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Volunteers are lifeline for Tualatin library

Volunteers at the Tualatin Public Library put in more than 5,000 hours last fiscal year
by: Jennifer Clampet, SHELVING FOR THE FUTURE — Emma Patton, 8, and her mother Jennifer shelve books in the children’s section of the Tualatin Public Library. The duo began volunteering at the library during the summer.

TUALATIN - About 289 Tualatin residents have found more than just books at the Tualatin Public Library. They've found a grateful community.

Without volunteers, the Tualatin Public Library would not be able to function, says Suzy Coleman, support services supervisor for the library.

Last fiscal year, the library had 289 volunteers who clocked-in more than 5,000 volunteer hours shelving books, organizing the multi-media sections, helping in the children's section and more.

'Our doors wouldn't be open without (the volunteers),' Coleman said. 'They're crucial.'

So with the planned expansion that will increase the library square footage from 8,500 square feet to more than 22,000 square feet by January of 2009, Coleman knows that the number of library volunteers also needs to increase.

That's where Melissa Koons comes in. Recently hired as the library's full-time volunteer specialist, Koons' goal is to increase the number of volunteers at the library by at least 20 percent.

According to Coleman, the Tualatin Public Library already has a high number of volunteers for its size, hence the creation of a full-time position that handles volunteering activities at the library. But Koons' job will require more than just actively recruiting new volunteers. She will also be tasked with volunteer retention and making sure that volunteers are receiving the recognition they deserve.

'That's why I love it here so much,' said library volunteer Jill Ross. '(The library staff) appreciate us. They don't just expect or take advantage of. They just really appreciate.'

Ross volunteers 12 hours a week helping to shelve DVDs and fiction books. She started in March after filling out a volunteer application at the front desk of the library. She considers herself an orderly person, to which attributes her knack for shelving.

Volunteers go through library training to learn the correct systems for shelving fiction and nonfiction books and other media. Some also learn scanning methods to check in new books.

'I like this library,' said 8-year-old volunteer Emma Patton. 'It's more alive here than other libraries (at schools).'

Emma's mother, Jennifer, has been bringing her daughter to the library since Emma was little. This summer mother and daughter began volunteering one hour a week at the library shelving books in the children's section.

'She's probably a little on the young side,' Jennifer confessed of her daughter, 'but it makes her feel good doing something in the community.'

And with plans for the library to grow as her daughter has, Jennifer said she's excited to see the expansion project completed.

The expansion will include larger children and teen areas, more space for a larger book collection, small group study rooms and an enhanced library identity.

One of the signature design elements is the brick fireplace to be positioned in the center of the library and surrounded by comfortable chairs.

'It'll be a community living room in the heart of the library,' Coleman said.

Jennifer Patton's eyes widened at the mention of the 'community living room.' Oh sure, Jennifer said, she's excited about the extra space to be created for books and a place for kids to have to really enjoy storytime, but a comfortable place to sit and kick her feet up made a smile spread across her face.

Koons noted that the expansion project would also create more space for volunteers to congregate. But each volunteer seemed more excited about the other additions the project would include.

Volunteer Linda Denton sat surrounded by piles of books last week. She was scanning books that were placed on hold. Crates of books on the floor were waiting for her attention as she stacked a growing pile of books onto a push cart. She admitted the fit was tight around her work area, but as she started to motion toward where the extra room was needed, she immediately referenced the Friends of the Library book shelf.

The shelf needed more room, she said, for more books.

Friends of the Tualatin Library President Richard Dreyfus, who also volunteers at the library, said it's the library that provides people with a sense of belonging.

'There aren't that many institutions in a small town where a community can connect,' he said. 'Here, I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile.'