Library Diva's Guide to Volunteering…

{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! 🙂


{March 31, 2011}   Blind Faith…

I was doing a volunteer orientation the other day. We are all giggling and laughing and getting to know each other and it was fun. Before the tour, I began to take the volunteers’ photos for their name badges. Volunteers love their name badges. It’s their official step into our world. Don that badge and you’re all business.

I lined them up mug shot style and snapped away with my cell phone. A couple were blurry and we had to redo a few. I’ve only had 2 in the past 4 years not want their photo taken. Neither fell into the usual categories of those that did not want their photos taken. Not Amish, Not Vampire, Not without a soul I even point-blank asked if they were in the Witness Protection Program and they said no to all of the above. They just wanted their name on their badge. Fair enough. No Problem.

When I got to Darla, I snapped and it was a smidge blurry but nothing that would be noticeable. I had her look at it to agree and she said she couldn’t see it and she was fine with whatever I thought. I thought it was fine so I moved on to the next gal.

When I had finished, I told them they could leave their belongings and I’d lock up the room and we’d all come back to do our training schedules. It was close quarters all getting out of the door and I was busy locking it when I turned and felt a “whop” on my lower calf. I turned back around and realized that it was from Darla. It was her cane. She was blind.

My first thought was to apologize to her in hopes I didn’t make her feel uncomfortable in asking if she approved of her badge photo-which I did immediately. No big deal she said. My second thought, which I kept to myself was…how can a blind person volunteer in the library?

At the end of the orientation, I went up to her and asked her what she felt she could do for us and what she wanted to get out of volunteering with us. She wanted to promote library service for the blind or visually impaired. Books on Tapes, Books on CD, Talking Books, directional information, books clubs. She just wants to help. She wants to be out in the community doing something. She wants to be valued.

Mark Twain said “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see”.

I see her doing some good for us. I have faith in her.


{February 22, 2011}   Women’s Prison Book Project

We received a very nice Thank You from an organization that we work with.

“…(I) in order to maintain my self-esteem and my wholeness, I read, and I read a lot. You have given me hope and positiveness to my plight here in prison. Women in all prisons need to know that people on the outside really do care and are thinking of ways to help us. Thank You”

You want to know what our volunteers did? They sent books to women in prison. There’s a clearing house in Minnesota and we box them up and ship them there and from there they sort and ship out based off of what the needs and desires are.

When I came across the organization online I was thinking more along the lines of  “Shawshank Redemption”, a library with a man and a crow on his shoulder, sharing books, knocking down walls, a listening center, people passing their GED’s.

Now, believe me when I say, I truly believe in and respect our judicial system. I have to…and if they are in prison, they must belong there and some for heinous crimes beyond mention but it is hopeful that literacy and reading go beyond walls and bars and book covers even if only to provide escape from reality.

We specifically only send Romance Novels. That’s our library’s gift to them. A Romance Novel has the key character grow and evolve and become independent and is loved and almost always, about 99% of the time ends with a happy ending.

When the books go out, I always think of Andy listening to Opera, or Tommy passing his GED from Shawshank. I’m going to think our books make a difference in those that are reading them and from this thank you letter, it most surely does…

When I think about popcorn, it conjures up memories of shaking the jiffy pop over our gas stove, hearing the sizzle, seeing the steam and watching that tin foil blow up and smell just “mmmm so gooooood”….! Years later, I believe we graduated to an air pop popcorn machine…a staple of college dorms and a necessity during finals time for some.

I’ve always had a love relationship with popcorn. I remember sitting in the family station wagon, mom had loaded a small mattress in the back, and dad took the kids to watch Star Wars on the big screen. My sisters and brother and I ate buckets of popcorn that night under the stars as we watched Luke take out the Death Star.

Over the years, I’ve tried about all of them out there. Jiffy, Pop Secret, Orville. Movie Theater, Butter, Cheddar. I like my popcorn with a mixture of sour cream, butter, parmesian cheese and salt. Don’t shy away from it, don’t question it. It’s delicious and that’s all that needs to be said.

About two weeks ago, I had an impromptu meeting with a few of my high school life skills volunteers about goals for this semester. Last semester we focused on coming in to volunteer on time (they have bus transportation from school), signing in, badging up, getting on task, completing task, getting to a stopping point, signing out and catching the bus back to school. They were dusting, putting books away and all that goes with library tasks but what they were missing was the social component of volunteering and life skills.

That’s when we developed and created “Popcorn Fridays”. For an hour on Fridays, the students would pop popcorn in our adorable red popcorn machine, approach patrons, offer popcorn to adults and children, interact and clean up the machine and area. This also would progress into a job training skill where the students would then be able to go with a job coach, shadow or actually become employed at our local movie theater, or perhaps our parks concession stands.

Our first go was this past Friday. Amanda used WAY TO MUCH OIL! Ethan barked out “WOULD YOU LIKE SOME POPCORN” a little too aggressively causing adults and children to scatter,  and we lost Catherine a couple times when she went on “break” (I believe she felt she needed 2 breaks during the 45 minutes of actual popping).  A mild success but a great learning experience. We learned a lot about hygiene, a lot about using indoor voices and a lot about letting everyone know where we are going. It was a great time too.This was the hardest Ethan’s job coach had seen him work since she’s been with him the past 4 months.

We set up our popcorn machine right outside our Friends of the Library Shoppe in the Library lobby. The smell of popcorn hit everyone coming in on a cold January day. I was just happy that no human or kernel was burned on this maiden voyage.

I love doing things with people that are just out of the norm. Who said we have to have popcorn only at the movies? We now have “Popcorn Fridays” at the library and as the weeks go on …it’s only going to get butter…uh…I mean better… 🙂


A few days after Christmas one evening, I was all set to burn up some gift cards and hit the shoppes. Mo started to bark outside a very strange bark. Deep, low, growly, first very slowly, then the low growl and the deep woof woof woof of a Newfoundland sounding the alarm.

A cat? A squirrel? Someone trekking through my backyard? I thought I better bring him in as much as he loves the cold and the snow. I stood at the back door and called him but he wouldn’t come. He just kept barking in to the night in the direction of my neighbor’s house catty corner in the back yard. Maybe their cats are in the window again…it wasn’t a cat in the window when I looked, but flames.

I immediately ran in and grabbed the house phone and called 911. Mo rushed up to me in all his 140 lb excitement and then back to his spot where he was barking.

I blurted out…”My neighbor’s house is on fire! They have cats!”

“Is anyone home?”, the 911 operator asked.

“They have weird schedules. One of them works nights and one works days and there’s a car in the drive way…they have cats!”

At this point the flames had engulfed the entire back window and the glass was starting to blow out. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and I began to feel the heat.

It took less than 4 minutes for the firemen to arrive, but because of a frozen fire hydrant nearby, it took 40 minutes to put out the fire. The house is at a loss and will be razed, the cats died from smoke inhalation.

A few days ago, I was in the backyard with Mo when the neighbors came back to survey the scene. We met in the backyard and hugged. She started to cry. I felt horrible for them. They kept thanking me and Mo. There is no thanks. They lost their cats. They lost their house. It wasn’t enough. They kept telling me that it was. The other houses didn’t go up in flames, no one was hurt. They said it was enough. Their bedroom was burned but untouched in their nightstand was their family bible.They asked if I wanted to come inside to look. No. That’s their private pain. I’m not a curiosity seeker. They said they’d buy Mo the biggest bone they can find. He’s a big boy…it will have to be big bone!

The strange thing is that she was going to go to sleep, but her husband had asked her to go with him someplace she usually doesn’t like to go….the library…

She said, what the heck. They were on their way back when they saw the smoke and emergency vehicles and couldn’t believe it was their house. He told me they lost some books in the fire. I told him it was ok…I had connections at the library… 🙂

My office mate who teaches our ESL and Community Education classes had to leave the office and cross 2 times zones because of a family death.  She had already had a graduation/holiday party planned for the members of her classes. Our supervisor and I gladly stepped in to lay the party out, pass out the certificates and chat up with the guests and of course,  eat pizza.

We didn’t really expect a big turn out, mostly because my office mate is the star of the show. Truly loved by the 40 languages of students that she represents, she’s an excellent instructor and all around good person. As her students began to roll in, you can immediately sense disappointment in having Sonya not there.

After a few pleasantries, conversation was already beginning to become a little stale. In any language, you can  never go wrong when you bring up the topic of food. That rejuvenated all discussion. We sipped on rice punch from Korea, nibbled Mexican macaroons, ate pizza (onions and cheese?), and had good ole American Mesquite BBQ chips.

One of the students brought her two small children. As we were discussing the politics of Putin in Russia on our end of the table with a student from the Ukraine,  we heard the words Capris Sun Juice Boxes at the other end. A hush fell upon the guests. Suddenly, discussions began to flare up, words and sentences mixed in English and the native tongues were a buzz with the words “straws”, “wrappers”, “all over the house”, and  “boxes and boxes of Capris Sun”.

It was if we were holding the first ever ” Capris Sun Summit” right there in the library center meeting room. With the passion that these moms of the nations had over Capris Sun Juice Boxes and Pouches, imagine what could be accomplished across the world?!

{December 11, 2010}   you are that man in the mirror…

I can’t help but think this song is one of the biggest call to actions in regards to giving to your community in some way. As a library that anchors its community in resources, information and entertainment, it’s our responsibility to also be a resource in providing outlets and referrals to other organizations that make a difference as well.

Right now, today, our library is sponsoring nine community sharing programs along with our own programs. You can donate food for local food banks, donate used cell phones for domestic violence, assist a family during the holidays, donate mittens and hats, send care packages and books to our troops overseas, or donate romance and chick lit paperbacks for womens’ prisons, donate blankets for the humane society shelter, or donate dog and cat food for delivery with Meals on Wheels participants for their pets.

If you want to help your community and are unsure on what to do on your own, go to your local library. They are in the know and are there to help everyone!

You can make that change, and that difference. You are the Man in the Mirror!

Thanks Jennifer95828! You made a great video!

{November 24, 2009}   Recruiting Volunteers

{November 19, 2009}   Knowing the Library

The Volunteer Manager of a library needs to know just about everything they can about the library, how it works, who does what and where to go to for the answers. The Volunteer Manager has their hand right on the pulse of the people and the staff and establishing good relationships with both is key to a successful volunteer program. We have quite a few volunteers who shelf for us, so you won’t be surprised to see me out there shelving away to better understand how to train, what it’s like on the front line and ways to improve how volunteers can help us. I won’t have a volunteer do anything I haven’t already tried. When we noticed a lot of gum on our sidewalks, I got a paint scraper from our facilities department and went out there and scraped it up. When I went to sell it as a volunteer opportunity, I told them it was the worse job in the world but it needed to be done! Before you know it, I had a couple teen guys out there scraping away with gloves and scrapers.

Our job as Volunteer Manager is to get help to support our staff. By doing this, we need to make sure we know what the needs are and how it can be accomplished. I want the volunteers to do a good job, THEY want to do a good job. By knowing the library and all that is involved, everyone will feel more comfortable with volunteers helping under your guidance.

et cetera
%d bloggers like this: