Libraries need more than bookworms

Volunteering at the library may be one of the most quiet jobs in town, but it is 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.

Betty Brown, manager of the Lakewood Branch Library, appreciates her team of faithful volunteers and all that they do to help the library – both inside and outside the facility.

“Our volunteers help us complete projects that we would never have the opportunity to do,” Brown says.

Jane Manigan, for example, often assists the library staff by compiling bibliographies and indexes. In what Brown calls a “massive, long-term project,” Manigan indexed every book in the library that covers Indians, making this information more available to library patrons.

“Jane has a library background so she’s been a valuable asset,” Brown says.

Mary Bower retired seven years ago and decided to remain active by volunteering at the Lakewood Branch. She has tackled a number of jobs over the years, but currently cares for the paperback section. She visits the library regularly to shelve books, pull worn-out copies, and keep things organized for patrons.

“I’ve always been a reader, so I thought the library would be a great place to get involved,” Bower says. “The staff is so busy. If volunteers can take care of a few things, it really helps.”

Brown says that individuals and groups can adopt other sections of the library and help maintain them on a regular basis. Adopt-a-shelf volunteers can keep the books in order and check for books that need to be retired because they are worn.

Volunteering at libraries, however, isn’t just about books. Pat Spillman, who volunteers for the Dallas Parks Foundation, called the library last summer and offered to plant trees.

Spillman has a special reason for wanting to help. His father is the architect who designed the Lakewood Branch building, which opened in 1970. Spillman has planted sweet gum, oak and crepe myrtle and hopes to plant more when the weather turns warmer.

“I live a block from the library, and the trees make the area look better,” Spillman says. “It’s a special place, and I use it frequently.”

Brown says that other volunteers are needed to tend flower beds, maintain the grounds and wash windows. Any of these projects would be an ideal opportunity for a neighborhood organization wishing to adopt the library and help with monthly gardening or cleaning.

Another upcoming need at the Lakewood 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 the system.

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 Skillman and Northwest Highway.

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 neighborhood, call our branch library and give it something to shout about.

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