Monday, April 11, 2016

The Importance of Libraries & Volunteerism

I'd like to take a moment from my normal posts to talk about two very important subjects. April 10-16 marks two celebrations we should all recognize: National Library Week & National Volunteer Week. For those that don't know, I am the volunteer coordinator for a public library in Houston, Texas. I work closely with the public and with volunteers of all ages and I'd like to talk about what I do and why it should matter to you.

As a staff member of a public library (I'm not a librarian), my job may seem simple. Tasks like checking in/out books, shelving, and making library cards don't really seem like much but they are. What we do at the library is more than just a library card. I may not be a librarian but I get to experience pure joy when a child comes in for their first card. To watch a child sign their name on their own card is an experience like no other. We see elders who rediscover community when they join one of our bookclubs or come in for one of our senior programs. Something I really love is watching an ESL student as they progress in their goals to speak English. There's also the perks of watching a customer who knows nothing about computers walking out of our building with the knowledge and ability to take control of technology.

This year's theme for National Library Week is Libraries Transform. I can only speak for the library I've worked at for the last decade but I truly believe that our library transforms. We offer more than books. My library (and many others) offer a community, a safe haven, a world where anything and everything is possible. Libraries are places where dreaming becomes reality. Don't believe me? Take a look around the next time you go to a library. Sit in on a storytime and watch the librarian transform a book into a world of awe for young kids. Sit in on a computer class and watch as students realize computers aren't as intimidating as they seem to be. Take a gander at the customer service or checkout desk and watch as the staff interact with staff and see how close most of them are. Peek at the volunteers dedicating their own time to build a stronger community for future generations. Spend a day at your local library and I'm sure you will see what I see.

This week is also a week to celebrate our volunteers. I work for one of the highest circulated libraries in Texas and we have a very high number of volunteers. I am one of 3 volunteer coordinators in the building. Our community is a great one in that we always have more volunteers than we need (it's a great problem to have) and I'm always looking out for tasks for them to do. Volunteers in my area are so dedicated and so willing and the last thing I want to do is turn them away (although I've had to). What do volunteers do? Well, ours do a range of things. Tasks can range from clerical tasks to craft preparation. I could probably list the tasks they all do but none of them are glamorous.

What makes it so meaningful though is that we have volunteers who are willing to come in day after day, week after week, and year after year to do the same things for us. They understand how important a library is to the community and they help create the magic that is our library. Volunteers don't get paid and they don't have to do anything for us. They choose to. That's what make them so important to us. I get paid for what I do. None of my volunteers do but a lot of them have been there as long as I have. That's real dedication! I am lucky to be part of a staff that recognize what volunteers do for us because we make sure to honor them and thank them every year. Our library wouldn't be as great if we didn't have our volunteers. While we may transform the lives of our customers, our volunteers transform the lives of the staff and the community as a whole.

I hope that you have a library nearby to experience all the that I've just talked about. If not, please contact me and I'm happy to help you find one. If you'd like to volunteer, please contact me and I'll help direct you as well. If you'd like to shoutout your library or volunteers, please do! I'd love to see libraries and volunteers in action!

1 comment:

  1. Happy National Library Workers Day, Jenn! It takes a village to run a library. Great post!