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Volunteering


It used to be that I had a smaller room and fewer books and a card catalog. I could manage that library by myself, although there have always been parents willing to come and help. In fact, some of them pitched in with the original data entry, managed the overdue book challenge, processed the magazines and recommended books from time to time. Some positively enjoyed making sure the books were in exact order on the shelves! I have very fond memories of those wonderful women.

Now I am the envy of librarians who come to visit because I work in a library that’s spacious and full of light. There’s room to expand the collection. It’s more like a public library with a circulation desk, browsers for the computerized catalog, and terminals for Internet searches and Accelerated Reader quizzes.

Automation has allowed us to make better use of the books and magazines. They’re cross-referenced in many ways and we always know where everything is whether in the library or on loan. A few years ago it dawned on me that we now have enough books to allow students to take more than one or two at a time as long as they remember to bring them back promptly!

These days I take care of processing magazines and new books as they come in. My computer software makes it easy to send out overdue notices and pull up the individual account records at any time. I’m constantly finding ways to annotate the catalog so that we can find materials on all the topics the teachers and students ask for. Those are behind-the-scenes tasks I like doing myself.

When students come in, there aren’t enough of me! Somebody needs to run the circulation desk, finding out the state of patrons’ accounts, checking their books out and in, renewing materials, putting in requests for items that are currently out in circulation.

Because the library is so spread out, you can’t see from one end to the other. Some students will need help at the computers, looking up subjects and titles and authors, taking tests for the Accelerated Reader program or searching the Internet. While they’re being looked after, there will be others at the book
shelves who could use some guidance.

With the increasing need in the world for information literacy, we have to teach students how to use the library in all its facets. This is an evolving collaboration including teachers and volunteers.

If you’re a parent thinking you might like to help, don’t be daunted by the idea that I’m advertising for professionals. You’ll be learning on the job. Some of you have already been working with me for years. I will update you with new procedures and changes as they come up.

If the shelves are in order and the place is tidy, students will be more likely to keep it that way. Volunteers need to know where to find books and how to re-shelve them. They’ll need to understand how to use the catalog. Because we’ve increased the number of books and magazines that can be checked out, there are of course more to check in and re-shelve.

Please come before the children arrive and stay until the library is back in order. I would appreciate it if you would not restrict yourselves to being on hand only when your own children come to the library. I value your time and need you for the full shift (however it's posted in SignUp). I would like time to make sure you feel confident about carrying out the various tasks I’ve mentioned.

When you are ready to make a commitment to volunteering in St. Mary’s library, sign up on the school website.  When you come for your shift, I'll show you around and get you started in the various tasks of keeping the books coming and going.

The library is an important part of the school. Students need access to information and they need to read for pleasure. Mastering these two challenges has a huge impact on their academic careers and on the quality of their whole lives. We need to make sure that what St. Mary’s library has to offer is fully available to them.