Moffat County Libraries exceeds volunteerism goal


Nine-year-old Meghan Innes wants to be a doctor. She doesn't know how or why, but her young mind is clear on one thing she wants to work in a college library while she's there, and she should have a resumhat gets her right in the door.

Innes has worked at the Craig-Moffat County Library since she was 5-years-old. She met a librarian during swimming lessons and was asked if she would like to volunteer at the library. She agreed.

Since then, Innes works almost every day during the summer and comes in after school several days a week. She helps clean and shelve books in the children's library.

"I like the people around me who work with me," she said. "They're really nice to me and I like the library and what's there and I learn lots."

Working at the library has increased Innes' appreciation for books. She said she checks out books every time she works and takes them home to read.

She intends to work at the library for a long time.

Innes' efforts have not gone unnoticed. In the spring, she will be honored for putting in the most volunteer hours in the eight- to 12-year-old age group. Innes donated 94 hours of her own time helping at the library.

In these days of ever-tightening budgets, the time and energy volunteers devote are the hours that can make or break some organizations.

Having or not having volunteers would not bring business at Moffat County Libraries to a halt, but it would decrease the number of amenities value-added services the three libraries offer.

In the second year of actively cultivating a volunteer program, Moffat County Libraries boasted 1,888 hours donated the equivalent of $10,439 in wages. The 1999 goal for volunteerism was $10,000.

"This year it's really skyrocketed," Director Donna Watkins said.

Library officials began soliciting volunteers in August 1998, so there is no way to compare numbers from last year. Though many people have donated time to the library for several years, 1999 was the first year statistics were kept or a goal established.

To recruit volunteers, library officials visit service organizations and publicize programs within the library.

The benefit of the volunteer program is several projects were accomplished in 1999 that would not have happened without increasing staff. Volunteers work to shelve and sort books and newspapers, pull weeds, wash windows, box books for the annual book sale and read to children. These duties are necessary and when they are completed by volunteers, library employees have time to offer other services to patrons.

"Volunteers free the staff up to do other, very important program development," Watkins said. "They allow us to add a lot of value-added services for our patrons."

Because the program was so successful, volunteers from three age groups will be honored for their contributions. Innes contributed the most hours for the 8- to 12-year-old group; Heidi Reiman worked 83 hours in the 13- to 18-year-old group; and Watkins' husband, Charley, topped the rest by donating 348 hours toward library projects.

"I kind of knew I had the most," Innes said, "but there's a lot of people who put in a lot of hours."

"I hate to sound partial, but without Charley's involvement, the Dinosaur project or the Maybell project wouldn't have gotten off the ground," Donna Watkins said.

Both the Dinosaur and Maybell libraries are working to improve their appearances and expand programs.

Volunteer hours logged don't include hours given by the library board or the staff.

"Many staff members volunteer because they believe so much in what they're doing," Watkins said.

With a year under their belt, library officials are looking at ways to improve the volunteer program. They are evaluating the structure of the program to make it more appealing to volunteers and more productive for the library.

Donna Watkins is gathering model programs from other libraries and organizations to use for the program restructure.

The restructure will help "to make library operations more efficient with more quality services that we want to provide to the citizens of Moffat County," Donna Watkins said.

And to encourage others to volunteer, Innes said, "It's really fun."

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