Dave Miller assisting patrons in the library. HSJ Online photo
Dave Miller assisting patrons in the library. HSJ Online photo

Dave Miller or Library Dave, as he is known to the community of Hope, became a part of the fabric of the community when he began his career as branch supervisor at the Hope Branch Library in January 2008. Since joining the community, Miller’s love for storytelling, history and heritage have made him an integral part of not only the formal aspects of life in Hope, but the subtle ones, too. He recently shared his thoughts about his Hope experience thus far that have both humbled and inspired him.

What is it that makes Hope, well, Hope?
I think a couple of things. Hope has a sense of itself that a lot of communities don’t. I think if you grab someone on the street and said, “Tell me Hope’s story,” there is a pretty good chance that person knows the story of the town’s founding. If you did that in Columbus or Indianapolis, I don’t think you would get an answer. I think that shared story is a bond that brings a community together. In addition to that, I think Hope is one of the most giving and generous communities I’ve ever been a part of. Hope is not a wealthy community, but when someone or something in Hope needs help, people turn out. They give their time, help and energy to make sure we all succeed as best as possible and that is a special thing.

What do you enjoy most about working in Hope?
I enjoy being a part of the fabric of this community. I am involved with the town and over the time that I’ve been here I’ve gotten to be more involved. Now I am one of those unofficial gatekeepers that when someone wants information about a thing or has an idea they are thinking about I am one of those people they sometimes come to and that is pretty cool. People don’t get to do that very often. And the fact that in my position I get to make a real, measurable difference in the town is humbling.

How would you describe the community to those who have never visited?
I think for a town its size, Hope is very stable and successful. When people I know who have visited, especially from big cities, they sort of can’t believe a place like this exists. It is a functional small town that stands on its own two feet and is a nice place to live and a wonderful place to raise a family. It is special in that way, at least for me. I feel really lucky I’ve been able to put down roots here and settle.

How have you been able to make such a difference in the community, especially having come from outside the community a little more than a decade ago?
I think Hope has kind of a reputation of being a community where the people who are here have been here for 150 years, and I don’t think that is the case. The people are more than open to people coming into the community and making it a better place. Having my background in literacy and storytelling, it was pretty easy for me to form relationships pretty quickly with places like the Community Center and their pre-school. Early on, I was asked to be a part of community events – like historical interpretations that have been done – because I am willing to talk in front of people and that isn’t something that intimidates me. I was just recently asked to be a board member for the Student’s Fund of Hope, and that was very humbling to me because that organization makes such an impact on the lives of students and families. I’ve been a part of the Goodies, Goblins and Ghost Stories event for years and when the historical society decided to not continue that I stepped forward and have led that event and it is building and going in the right direction. There is a lot of involvement in the community and I am lucky to be a part of that and of that fabric.

What is it about Hope that inspires you?
I am not alone. There are lots of people in town who have the same drive and passion. Folks who have a vested interest in seeing this town thrive and succeed. I can’t do it by myself, but I can pull the same weight those other people are pulling.

What are your hopes for the community into the future?
This library will outlast me by a long stretch and I like that. Obviously, the role of the library will change as technology changes with time, but we will still be here as a physical presence. As for the town, I would like to see it grow so the schools are sustainable and tax bases are good – those are admirable goals for a community. Obviously, we have some vacant storefronts on the square and that needs addressed, we would like to see all those slots filled and have the square be a vibrant commercial hub for the community. But, also, I want a lot of things to stay the same. That familiarity is what drew me to this community when I seen how tradition rich Hope is. Being able to maintain many of the events on the town square, while adding new ones where appropriate, is absolutely the direction we should be going in the future.