Reflections of an adult library volunteer

by | August 10, 2018 5:00 pm

Last Updated: August 8, 2018 at 11:19 am

By WAYNE GARRETT
Summer reading volunteer

As I sit here on the front porch swing watching all my fine-feathered friends fly in to eat at the feeders, I begin to recall my experiences as an adult volunteer this summer at the Colleton County Memorial Library.
It all began when I read the theme for the summer reading program was, “Libraries Rock.” As a wannabe musician, I had to get in on this action. Having worked before with the children’s librarian, Ms Shiela (aka Ms Literacy), I proposed some ideas which she accepted and included in the programming. She suggested I stay on as a volunteer for the summer. I was reluctant at first because most all of the other volunteers would be teenagers.
I thought what would the teenagers have or have not in common with me as a volunteer? I could pull it off if I dressed appropriately and did not use outdated slang words such as, “grooovy.” I had to be a good listener and have a sense of humor. Although being much older, I was sure I could complement my advanced skill set with theirs.
Yes, for teenage volunteers their tasks would be different, but important too. In fact, without their help, Ms. Shiela could not have produced and conducted 22 programs throughout the summer. The things they helped her with are too numerous to list. All the cutting, the taping, the typing, the copying, the cleaning, etc. would have been overwhelming for Ms. Shiela by herself.
So what would entice teenagers to give up a lot of their free time throughout the summer? Not only time, but volunteering would not be at the top of the list for their friends to do in the summer. Would they be teased for spending so much time doing something “not cool?”
Would volunteers feel it would be worthwhile since they would not be paid? Would they even be recognized fully for all their time and effort? Would volunteers be given enough training? Would staff members be tolerant and patient with them? Would they be asked to do more than what would be reasonable? Would they be asked to do things that would not fit their interests or skill level? Would everyone be willing to compromise and learn to work together? Would there be times they would get upset when other volunteers wouldn’t do their share of the work? Would they lose interest and feel guilty for quitting? Would they be able to get transportation back and forth to the library? Would their parents be willing to pay the fuel cost going back and forth from home?
Why, then, with all these thoughts would any teenager not be dissuaded from volunteering at the library?
The objective of all summer reading programs is to promote and develop a higher level of literacy among the young people of Colleton County. Apparently, teenagers who volunteer believe this objective is a worthwhile cause. They are motivated and willing to help in any way they can contribute. They sense they are needed. Although they are not going to be paid, they will receive many personal benefits indirectly. Some of the many examples are:
• Opportunities to socialize and meet other teenagers with similar interests
• Feel better about themselves for doing positive things, feel valued, wanted
• Increase their confidence and self-esteem
• Increase their sense of caring
• Learn to become a better team member
• Learn to deal with problematic situations; become a better quick-thinker
• Become a better role model and set a good example for others
• Opportunities to meet adults from all “walks of life”
• Opportunities to experience new things
• Keep them busy instead of sitting around bored during the summer
The future of the Summer Reading Program in Colleton County looks good. There were over 2,000 people, young and old, this summer who came to see 22 diverse shows, arranged and produced by Ms. Shiela with help of the teenage volunteers willing to give up their time to help promote literacy.
In return there were many opportunities for them to improve their personal and social well-being. Hopefully from their positive experiences, they will continue to volunteer, not just as teenagers, but also later as adults.
I personally enjoyed volunteering this summer at the library. As with the teenagers’, the personal benefits more than compensated for giving up my free time and any expenses I incurred.
Being much older, I used my woodworking skills to make a Clinko game board which the children enjoyed playing with all summer. I sharpened my computer skills by doing statistical analysis of information taken from all the surveys collected at the end of each program. I collaborated with Ms. Shiela in writing and performing a theme song. Thus through my role as a senior volunteer, I felt I had enriched the summer reading program.
I would recommend others to consider volunteering next summer. Everyone, young and old, has something to offer.

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