Earlier this week I was telling a friend that I volunteer at my local library. It was a timely discussion, considering it’s National Volunteer Week in Canada, and also an important one, given the fact that they asked me why I spend my free time volunteering.
The answer was simple: I volunteer at my local library because I care.
I care about my community, and the services that are available to those who may need them. I care about giving back to an organization that has given so much to me. And, I care about being a good role model (or at least attempting to) to young girls.
Why? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Libraries have always been an integral part of my life. As a kid my mom would always take me and my brothers to the tiny library in our hometown for story time. I kept going back for summer reading programs, and quickly read my way through nearly every book in the children/youth section. It was a small selection, but had everything I wanted and more.
In elementary school, I would spend my recesses inside the library, shelving books and reading countless stories. I also got to help out with the iconic Scholastic Book Fairs! It was a dream come true.
In university, libraries were a safe haven where I could find research materials, read until my eyes bled, and work away at papers until I thought I would pass out. I spent more time studying in libraries than I did sleeping in my own bed.
Now, as an adult (I laughed as I typed that), I go to the library to get more books than I can sometimes carry home. Luckily I have friends who help me carry heavy things. There is no way I could ever afford to buy all the books I want to read, so I’d like to give a serious shout-out to the library for always providing me with every book I’ve ever wanted to read!
Plus, did you know that if a library doesn’t have a copy of a book (or CD, DVD, magazine, whatever), you can put in a request and they will buy it for their collection? And, if for whatever reason they can’t purchase an item for you to borrow, they will ask another library to loan it to you. I’m not kidding.
I could talk about why I love libraries all day, but that’s not why you’re reading this. You’re reading this because you want to know why I willingly spend two hours a week here hanging out with pre-teens.
Like I mentioned, libraries have always been important to me. Without them, growing up would have been hard. I wouldn’t have been able to escape school-yard bullying, I would have been bored out of my mind in the summer, and I would never have experienced the pure terror that is every Goosebumps book ever published. So, I’ve always known that at some point in my life, I would give back to a library, because libraries have given so much to me.
As a twenty-something, I don’t have a whole lot of extra cash sitting around to make a traditional monetary donation with. That’s totally fine, though. I worked in the non-profit world long enough to know that many organizations need just as much volunteer power as they do money, and that was something that I was more than happy to give.
The program that I volunteer with is called Story Sheroes. I’ve been able to proudly call myself a Shero for almost two years now. This program is for girls in Grades 6-8, give or take, and is all about what it means to be a girl in our community. We tackle hard topics like self-esteem and gender stereotypes through creative outlets such as poetry, painting, drawing, writing, and more.
These are difficult topics, but the girls in the program are never afraid to share stories, opinions, or ask for advice about situations they are experiencing. It’s incredibly heartwarming to see them open up and be themselves. I’ve seen girls write poems about their experiences at school, draw comics about their future aspirations, and send kind, caring messages to other library users by creating artwork, and hiding handmade bookmarks in library materials.
All of these positive messages, life lessons, and new friendships would not have been possible if it wasn’t for Story Sheroes, and I am honoured to be part of the program.