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Library volunteers make it possible

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Public libraries often serve as hubs of their communities by offering a safe, friendly environment for people to gather, learn and explore. People across all age ranges and backgrounds are drawn to libraries for everything from sending a quick email to learning a new language or mastering a new skill. Similarly, libraries tend to draw volunteers of all kinds, at all levels of involvement, making the daily operations of a library possible.

At Delta County Libraries, the value of volunteers is not overlooked. Volunteers have long outnumbered staff and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Take for example the Delta County Libraries board of trustees: all volunteers. The five library friends' groups countywide: all volunteers. The book shelvers, plant waterers, label removers, book sorters, shelf dusters and box haulers: also volunteers.

Bette Cyr, a four-year volunteer and member of the Crawford Friends group, describes the Crawford Library as a major selling point for living in the area. "It's a sanctuary," Cyr states. "I want to do everything and anything I can do to support it." Along with the various roles that come along with being a library friend, Cyr also volunteers weekly at the Crawford Library shelving books. "It's greatly expanded my life," Cyr muses. "As a volunteer, I am more aware of what's on the shelves, what's new, and what's going on at the library."

As much as library volunteers appreciate the opportunity to be actively involved, library staff also appreciates and depends on the service volunteers provide. "Our library volunteers are extremely valuable to our library," states Terry Johns, Hotchkiss Library manager. "They cheerfully shelve a cart full of books, work on projects that don't otherwise get done, which lightens our work load, and they are super library promoters. We appreciate all the many ways they contribute by helping us with many tasks."

In recognizing the many contributions that volunteers make, library staff is also quick to acknowledge that there is room to grow. Through a recent strategic planning process, Delta County Libraries identified volunteers as a key priority for the next three years. "We will be assessing and hopefully expanding our volunteer program," says LaDonna Gunn, assistant district director for Delta County Libraries. "We hope to find ways to improve our current volunteer program, particularly in the areas of recruitment and training."

Delta County Libraries, like many other local organizations that have seen steadily decreasing revenues in recent years, will likely become more dependent on strategies like fundraising and expanding volunteer programs as a result of tighter budgets. Both strategies take time and careful planning to execute successfully, but library supporters are optimistic moving forward.

"It's vital for our community," says Cyr, Crawford Library Friend and volunteer. Those who agree with Cyr's sentiment can get involved by contacting their local library for a volunteer application, connect with a local friends group, attend a board meeting or make a donation online to show their support. Visit www.deltalibraries.org to learn more.

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