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Check it out: Library volunteers play key role

Jodi Schultz

In every institution and organization, there's a lot more happening than is visible to the general public.

During my orientation and my first weeks as the manager of the Park Rapids Area Library, the thing that surprised me the most was the amazing network of volunteers. A year and a half later, I'm still awe-struck by the number of people who donate their time and talents to help the library run smoothly, and the amount of time and energy they give.

Their ages range from 10 (a girl who joined the Friends of the Library with her mom this week) to 91 (a man who has been helping out at the library for 22 years and still comes in at least weekly with a spring in his step and a smile on his face to deliver the audio books and movies he's repaired).

Their backgrounds are varied. Some lived in Park Rapids as children while others moved here during their adult years, even into retirement. The common bond they all share is a love of libraries, literature and their community.

Some of our volunteers have a regular schedule and come in the same day and time each week. Others come sporadically, as their schedules allow, or as they are asked to assist in specific tasks.

Some work in groups, like the Friends of the Library and the local library board. Others work on their own, doing things like shelving books and reading shelves (making sure the items are arranged alphabetically).

Our volunteers do things like labeling envelopes, preparing book bags for the library tours, helping set up or clean up before or after our library events, teaching monthly Internet classes for senior citizens, and giving library tours.

Staff and patrons alike are indebted to our volunteers. Their contributions help us provide the best possible service, materials, and programming. Without them, it would be very difficult for our small staff, all of whom work fewer than 30 hours/week (with the exception of the manager), to offer all that we do.

Several of our volunteers are members of the Friends of the Library. Besides providing service opportunities, the group becomes a social outlet for many of its members. Some of them spend time weekly going through donations and organizing for the book sales they hold four times a year.

Each of them finds the level of involvement that fits their current situation and we are grateful for the gift of their service.

American musician, Quincy Jones once said, "Imagine what a harmonious world it could be if every single person, both young and old, shared a little of what he is good at doing." Thanks to the incredible volunteers I work with every day at the Park Rapids Area Library, that's an easy thing for me to imagine.