Investing in the Human Spirit
I have volunteered for the Nashville Public Library for something like fifteen years because the library needed me. My friends in retirement volunteered at the old building when new books needed wrapping with Mylar, in the technical services department. We were called the "Mylar Boys." It was like a club.
We would work, then go out to eat somewhere in downtown Nashville. Later on, after we moved into the new library facility, I took on a work assignment in the Nashville Room. I was trained by Linda, a staff member, to work on the Veterans History Project, where I interviewed on tape over sixty veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. It also involved indexing over 200 interview tapes. This was a service that very few did, and it made a noticeable impact on our community. It was a joy that linked me in a special way to Linda. Especially noteworthy was doing veteran interviews annually in the fall with homeless veterans in the National Guard Armory building with a program known as Operation Stand Down. I discovered that this experience really does something for the hurting and the lonely in this community that few other things do.
Following that assignment, I continued doing work projects in the Nashville Room. One of these was working on labeling and numbering discs for the Story Corps oral history project. Later on I was assigned to process on the computer an index of newspaper obituaries. That is occupying my time and energy now, where among other things I enjoy the company and the relationships of the library staff.
When I walk into the library, I am amazed over and over again at the sheer excitement that fills the air. I began volunteering in April of 2008. Most of my efforts are in the children’s area. I can’t begin to tell you how many children’s books I’ve read and enjoyed while shelving! Watching the children scour the books for just the right one is such fun.
One young boy spent several minutes telling me how much fun he has had reading the Magic Tree House series. He said, “I love books better than anything.” I could see his excitement and enthusiasm written all over his face.
Because our library branch is located in a diverse community of Nashville, we have the opportunity to learn about different cultures everyday. One mother reads a book to her children first in Spanish and then again in English. She also converses with them in both languages. When she is in the children’s area reading to her children, other children stop to listen. What a gift she is giving to all of us!
The rewards of volunteering are many. I enjoy watching the people discover information. Several teachers tutor both children and adults in our library. Listening to a person learn to read or seeing a child dance as she looks at pictures in a ballet book is the kind of reward that money cannot buy. I do not ever leave the library without a feeling of satisfaction. I feel privileged to give a few hours a week. I feel as though I am making the best kind of investment there is to make. I am investing in the human spirit, in the joy of learning and most of all in the joy of giving.