Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 2:30pm
Jean Davidson finds joy in making phone calls to Northbrook Public Library patrons to inform them that their holds are ready to pick up.
“Sometimes, they want to chat,” she said. “Sometimes, the kids will answer the phone and sing a tune. It’s fun to talk to people. I like volunteering. The people; the librarians and all the staff. They’re very nice, very helpful, very smart and very dedicated to their jobs.”
Jean, who began volunteering at the library soon after moving to Northbrook in 2001, is one of about 100 volunteers at the library, including teens who help out during the summers.
On November 16, the library staff celebrated the volunteers at the annual volunteer appreciation reception.
“Their value lays not only in the tasks they perform, but in the joy they bring to each department,” said Kate Hall, library director. “They bring with them a wide set of skills and talents that they selflessly share with us here. I appreciate them not only for all the help they provide, but for their continued dedication and enthusiasm for the library.”
Library volunteers provide critical support to the library in different ways, whether it’s meticulously sorting through shelves and keeping book titles organized or making friendly phone call reminders or facilitating classroom learning.
As the interests and needs of the community evolve, the library staff and volunteers work together to implement new programs and initiatives to meet patron demand. Earlier this year, the Reference Department added a new program, the Adult ESL/Literacy Conversation Club, which offers an opportunity for non-native English speakers to meet new people and practice their English speaking skills in a fun and supportive classroom environment.
The program aims to “help them experience their daily lives more full,” said Janet Gross, who started volunteering her time and effort for this club in May.
Every week, Janet leads a group of eight to 10 participants.
“We discuss shopping, consumer education, pronunciations so they can better articulate words, American idioms like ‘Break a leg’,” Janet said.
Janet, a Northbrook resident, gets to witness the progress the participants achieve as they practice their English language conversation skills every week. Volunteering her teaching skills continues to be a rewarding experience for Janet.
“I’m learning so much from them. [Volunteering] enhances my teaching skills. Every week their conversations improve,” she said.
At the Nov. 16 reception, Janet and Jean were also joined by Library Board President Carlos Frum, a longtime Northbrook resident who’s served on the library board since 2000. Serving on this board is an elected, unpaid position.
As board president, Frum volunteers his time to “help staff guide the library into the right place.”
“If we want a good library then we have to commit ourselves to serve,” Carlos said.
His commitment to the library stretches back to his childhood growing up in Bahia Blanca, Argentina.
“I was nine years old when my mother gave me a library card,” he said. “She showed me to the library and I walked to the library ever since.”