Library Diva's Guide to Volunteering…

{June 21, 2011}   Biking=Freedom

I’ve been away from you quite a bit this month because I had committed to biking every day in June, remember? I had swallowed more bugs than I thought could be good for the human digestive system, but I persevered until…well, let’s just say I was doing really well, by myself, until my love asked me if he could bike along. He biked me what seemed to be over 15 miles of hills and valleys…he pushed, he taunted, he raced, he coasted, he went ahead, he lagged behind (and made comments), and to say the least, he killed my fun of biking. I haven’t been on my bike since that day and wonder when and if I will be on it again…

Now, that doesn’t mean I still don’t like the bike. Just last week, I had a young teen volunteer come in to visit me with his mom. He had done some required community service for us at the library and actually really really liked it. He doesn’t have that great of a home life and I chatted with him and his mom and told him that even though his required service is done, he can still escape to the library. He told me it was pretty far to walk to and he didn’t always have a ride to get there.

“You are young! Just hop on your bike and ride to the library!”

“My bike is all busted up, its bent and I can’t fix it.”

“If I got you a bike, would you get out of the house and away from all the fuss and the video games and ride it to the library?”

“Yeah..but how you gonna git me a bike?”

“I know lots of people, and if I don’t know them, I will find them…you’d be surprised how there are good people out there in the world… Would you ride it for good and not use it for evil? Like having  super powers?”


“OK…I’ll call you later and let you know what I find out…”

Even his mom seemed surprised. After we worked out the conditions of HER community service, I sent them on their way and hit the internet. I had wanted to rent a tandem for me and my love (before he was the fun killer of bike riding) a couple of weeks ago on one of the bike trails through town and had stumbled upon a link to a non-profit that supplied bikes to kids that didn’t have any, couldn’t afford any or were in need.

A simple email sent, 20 minutes later, a simple response sent back… “ABSOLUTELY!” and through conversation, I think I even made a new friend. “Everyone has a story to tell and should have a bike to ride.” She told me. In two days, there will be one more bike rider. We are going to pick it up on Thursday.

He was very very happy…very surprised…but very happy.

People are good.


It’s refreshing to walk be in our lobby and have kids excited to be at the library. Nice, well behaved, quiet little kids. All in their little voices wanting books and not sure what to get. Like going to the ice scream store and not sure if you want a float, milk shake, or an ice scream cone. You want them all but know you can only get one, but here, you can get almost as many as you want and they are almost certain they’ll find something they like and can take home

Roald Dahl’s Matilda is one of my favorites little girls.

“Daddy,” she said, “do you think you could buy me a book?”
“A book?” he said. “What do you want a flaming book for?”
“To read, Daddy.”
“What’s wrong with the telly, for heaven’s sake? We’ve got a lovely telly with a twelve-inch screen and now you come asking for a book! You’re getting spoiled, my girl!”[…]
On the afternoon of the day when her father had refused to buy her the book, Matilda set out by herself to walk to the public library in the village. When she arrived, she introduced herself to the librarian, Mrs Phelps. She asked if she might sit a while and read a book.

After several months of Matilda coming to the library everyday, Mrs. Phelps told Matilda that public libraries allow people to borrow books and take them home. Matilda was thrilled.

We just never know what little “Matilda” we may have in our library but it sure is nice that we are here for her.

A friend and I were talking the other day about volunteering. I’m moving out of the management of volunteering and focusing on the coordination of volunteers. It’s a scary thing, because the management will now fall under someone else who may or may not know the delicate balance there has to be in the management of volunteers.

The first and most important thing is that volunteers don’t want to hear about the day-to-day drama. They want to come in, do good, and go home. My sister had told me of a time where she went to her local animal shelter to walk dogs and refill water bowls only to be met by a staff who put the pressure on the volunteers of that day that if money wasn’t raised than 8 pitt bull puppies would be put to death that night. She practically was given the choice of standing outside a store in a strip mall with a donation can or to cough up cash then and there.The staff’s job was stressful, they wanted the volunteers to know what they go through every day.

It wasn’t what she signed up for, she didn’t want the drama, didn’t need the pressure, she was so turned off she left and didn’t look back. When we volunteer, we want to do good, we want it easy, we want to make a difference in a positive way and feel good about it and share our happy stories. We don’t want the drama. If you are on the inside of volunteer management, remember that volunteers are seeing a side that “normal” people don’t usually see. Just because the dirty laundry is there doesn’t mean you have to flaunt it.

As in any management position, transition is hard, for the former manager, the future manager and all of those who are being managed. I shielded and protected the volunteers from a lot of the day-to-day drama that they can over hear and see when they are in the trenches with us. I just hope it continues.

Volunteering in any environment should be fun and enjoyable and worthy, even if  “working” in the same environment isn’t.

We all know my fascination with Abe Lincoln. Friday afternoon, I just needed a little break from my office so I went to our Children’s Department to look at the picture books. I could spend hours in there. I didn’t… but I could have. I sat on the floor looking for something artistic and fun and funny to get me through the afternoon. Better to read a quick book then to eat a Snickers bar  and there I saw it… a book about Lincoln.

It was called “The Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln”. I flipped through it, instantly knew I’d like it, grabbed it and took it up to the solitude and safety of my sanctum. my office. my consultation room.

There, in the privacy of my office, door closed..I giggled and smiled. It’s probably the funniest children’s book I’ve read in a long long time. Sometimes we need simple little things to give us a break from what we deal with in our lives. Life can be exhausting. Our energy is sucked out of us from our own stress and other people’s stress.

Go for a walk, get some fresh air, take a cat nap, read a children’s book. I wanted the Snickers, but I chose the book and I’m glad I did. Not too often after I eat a Snickers do I reflect and smile about it later after I’ve gobbled it down. With this little picture book I did think about it throughout the day. I checked it out and even took it home and looked at it and laughed.

Ahhh…it’s the little things…

{April 20, 2011}   my odd little adopted family

I have an odd little family photo framed and tucked away in my office. I have photos of my kids (yes, the diva has divas), my love, my parents, my siblings, my friends, and my office mate (who has saved me from countless melt downs, so she deserves to be up there with those close to me) and this very odd, strange, family photo that you see here.

Who are they? Who cares! Surrounded by the real people in my life, they blend in. As people are asking and looking at my photos, they come to that one and really are speechless in that they don’t know what to say. I casually wave it off as it’s just Gramma Millie and move on with the discussion. During conversation, their eyes are drawn to the photo, because I treated it as if  everything was normal when in fact they are anything but normal!

Are they for real? What’s up with that little guy on the end? Isn’t that a freakishly large head on Gramma Millie? That darn ole’ Uncle Pete looks pretty angry…

My girlfriend came to my office one day to visit and she saw it and I told her the story of how I “found” that photo of my family in our Genealogy Room (when in fact it’s on a website called Awkward Family Photos) and framed it. She laughed and wanted a copy of it, so for her birthday I printed one for her, framed it and it now sits proudly on her desk next to her kids and husband for those to come in and ask about….and wonder…

I adore my odd little adopted family. I have no idea who they are, but they make me smile and they make things interesting for me and I like that too.

{April 9, 2011}   Refreshed and Recharged

I took a little break and went to Virgina Beach a few weeks ago to hang out with the sisters. While I was there, I walked an 8k. We were in corral 6, it took us 20 minutes to get up to the start line and when we were there, the finishers were coming around the corner in the home stretch…What? Are you kidding?

I’ve done quite a few charity races but this was my first 20,000 or more participants  and it was a sight to behold. They are all fun, but this just had a different energy to it.

Hundreds of volunteers, hundreds of people clapping and yelling encouragement along the way and all for good causes. The sisters and I set our sites on different targets ahead to pass. Chic in Tutu?…Check! Chic with Pippi Longstocking hair?…Check! Man with gigantic calf muscles? …Check! When I was targeting the 10-year-old in shape up sketchers, the sisters told me to back off…but then the 10-year-old stopped to pick up a quarter and we passed her…CHECK!

I’m not a big fan of the walkers that run through the chute…make up your mind. Walk/Run along the way but not at the very end. Cheaters.

Bottom line. Register for one of these races! They are fun. You don’t have to be a stellar athlete, a major runner, or even own dry weave. Anyone can do it. The more you do it, the better you feel. Not just for your health, but for your community.

Set your targets, pass them up and prevail! Get your PIPPY on and get out there and make it happen 🙂

{April 1, 2011}   Just Joshin’

I called my boss from my office today and told her that I’m resigning. There was silence…and then I couldn’t torture her past that first 15 seconds so I said “April Fools!”. A volunteer in my office was with me and we giggled and high fived and that was it.

The sad thing is the fact that my resigning is actually believable. Libraries are on shaky ground. I’ve written posts on essential and non essential employees. That’s what makes this “joke” so good. It’s believable. But I plan on being here a while. I might not have to be “blasted” grenade style out of my office, but on the whole, I’m happy and satisfied. Grass is not always greener.

I’m good at what I do. I like what I do. I’m allowed to be creative and throw out ideas to anyone who will listen. I’m feeling more and more valued and appreciated. I do good for my community and myself.

Are options out there for me? Sure. Are people recruiting me? No doubt. I like keeping my options open, and that’s not being April…or any month! 🙂

{January 18, 2011}   English Tea Party

I went to an English Tea Party the other night which was just fabulous! The volunteers of our Friends of the Library Shoppe were all invited to fellow FOL volunteer Sheila’s house to gather, chat, laugh and of course…drink tea.

What made the evening so much more wonderful was that Sheila is actually English. Before she came to the “states” (and found her husband while on holiday and stayed!), she was working around the corner from a little pub in Liverpool. At lunch time, a group of them would all go over to the pub and have something to eat and listen to a group of shaggy haired, young men in casual dress playing, and singing and laughing and chatting. After a while, she didn’t see them any more and just figured they moved on as bands do. She was quite shocked when she was watching Ed Sullivan one night and saw  them on the tele in matching suits!

Sheila scooted around the party in her  jazzy little apron, with tea cups and tea kettles and trays. I had some sort of warm grog which was sweetly perfect for a cold January evening. There was chatting in the kitchen, chatting in the dining area around the cucumber sandwiches and finger foods and chatting in the living room, next to a warm fire place. We talked book shop, we talked families, we talked tea. We also talked china and place settings. I love china. Delicate, patterned, shiny,  matching china…and Sheila had some beautiful pieces.

It was fun. That’s what its all about when you volunteer. Finding a connection in something that you enjoy and making and building relationships out of it. Friendships were formed and strengthened that night at a cozy English condo in the Midwest.

Now that we all know each other a little better, we may have to break out the Long Island Ice Teas…and try this party again…American Style!


{December 8, 2010}   Super-Heros and Side-Kicks

Some things just always go together. Bread and Butter, Chips and Dip, Beer and Pretzels, Coffee and Donuts…

Here at the library it’s  Marc and Jot. Jot has volunteered with Marc in the computer lab for just about the past two years. As Marc mans the phones and class sign ups, Jot is answering questions in the lab, assisting patrons on their resume, helping with prints and saving documents and doing some find and seek. Jot’s help frees up Marc’s time to focus on tasks at the desk.

With recent schedule changes, Marc was transferred to the front Circulation Desk. When Marc was transferred, so was Jot. I was surprised at first to see Jot volunteering in a different department. He initially told me he wanted to volunteer in the lab, help patrons with computer questions and learn new skills. When I saw him assisting at the front desk under Marc’s guidance I asked him if he was going to go upstairs to the lab. He said, “Wherever Marc is, I’m going to help him.” Now, that’s volunteer loyalty! Then again, wherever Marc is even I want to be there! Marc is fun, funny and has great stories to share.

It occurred to me then that volunteers not only must like their tasks for retention…they should like the staff they are working with. He liked the lab, but he liked working with Marc more. Now, he can learn new tasks, continue to enjoy the company of our staff, and help us all at the same time.

What a Happy Day!


My secret is out. I like to watch documentaries while I’m working. Occasionally I’ll shake it up with some Simpson’s episodes but for the most part, you can come in to my office at any given time and I’ll have on Biography or the American Experience.

I’m sure people are like “What? I’d love to watch movies while I work.” Well, it isn’t like that at all. It’s white noise to me, a background. People listen to NPR at their desks, the radio, music from their computer. I’m a visual listener. The computer work that I do is constant and to move my eyes to something else is a good distraction, both for the eyes and the mind. I’ve been doing this for years and from experience, I can’t do a movie. You actually have to watch a movie. A Simpson’s episode is good because it’s a good distraction and you can listen to it and not have to watch anything and it can still be funny but I would say my favorites have been the American Experience shows.

These are great historical episodes that are incredibly fascinating. I’ll listen to one for days. Catching new things each time or actually watching parts of it while I have my salad at my desk for my lunch break. Being the Abe Lincoln fan that I am, I’m watching a three-part Abe and Mary Todd Lincoln series that has just captivated me and I’ve been most productive in finishing up several projects to this. If Abe and Mary Todd can get through what they got through, I surely can finish up that monthly report!

When I have visitors in my office, I usually set it to pause or turn it off to conduct my meetings. On one occasion I left my office with the Lincoln series still going ~when I came back, I had a visitor waiting for me in a chair outside my office.    I invited him in and as I took my seat on my side of the desk I grabbed for the remote. When I saw what part was on so I can restart it when he left, I inadvertantly blurted out “Dang it, I missed the assassination!” My guest was a little alarmed but it became a great ice breaker and in the end he too was a big Lincoln fan. It ended up being a very successful meeting. When you have Honest Abe and Crazy Mary in the office, I couldn’t expect anything less.

et cetera
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