What makes a library system great?
Some would say having a wide variety of materials in the collection. Others might point out the availability and diversity of programming. More still might emphasize the ease of access or number of locations available.
We can’t speak for anyone else, but at Nashville Public Library (NPL), we believe that what makes a great library is the people who serve it.
And at NPL, we’re fortunate to have some of the best.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the people who make up our body of library volunteers. Like true Nashvillians, they freely give of their time – contributing in ways both small and great – to serve our community however they can.
In 2019, 432 people volunteered at NPL, giving more than 22,700 combined hours of service. Their contributions enable NPL to achieve the high standard of quality that Nashville has come to expect of its library.
For National Library Week, the staff at NPL are sharing the stories of just a few of our volunteers and the staff who support them. It’s our way of saying thanks for all that they do that help make Nashville’s library great.
So please — take a moment to thank the librarian, staff member, or library volunteer at NPL who’s made a difference in your life. Feel free to share your message on our social media channels. We’d love to read it when you do.
(Photo courtesy of Katie B.)
Reading for People with Reading Disabilities
Providing equal access is a cornerstone of libraries, and not just in the sense of having a wide variety of materials to check out. It’s also crucial that people with disabilities have the chance to engage with reading and learning like anyone else in their community.
That’s where our Talking Library service comes in. The program provides pre-recorded audio of books and magazines, live readings of newspapers, and more for patrons with certified reading disabilities. Users can access these recordings via a computer, phone, or with a special radio receiver provided by NPL at no charge.
For married couple Katie B. and Chris C., Talking Library represents a chance to do something to support those unable to read independently. The two of them read the Tennessean, one of Nashville’s prominent daily newspapers, for the service.
“To me, it’s important that everyone is able to keep up with what’s going on in the world, especially in times like these,” Katie said. “As a musician, I feel like my talents lend themselves well to Talking Library, and I’m grateful that I can contribute in some way, however small.
“We just love Nashville, and this is a way we can give back to it.”
For Chris, the Talking Library was a chance to continue the life of service he’d been living for years.
“I retired from the Marine Corps and was working from home as a civilian contractor with Marine Corps HQ. That left me plenty of time on my hands,” Chris said. “I loved what Katie was doing with Talking Library and wanted to be a part of it.”
While the chance to serve in any capacity is what matters most to them, Katie and Chris both said that NPL is the perfect place for volunteers to thrive.
“One of the things I’m most impressed with is how well-organized the program is,” Chris said. “The library provides a great structure that makes it easy for people to volunteer. There’s a high level of professionalism that I respect as well — you have to take the work seriously.”
Since they started volunteering at NPL, Katie has contributed 581 hours of service, and Chris has given nearly 100.
(Photo courtesy of Madeline G.)
Volunteering for the Volunteers
If you visit the Office of Volunteer Services at NPL, where all of our volunteers’ activities are coordinated, there’s a good chance you’ll run into Madeline G.
Born and raised in Nashville, Madeline has been coming to the library since the 1950s. Her relationship with NPL grew as the years went by, until she became a direct part of the system she’s grown to love.
Since 2013, Madeline has been a staple in the library, filing records, assisting with puppet shows, and more. Within the Office of Volunteer Services, Madeline carries out the crucial tasks of following up with potential volunteers about NPL’s specific needs, putting together the pins that volunteers receive to recognize 50 hours of service, and other essentials.
As a longtime volunteer of the library, it’s a role that she’s proud to play.
“It’s a privilege to get to serve in Nashville’s library,” Madeline said. “The library is essential to the city. It’s more than just a collection of books — it’s a community.”
And the people at NPL made it easy to do.
“Volunteering at the library is such a smooth process,” Madeline said. “What volunteers do at NPL is never taken for granted. The staff notices and always takes the time to thank us for the work we do. That’s not always been the case in other organizations I’ve volunteered with.”
Madeline said that she’s such a strong advocate for the library that she recruited three others to volunteer as well. Since she started volunteering at NPL, Madeline has contributed more than 533 hours of service.
(Photo courtesy of Amy Pierce)
Supporting Those Who Serve
A great volunteer program doesn’t happen on its own. It takes a professional servant-leader, dedicated to putting in the time and effort necessary to recruit, manage, and equip volunteers to succeed.
And at NPL, volunteer services supervisor Amy Pierce is that person.
“You have to be organized in this job,” Pierce said. “You’ve got to be able to track where hundreds of volunteers are coming from, where they are, and where they’re going, at any given time.”
For all of the hard work the position requires, Pierce said she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Afterall, she gets to work with some of the very best people in Nashville.
“We really appreciate our volunteers. Recruiting for these positions hasn’t been too difficult, because people love NPL and want to be a part of it,” Pierce said. “Getting to meet them face to face, and interact with them while they make our library a better place, is such a joy for me.
“I want them to know that, no matter what their assignment is, it matters. We see what they’re doing for our library every day, and we’re very grateful.”
Take the Time to Say Thanks During National Library Week
One of our greatest joys at NPL is getting to know the families who walk through our doors every day. Seeing them come to the library, and enjoying a great experience, is the reason we do what we do.
From all of us at NPL, to all of the librarians, staff, and volunteers at libraries across the world, thank you for all that you do every day to make our world a better place.