In October 1977, Archie Andrews embarked on a career that led him from St. Louis to Jefferson City and put him on a path to help people gain access to books who might not have that opportunity.
Now, 44 years later, Andrews sees his job as a technician at the Wolfner Library as vital to the lives of many Missourians.
The Wolfner Library is a division of the Secretary of State's Office that provides free library service for Missourians with visual or physical disabilities who are unable to use standard print materials.
"It was through the DECA program that I got started working at Wolfner," Andrews said. "I would go to high school for half a day and then work at the library the rest of the day."
DECA — Distributive Education Clubs of America — encourages development of business and leadership skills through academic conferences and competitions.
Andrews began in the circulation section of Wolfner and, from there on, he felt Wolfner was the place for him.
"The people were nice, and I got a chance to learn about this system to help the blind and physically handicapped," Andrews said.
In 1985, Wolfner was moved from St. Louis to Jefferson City as the library went from under the direction of the Coordinating Board of Higher Education to the Secretary of State's Office.
"I was still a single guy, and I decided I would make the move, too," he said. "The first time I came here, I didn't know anything about Jefferson City. We passed up the I-70 exit at Kingdom City and went all the way to Columbia to get off and go to Jeff City."
Andrews said he immediately noticed a difference in the cultures between St. Louis and Jefferson City.
"We drove a state car to get up here and parked in a state parking lot," Andrews said. "After we got out, Capitol Police came by, and we weren't familiar with them. We thought it was just a regular police officer, and we were surprised when he called out to us to check and see how we were doing and then drove on. We were shocked because in St. Louis we can go through harassment, so this was totally different. After that, I knew Jefferson City was the place for me."
Eventually Andrews' brother and sister moved to Jefferson City, as did some other family members.
"It's a friendly town, much different from the big city," he said.
Back in 1985, Wolfner was located at a facility at Dix Road and Missouri Boulevard. It's now in the Kirkpatrick Information Center on West Main Street.
Currently, Andrews is sending out digital machines to Wolfner patrons along with headphones and speakers.
"If one of our patrons is traveling outside of the state and, say they went hiking, we have solar panels that they can take with them to help power their digital players," Andrews said.
The question Andrews is asked more and more is how much longer will he stay. He turned 60 this year.
"I've been interacting more with our patrons, and most of them are somewhat isolated," Andrews said. "You have conversations with them, and it opened my mind about how these people have to depend on others to do things and get around.
"It's not about the pay or the job title — it's about giving back."