“National Volunteer Week”
There are a lot of things I love about April. I love hearing “Play ball!” on opening day; feel those wonderful low-humid breezes on my face, promote what libraries do during “National Library Week” and maybe make the world a bit greener on “Earth Day”. Perhaps though, “National Volunteer Week” is a bit more special.
When Palm Harbor Library (PHL)first opened its doors on April 1, 1978, it began a tradition that still exists today; a primarily volunteer run operation. Oh sure we have a 20 member paid staff that includes eight librarians however the array of services we offer would not be possible without the 300+ volunteers. That’s right, 300…give or take. And what makes our library so unique compared to all the others out there is that since we are located in an unincorporated area of the county, the library has never operated by a city or county government. It began in a volunteer’s house in the 70’s, it was volunteers who championed the legislation to create a special taxing district to support the library and it was they who also sought the funds to build the current building. The volunteers had to depend themselves to do it all. Somehow throughout the years between the volunteers and the paid staff we have been able to provide good quality library services for the 59,000+ members of our community.
And the volunteering doesn’t stop there. Since we are not under the auspices of a city or county government, who actually runs the library? Who is ultimately in charge of how the facility works? Although as Director I take the most high-profile lead in what gets done, the most significant projects and the primary directions of the library actually all come from the library support groups made up strictly by volunteers. We have our Friends of the Library, Pam Harbor Library Endowment Foundation, Palm Harbor Literacy Council, the Advisory Council and ultimately the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency which oversees the operations of CSA Palm Harbor, East Lake Community Library, East Lake Recreation and of course, us. One rule of thumb at PHL is that in order to serve on one of these governing boards, you must also serve as an everyday volunteer at the check-out desk, or technical services area, etc. The thinking is, how can you best govern unless you know what’s going on?
To honor these wonderful people who can easily volunteer elsewhere, the paid staff once again will be hosting its annual “Volunteer Breakfast” for all 300+ souls by serving them breakfast, putting on a skit (one year I played a mean Elvis and in another I was a funky “Blues Brother”), hand out awards and simply taking the time to say, “Thank you”.
Yes, we could possibly keep the library building open with just the paid staff but that would be it, just keeping it open. The volunteers are the ones who make it a library.
Play ball!Gene P. Coppola, Library Director