Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Volunteers make it happen

The George Mason Regional Library book sale was a month ago. I am still amazed. This was an unusual sale in that the ebb and flow of customers was not what we expected. The crowds on Thursday night were down making parking much easier for those who did come. Friday, on the other hand, was a constant stream of people. Saturday was a rainy day and many people stayed out of the wet. Finally, Sunday came and the people came and they came and they came.

What made it all happen, though, were the people who worked at the sale. There were people who have been cashiering at the sales since the sales started twenty years ago. We had people who just decided to sign up right before the sale. There were middle school students, high school students, and recent retirees. One was a doctor taking a break. It was amazing.

We had people pop into the library to return a book and stay to work at the sale. We had people come for two hours and stay all day. We had people who came for one day and then returned and then returned. Thanks to all these people, we were able to keep lines to a minimum when it came time to actually tally and pay.

Let me not forget the behind-the-scenes people, the ones who got the books out of the boxes and the ones who cleared away the books at the end of the sale. It takes a lot of time to unpack 48 boxes of books in various languages, sort them out, and then display them so that shoppers can find their particular language. It takes a long time to unpack 100 boxes of Suspense novels. All these efforts greatly contributed to the success of the sale.

In the midst of the bustle of the book sale, I doubt that I was effusive enough in my thanks for all these people. I did notice your efforts and I did and do appreciate them. I hope you had a good time and were able to meet a few new people. When I first started volunteering with this group, one of the benefits I gained was a community of readers who wanted to share their favorites. I hope you experienced this as well.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Taking Things for Granted

We are counting down to the final meetings regarding the 2011 budget in Fairfax County. I know that when my kids were still in public school, that I heard much from the school system, the PTAs, and fellow parents regarding the needs of the school system. It is only since I became involved with the library system that I have begun to learn about the libraries.

It is easy to take things for granted. I never paid attention to the fine print when I took my kids to programs at the Library. I took it for granted that a library near me would have a weekly story hour. I took it for granted that most common magazines would be available at the local library. I took the library hours for granted.

I have learned not to take so much for granted. If the staff is cut back so that management has to choose between staffing the information desk and providing a story hour, the story hour will lose. The magazine subscriptions are running out. Start looking for big holes in the displays.

When my kids were in school, we made a lot of trips to the library on Sunday pulling together a project due on Monday morning. Years ago, I could go to the library on Sunday any time up until 8 pm. Those hours got cut back to 6pm in the previous recession and were never restored. In this recession, two more hours were cut so Sunday hours are now 1 to 5 pm. Are all Sunday hours the next to go?

We made our fair share of dashes to the library on weekday evenings as well. We might have supper, then scouts, then the library, then home. Now, the library is closed before I have supper except for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Those weeknights, the library closes at 8 pm. Judging from the volume of books to be checked in early on Friday, a lot of people are surprised to find the library closed on Thursday evenings.

Next July, what changes are we going to see at the library?

If you haven't gone to a budget meeting, then visit the Fairfax County website. Read about it. There is still time to attend a meeting.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Life in France and High on Arrival

I handled lots of books yesterday. Three stand out in my mind. The books were My Life in France by Julia Child, High on Arrival by Mackenzie Phillips and Spartan Gold by Clive Cussler and Grant Blackwood.

What do these books have in common? They were all donated to the Friends. Two were just published this year. The Julia Child book is more popular now than when it was published because of the movie Julia and Julie with Meryl Streep. If you walked into any Fairfax County Library you would not be able to check them out. All available copies are already checked out. If you placed a hold on any of these books, you would join a long list of people who would like to read the same book.

Where are these books now? I didn't save them for our sale next April. I didn't list them on Amazon. I gave them to the right person who will see to it that they are added to the system's collection. The books will soon be circulating, allowing a few people to read the book a little sooner than might otherwise have been the case.

The Friends don't believe in giving money to the library to buy books for the collection. We believe the county should be funding the collection. We are happy to give actual books to the library to build the collection. It is a subtle distinction. We gave up a few dollars in possible sales next April while the library gained much needed material now.