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Tualatin teens make local library go during summer months

A select group of teens volunteer countless hours

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Teen volunteer Meredith Williams and librarian Samantha Wikstrom haul books during a cleanup event at the Tualatin Library.As summer winds down and school looms on the horizon, most teens are worrying about the start of fall sports practice, back-to-school shopping and what their new schedule will look like.

For a dedicated group of teens in Tualatin, however, the end of summer sees them preparing to complete their volunteer service at the Tualatin Public Library.

Every summer, teens volunteer at everything from shelving books to recruiting folks for the summer reading programs at the Tualatin library. They organize and complete work through their own special committee: The Teen Library Committee. The TLC creates, plans and participates in events such as Seuss-A-Palooza for younger library patrons, the summer reading carnival, Dia de los Muertos for cultural literacy, Dia de los ninos for children, the color run, local clean-ups, movie marathons and much more.

And the teens are an integral part of library programs, according to teen librarian Aimee Meuchel. TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Ellie Chapman (center) and Laura Erdman figure out what needs to be thrown away or kept at a cleanup event at the Tualatin Library.

“(The teens) have a lot of energy. A lot of the programs we put on could not be done if we didn’t have teen volunteers. Without them it would be a very different library,” Meuchel added.

The Tualatin Public Library takes up to 45 teens every summer to volunteer at the library and within the community. They must fill out an application, go through an interview and then participate in orientation and training before they begin to volunteer at the library. A minimum of 20 hours is required to complete the program and participate in the summer volunteering party, but teens may volunteer as many hours as they like.

The relationship between teens and the library is mutually beneficial, too. Not only do teens receive invaluable job experience, but volunteering also provides a much-needed social outlet for many teens. The library is very much an extension of the community, a place for teens to go in the summer as well as throughout the year. It gives them some a sense of structure that might be otherwise missing in the summer months.

Tualatin High School student Mohammed Dezay, who has racked up 76.5 volunteer hours so far this summer, shared the social importance of the library and recalled his first visit.

“I got invited here by some kids, to go to eat and then come here. And we got here and there were a lot of people here hanging out on the computers and in the game room playing Wii and stuff. I got into it and started coming more often and finally started volunteering,” said Dezay, 15.

Oscar Zamora, a 17-year-old who will be a senior at Tualatin High School in the fall, has been volunteering at the Tualatin Library for four years and is a leader on The Teen Library Committee.

“People think the library is an intellectual place where you can go and research and study, and it is, but it’s also a community. You can meet up with people, have great events and just hang out,” Zamora said.

Nayeli Naranjo-Robles, a 16-year-old who will be a junior at Tualatin High School this fall, is also a leader on TLC and she agrees with Zamora.

“It’s really great here. I used to be really, really shy, but over the past few years I found that being here has made me less shy,” Naranjo-Robles said.

Through their guidance counselor at Tualatin High School, teens can sign up and receive a half credit for 65 hours of volunteering. Meuchel begins recruiting teen volunteers in April then interviews the teens in May. The volunteers who are accepted have June, July and August to complete their 20-hour requirement for program completion. The next application period will come in the spring of 2016.