Libraries need more than bookworms

Sue Willman is one library volunteer who created her own position.

Volunteering at the library may be one of the most quiet jobs in town, but it’s also one of the most important. In these days of rising costs and fewer dollars, the Dallas Public Library depends on volunteers to help provide services to patrons.

Charlotte Kuser, the adult librarian of the Audelia Road Branch Library, says she appreciates her team of volunteers and all that they do to help the library.

Retired individuals, Junior League volunteers, court-ordered volunteers – all provide important services the staff alone can’t offer, Kuser says.

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Volunteers help maintain the library’s in-house database. High school students working on research papers, teachers and other patrons use these files to identify the library’s available materials covering current topics.

Other volunteers track hours for the summer reading program, keep the newspapers in order, update indexes for collections and shelve books. Some volunteers visit the library regularly, while others work occasionally on special projects.

“We try to put people to work where they will enjoy the work,” Kuser says.

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She also encourages people to share their own ideas for volunteer projects, especially for reaching the community and bringing new visitors to the library.

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Sue Willman is one library volunteer who created her own position. Several years ago, she walked by a display case at the Audelia Road Branch and asked why it was empty. When she learned that no staff was available to prepare exhibits, she took on the responsibility.

Since then, Willman has enjoyed organizing displays by neighborhood residents. Antique trains, unicorns, dolls, commemorative plates, World War II memorabilia and telephones have all been displayed for library patrons to enjoy.

The monthly exhibits are booked far in advance – 1996 already is scheduled. Willman says she recruits most of the exhibitors through casual conversations.

“Everyone collects something,” Willman says. “Some people would like to display their collections, but they don’t know how.”

Kuser says that her biggest upcoming need at the Audelia Road Branch will be volunteers to work with the library’s new computer system. Once the system is installed this spring, volunteers will be needed to teach patrons how to use it.

Not only is there a new computer system in town, there’s also a new branch library – the Skillman Southwest Branch is opening soon across from Medallion Center near Northwest Highway and Skillman.

Victor Kralisz, manager of the new branch, says he will need volunteers to prepare for the opening and to help with day-to-day operations.

“Our most immediate need is to sort the collection of books we’ve gathered during the last 14 months,” Kralisz says.

Construction isn’t complete, and an opening day has not been set, but Kralisz says he most likely will need volunteers in March to sort books and to plan the library’s opening-day ceremony. Volunteers can help compile invitation mailing lists, coordinate entertainment and activities, and make other preparations for a successful kick-off event.

So if you’re looking for an opportunity to make a difference right in our own neighborhood, call our branch library and give it something to shout about.

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