Friday, August 10, 2007

community service

...not the kind you get for DUI's or reckless driving, but the kind you perform because it's the right thing to do. My library is forming a sort of mentoring/working partnership with a local nonprofit social aid organization called The Lovelady Center. From their website:

The Lovelady Center is a nine to twelve month intensive faith-based program that ministers to women and their children who arrive at the 100,000 plus square foot facility from:

The prison system
Judges who order women to the center as an alternative form of sentencing
Parole Board
The Department of Human Resources (DHR)
Self-check in by those who hear of the center
Domestic violence and abusive situations

The Center has a library but it was filled with ragged, moldy and out-of-date books. For instance, there were 3 sets of encyclopedias with the newest set having a copyright of 1972...We went in yesterday and cleaned all of the old books out (they went to the facility's thrift shop), dusted the shelves, and took 10 or 12 boxes of current and topically relevant books to refill the shelves. We get lots of donations here at the library, plus we routinely weed our shelves of duplicate copies and other materials that have not circulated well. There is nothing wrong with these materials, they simply no longer fill a need here at my library. Our Friends group will take our nonfiction, but do not want the fiction discards so we went through those as well to pull out nice, gently-used copies of titles we imagined the ladies at the Center might like to read. Since we only keep one calendar year of the periodicals we subscribe to, we will also be donating the parenting and women's health magazines as well as any others that may appeal to the residents.

Yesterday was such a powerful experience. Many of the ladies I saw working around the facility were around my age, many had children, but they all had no money and no where to live and many had infants and toddlers. Anyone who thinks they are having a rough time of it should put in some time at a place like this. Donate some time to a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or halfway house.

This will be an ongoing partnership and Katie and I are planning to do booktalking programs and possibly a book group in the future if there is interest. The Center's library will have to have some new (or gently-used) furniture to replace the uncomfortable and ugly plastic chairs so we are looking around for some reasonably priced loveseats, endtables, chairs and lamps to take back over next week. The walls will be painted and we'll hang some nice looking art on the walls as we find it.

I am so excited about this project. I love the community I serve now, but this gets down to the nitty gritty of what it means to me to be a librarian. I want to offer an oasis of sorts to the ladies; somewhere to get help if they are pursuing educations and/or jobs, resources for becoming better mothers and citizens, community building and more! My soapbox begins to sway with my fervor I know, but until the new wears off this project I'll be fired up about it. I can hardly wait to get back next week and see what else we can do for these hardworking women.

Go out and volunteer somewhere!

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