LARSON: Helping your library is not just for Dummies

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

I felt honored to be included in the celebration of the arrival of the more than 1,600 "Dummies" books the Gwinnett County Public Library won in a nationwide contest. The deal was that the library that tallied up the most "likes" on Facebook won the whole series.

It was cute to see the "Dummies" man ceremonially hand the first box of books to Dewey Dinosaur, the GCPL mascot. And it was awesome to see Eamon Shelton, a library employee, wheel two pallets with more than 50 boxes of books through the door at the library in Lawrenceville.

About a dozen volunteers were on hand to attach bar codes and book plates thanking the 5,000 GCPL Facebook fans and publisher John Wiley and Sons who made the gift possible.

"This really shows the support we have in the community for the library," Betty Atkinson, vice chairman of the library board said.

"This is all so wonderful seeing the community working so hard to provide outstanding service with our reduced budget. This brings more books to the library with no charge to the citizens," Phillip Saxton, chairman of the library board said. "And then there are our volunteers. Last year we had 300 volunteers put in 24,000 hours of service. We'd love to see more volunteers."

"But," I replied, "the last time I offered to volunteer, the only job available was shelving books. These knees of mine can't handle shelving anything below waist level."

Well, that was in the last millennium. Today's volunteers can sit down on the job by assembling and sorting books, preparing pull sheets for reserved books and greeting and directing people around the library. But even with a 2010 check-out rate of more than 7 million items (Cobb County is in second place with about three million) GCPL is about much more than books. Computers play a significant role in library services.

"When people lose their jobs and the budget is tight, when it comes time to pay the rent or mortgage, sometimes the computer service has to be cut off. In that case, people need to come to the library. Here they have access to data bases that they can't get at home and had no idea even existed," Nancy Stanbery-Kellam, executive director, said. "People are always so amazed at what they find here."

"We do more to help Gwinnett citizens find jobs than all other organizations combined. And we work with people one on one," Saxton said.

"People think with the Internet they don't need a librarian anymore, but anyone can put up a website. Now people need a librarian even more just to know which sites are valid and which are not," Stanbery-Kellam said. "And here again, volunteers are often on hand to lead people in the right direction."

If you'd like to help your library keep going in the right direction visit Friends of the Gwinnett Library at friendsgcpl.org

Susan Larson is a writer who lives in Lilburn. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.