I volunteer at one of the local libraries in my community. I write, “one of” because there are so many in my county. My favorite one is the Five Forks Branch just across the street from Ronald Reagan Park.
My primary tasks include reshevling books, CDs, and DVDs as well as shelving books in the holding area for pick up by patrons who have requested an item be put aside. The volunteer coordinator instructed me to direct patrons who might approach me with questions to the circulation/help desk. I was a little disappointed because deep in my core lies a desire to help people. I don’t know for sure but I believe that my body produces endorphins when someone asks me a question in much the same way it does when I laugh. It just feels good.
The first time someone asked me a question, I obediently did as I was told. “You should inquire at the desk. I am a volunteer and don’t want to lead you wrong,” I said.
One day a woman approached me asking, “Where are the mysteries?” It happened that they were on the next row of books, not 3 feet away. How could I send her back up to the desk for the answer to this simple question? I showed her the correct row and received the great feeling helping brings.
This incident threw me over the edge. Now I make an effort to help any patron who asks. If I don’t know the answer I will send them to the desk. For example, a woman asked me where to find books about the desert. I was shelving in the Juvenile section. I smiled and sent her to the desk since I didn’t know offhand. Later, I saw her looking in a row near me.
“Did you get some help?”, I asked.
“This is what she gave me.” she replied handing me a white slip of paper with two call numbers written down. I felt that rush because I knew I could help. I was resolving to search do a quick computer search if I couldn’t find the title she needed.
I began my search knowing to look in the Juvenile section then the Easy section based on the call numbers. Unfortunately, the Juvenile book was not on the shelf. She followed me to Easy/Children’s section. I scanned with her looking on.
“Deserts. Yes here they are. ” she said as she eyed several books in that section. She thanked me and I continued shelving.
This work relaxes me as does any sort of organizing task. I immerse myself into the rules of call numbers, authors’ last names, categories, etc. I come across books I’ve read or would like to read. I don’t get sidetracked by reading the jackets as I thought I might given my love of reading. I have a job to do and this shelving is just as pleasurable as reading in that moment. This is a homecoming of book to its rightful place in the company of its counterparts. Perhaps it has a story to tell about the person or persons who checked out the book. Did the patron read it from cover to cover or just skim? Was the book returned on time? Perhaps a bounty was put out on the book in the form of a fine for a delinquent patron. Who knows? I am content to restore the books to the shelves until my cart is empty.