'Volun-teen' support crucial in summer

Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 12:57
Daniel Houser shelves books at the Eagle River library

During June, 19 volunteers at the Chugiak-Eagle River Neighborhood Library worked 234 hours. Fourteen of those volunteers are teens. And Youth Services Librarian Wendy Sparkman, who is in charge of the summer Volunteen program, just can't stop singing their praises.

"Particularly after the staff cuts over the last few years, we couldn't function without them," she said. "Especially with all the additional traffic that we have with school out and the Summer Reading program going on."

Amelia HouserThe teens do a variety of jobs including setting the community room up for programs and then putting it back to its original configuration, covering books, straightening signs, and, of course, shelving books. On a recent Tuesday, four Volunteens could be found on the library floor doing a variety of tasks.

One of 10 siblings, Amelia Houser, a 12-year-old seventh grader, stands behind the Summer Reading table where children can sign up for the program and collect prizes as their reading minutes mount. As she waits for young readers, she puts a cart of books in order, alphabetizing by the author's last name. Amelia, along with an older brother and sister who are also volunteering that Tuesday, spends two hours twice a week working at the library after being encouraged to do so by their mother.

At just over six feet tall, Daniel Houser, 16 and a junior, has the long legs and arms of the basketball player he is, making him physically well suited for his favorite job: shifting books. Two new book cases have been placed at the end of the fiction collection and Daniel, along with several other volunteers, are gradually moving and spacing the books to spread them across all the shelves.

Close to the door, Elizabeth "Liz" Houser, 14, who is going to be a freshman, is sorting romance paperback shelving. Liz loves reading and has long regretted living so far from the library. Like her brother, she loves basketball, but reading is high on her list of favorite things to do too. She prefers shelving books to the other tasks to which the teens have been assigned.

Nick FujimotoKneeing in front of the media shelves, mountain bike enthusiast Nick Fujimoto, 14, is shelving DVDs. Nick shows up four days a week for a couple hours to help out. He also is volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club this summer. "There's a lot more going on here than I thought," he says. "It's been fun getting to know my library."

Collection Highlights: The Teen Center

With the 2009 move into the Chugiak-Eagle River Library's current location, local teens have their own space in the library. The center, by the Chugiak-Eagle River Foundation, features bar-style seating with plenty of outlets for electronic devices, an expanded collection of young adult fiction, a large selection of graphic novels, and several teen magazines such as Teen Vogue, J-14, and Shonen Jump. Popular fiction series and authors include Maximum Ride by James Patterson, the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, the Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot, and fantasy by Cynda Chima and Tamora Pierce.

Liz HouserGraphic novel fans enjoy finding favorites such as Vampire Knight, Sailor Moon, Naruto, Fruits Basket, and Fullmetal Alchemist. The library also has a number of audio books for teens.

Toni Massari McPherson, the Community Relations Coordinator for Anchorage Public Library, thanks all the Volunteens and other volunteers who do so much to add to the quality of our city's public libraries. For more information about volunteering, click the volunteer button at www.http://anchoragelibrary.org.


This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, July 20, 2011.

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