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.

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