Volunteers received high praise from Library Director Susana Fernandez as the Chetco Community Public Library celebrated National Volunteer Week April 21-27.
"I think it's safe to say the library couldn't function without them," said Fernandez, who emphasized volunteers have been an integral part of the library since its early days.
In 1924 the Harbor Community Club started a library in the Central Building staffed by volunteers.
In 1954 the U.S. Forest Service donated land for the first library building built by volunteers.
In 1983, when loss of county funds forced the city to close the library temporarily, voters approved the first library district in the state and later a tax base to support it spearheaded by volunteers.
"Our library is often cited as one of the best services in town," Fernandez said. "Volunteers again played a huge role in making the new library possible acquiring the land, designing the building, selecting the architect and raising more than $150,000 in donations."
Today 43 volunteers of all ages are proof of the community's devotion to the library. They help with day to day chores, run the Homebound Program and oversee the library Board of Directors, the Library Endowment Fund and the Friends of the Library.
Many, like former English teacher Suzanne Kehoe, wear more than one hat. Kehoe organized the Homebound Program and is secretary of the endowment fund, a supplemental fund that enhances library services. She's also at the library every Tuesday morning to help with a variety of tasks.
"I wanted to meet people," said Kehoe, "and I thought that was a good way of doing it and doing some good."
Before online catalogs, Kehoe's primary job was filing catalog cards. "I filed every catalog card that came into the library thousands and thousands of them," she said. "I'd get caught up and then one day I'd go in and there'd be 500 or 600 or 700 cards. It was a big job."
Kehoe's current list of jobs reads like a laundry list of behind-the-scenes library activity. "I pretty much do whatever Susana needs," she said. That might include sorting and shelving books, entering data in the computer, counting and wrapping dimes from the copy machine or shelf reading.
Fernandez explained shelf reading involves checking to be sure the nearly 53,000 library materials are in Dewey Decimal and alphabetical order on the shelves. "It isn't the most glamorous job, but it's so necessary," she said. "If books are not in the right place, they're totally useless to people."
Vi Lovejoy also helps in several areas. Her first job many years ago was sorting returns on the shelving cart. Now she divides official duties between the library board and endowment fund, writes a monthly column for The Pilot, tends the plants and "tries to keep something pretty on the counter."
"The library board advises Susana on library policies and helps set the budget," she said of her biggest volunteer responsibility. The board budgets tax revenue to cover salaries, library materials, the mortgage and day to day operating expenses.
"If I had my life to live over, I might've gone to school to become a librarian," Lovejoy said. "I think it's (the library) one of the most important things for a community."
Volunteering has turned into a family affair for Evelyn Allen and husband Toby. Evelyn is a familiar face behind the shelving cart and together they produce a quarterly newsletter for Friends of the Library. Toby serves on the library board.
"I just love being at the library," said Allen "just being around the books and seeing how people enjoy our library."
Allen, a former middle school librarian, confessed she relishes the role of reader's advisor. "It was the highlight of my job. Some child would come in with five minutes and trust me to pull a book off the shelf."
Trish Richards also treasures her library time. "This is like R and R for me," said Richards, a teacher's assistant in the suspension-detention room at Smith River Elementary School. "It's almost meditative," she said of the endless shelving and shelf reading.
Other library volunteers have specialized tasks. Patsy McGregor literally keeps the collection together, mending 18-20 books weekly.
Luanne Lee and the Display Committee seek out and showcase artwork and collections in the lobby and large meeting room. Jim Benson serves as treasurer of Friends of the Library and chair of the Endowment Fund.
Jane Faires catalogs new books into the computer. She's currently entering the science and technology collection longtime Brookings resident John Pruett bequeathed to the library.
Brie Wilson and Iris Wraith are among several teens who assist Children's Librarian Dori Blodgett with children's programs. "I want to work with kids when I get older," said Wraith. "There are lots of kids at the library and I thought it'd be a good opportunity to see a wide range of ages and abilities."
"I wanted to do something to get involved with the community," added Wilson.
Elementary school substitute teacher Coo Clarkson also works with children, helping with the summer reading program. One year she donned a Little League uniform for a program on "Casey at the Bat."
Clarkson, who's busy scrounging materials for this summer's "Kings, Queens, Dragons and Dreams" program, said "I tend to be a celebrator everything from Casey to National Dandelion Days. You have to keep the kid in you to do this stuff." She's also president of Friends of the Library, which focuses on supporting children's programs.
Ann Younger and Pauline Olsen are among several volunteers who work with patrons at the other end of the age spectrum in the Homebound Program. Every three weeks Younger takes six large print books to a 91-year old patron, whom she describes as "a voracious reader."
"She's so appreciative to be kept in reading material," Younger said. "That's what so rewarding that and visiting. I really enjoy hearing about her early teaching years. She has an excellent memory and remembers things I wouldn't."
Olsen regularly visits a patron who was herself a library volunteer for many years.
"She likes whodunits," said Olsen. "I introduced her to Mrs. Polifax. She's the widow who decided she could be useful to the country by being a secret agent. She has these wild, wild adventures."
Olsen, who was instrumental in forming the library district, echoed the sentiments of many volunteers. "The library is very dear to my heart."
Application forms for volunteers are available at the library's circulation desk. Call 469-7738 for information.