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Show up at 12:00 on Tuesday’s in the OCPL basement to experience Lunch With Books for yourself. And, as always, support your local public library!
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