by: Barbara Adams, 
Pat Rogers, 74, volunteers four mornings a week at the Clackamas County Oak Lodge Library. She not only provides an invaluable service to her community, but has also made new friends and lost 50 pounds since she began four years ago.

Lonely? Too much time on your hands? Become a library volunteer. Lose a few of those extra pounds and make tons of new friends!

Sound too good to be true? When Pat Rogers joined the volunteer team at the Clackamas County Oak Lodge Library, she just wanted to give back.

'I came in thinking I was helping my community - I found out I was helping myself,' she said. 'For me, it's wonderful therapy.'

Rogers is a retired nurse whose life revolved around caring for her husband, Gene, during his last years, before he died in 2004 of lung disease.

'I was inactive while taking care of him,' she said. 'I put on 50 pounds. My blood pressure had gone to 190 over 90 - that's high.'

She decided she needed to create a new life outside of her home, so, after seeing a posting at Oak Lodge Library for volunteers, she signed up for one day a week.

Now she spends four mornings a week pulling holds, replacing books on shelves, and helping tend to the operation of the library. 'I'm at my normal weight and my blood pressure is 120 over 64 - which is very acceptable for my age - by just being active and filling a need. I thought I was coming here to volunteer, but I got my health back and made wonderful friends,' Rogers said.

Oak Lodge Library is one of 13 library buildings - including the Lake Oswego Public Library - in Clackamas County. Fifteen regular volunteers help make the branch run smoothly, said Oak Lodge Library Director Doris Grolbert.

'The library relies heavily on volunteers working with staff to do much of the unseen work,' Grolbert said. 'These jobs range from repairing and filing materials to checking in items and preparing them for checkout.'

More than 1,000 volunteers throughout the county donated their time during fiscal year 2006-07, altogether logging in nearly 50,000 hours,

Joanna Rood is the manager of the Library Information Network of Clackamas County. 'A strong group of volunteers is a wonderful base of community support,' she said. 'These volunteers often become 'experts' on their local library, and thus become an excellent resource within the community, passing the word to friends and family about the many programs and resources available.'

In many ways, Rood said, it's because of the work of volunteers that the libraries in the county are able to provide the level of service they do.

'The amount of funding distributed to libraries from the Clackamas County general fund has been in decline or flat since 2001-02 due to competing county responsibilities and the unfortunate failure of the library levy in November 2004,' Rood said. 'In fact, the amount of money distributed to libraries in fiscal year 2007-08, $6.785 million, is the same amount that they received in 1998-99, nine years ago. In that same nine years, library use (as measured by annual number of items checked out) in Clackamas County has shot up over 60 percent.'

Clackamas County has a geographic area of 1,879 miles. All 13 libraries in the county are closely tied to each other via the central computer system maintained by the Library Network office. Any resident in any part of the county can order materials to be delivered to their home library from any other library; the process usually takes less than two days. More than 1.1 million items - books, movies, and audio CDs - are shared between all libraries and all citizens in the county. The Library Network office can also borrow books or other library materials for Clackamas County residents from any library in Oregon and throughout the United States if the item is not owned within the county library system.

The many library volunteers in the county help make this vast sharing of information possible. 'I'd say volunteers are essential to keeping the doors open in several of our libraries,' Rood said, 'and a very valuable resource that helps preserve basic levels of service. If our libraries had to rely on paid staff to perform all of the duties that volunteers help with now, it is likely that many libraries would be open fewer hours and would be able to buy fewer books and other library materials.'

For Rogers, volunteering at the Oak Lodge Library has renewed her life.

'Volunteer work is a blessing,' Rogers said, 'especially if you're retired and not committed to very many things. Volunteering is a good way to make friends and it's a community service that's so richly appreciated.'

To become a volunteer, contact your local library and describe how you would like to help. For more information log onto .

Barbara Adams is a reporter for the Estacada News, which is a member of the Community Newspapers group that includes the Lake Oswego Review and the West Linn Tidings.

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