Volunteering in Storyland

by Ashley Mancill, Head Editor, INALJ Alabama

Volunteering in Storyland

ashleymWe all have heard how volunteering can serve as job experience and provide those who are seeking a career in librarianship an opportunity to network. But it can be beneficial in other ways, too. Some find it relaxing while others say they find satisfaction in helping their libraries. Recently, I discovered another aspect that makes volunteering worthwhile, and in a place I wouldn’t have expected.

Shortly after I moved, I signed up to volunteer at my city library. I already had experience shelving materials, and since I was between jobs, I felt the need to stick with it to show my dedication and interest to library work. The library, the volunteer coordinator told me, really needed help maintaining and shelving materials for the children’s department. I’m not the biggest fan of children, and I am about as familiar with children’s books as I am with quantum field theory. But I am good at organizing and am pretty patient, so I agreed.

One day, while reorganizing the CR-GA shelf in the smaller children’s area, I came across several of Alexandra Day’s picture books. I had a number of these books when I was little, and seeing them years later, I couldn’t help smile at the thought of a child turning each page, pointing at Carl the Dog and giggling as he took off with his infant companion on a new adventure. A few weeks later, I discovered Ida Friedman’s How My Parents Learned to Eat shoved inside a large picture book. I instantly recognized the cover illustration and remembered how much I wanted to learn how to eat with chopsticks after reading this book (though I do not think I was eager to use them to eat sushi). I didn’t put the book away immediately, but laid it on a nearby table instead while I finished working on my cart, hoping a parent or curious child would see it and decide to take it home.

Just a few weeks ago, I found Brother Eagle, Sister Sky while shelf reading nonfiction books in the junior book section. My mother used to love reading this book with me, and there were quite a few times I pulled it out and read it on my own. One I finished organizing the section I was in, I sat down on the floor and began reading.

Volunteering in the children’s department has allowed me to rediscover much-loved books from my childhood and remember how exciting reading was for me as a child. Although I still love to read, I sometimes wonder if I take it for granted. There is really nothing like reading a good book, whether it is a timeless classic, a chilling thriller, or a sweet, light-hearted picture book. And occasionally, I will find something I read long ago on the shelf or on my cart, and if possible, I take a moment to visit with some old friends.

  1 comment for “Volunteering in Storyland

  1. Jeannine
    November 20, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    I volunteer at a local public library in archiving and preservation of newspaper articles and photos of the city’s Winter Carnival spanning several decades. I knew it would be a laborious task (that’s why you’d be very interested in doing this kind of work–a labor of love, indeed!) but it not only has exposed me to what goes on in the area of archiving but it does bring back memories of how my father would (carefully and neatly) clip newspaper articles about the history of our hometown (when it was a bustling city). Since I am not from this area, it has helped me to learn more about the history of this event and the city itself (besides archiving and preservation). In some of my other volunteer experiences (mostly at public libraries), I learned more about public librarianship (the everyday stuff you won’t learn in a library science program) and the different authors and genres that I didn’t know were popular (especially in adult services), since the bulk of my coursework and employment experiences was in academic librarianship prior to that. While it is unpaid work, I’ve found it’s really the only way (if one is unsuccessful at finding paid employment in public libraries) to get first hand experience of what it’s like to work in an area where employees are meeting a wide range of needs and interests.

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