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Story Last modified at 8:32 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Celebrate your library volunteers with a big thank-you

"Celebrating People In Action" was the theme of National Volunteer Week last week. As the Anchorage Public Library staff person most directly involved with volunteers, I can attest to the importance of these people to the library. Our volunteer support mirrors Alaska's impressive volunteer statistics, from the Corporation for National and Community and Giving:

• Alaska ranks fifth among the 50 states for percentage of residents who volunteer annually – 37.3 percent or 188,000 Alaskans.

• Alaskans donate a total of 29.8 million hours of service every year.

• Alaska ranks second for number of individual volunteer hours– 59.2 a year.

• The annual dollar value of volunteers to our community is $622 million.

I work with approximately 350 individuals every year and, for the most part, they are spectacular. The majority of them show up for big annual events, such as the Summer Reading Celebration in May. Others show up for regular volunteer shifts, such as the book sale sorting crew that has worked two hours twice a week like clockwork for years.

Every neighborhood library in Anchorage, including Mountain View and Muldoon, benefits from volunteers helping with its individual needs, be they shelving, fundraising or advocacy. The members of volunteer boards – the Friends of the Library, the Anchorage Library Foundation and the Library Advisory Board – invest an increasing number of hours in raising funds and doing community outreach. Our libraries would be far poorer places without their focused energy.

When Chugiak-Eagle River's library was scheduled to move, more than 100 locals helped pack boxes of books, transport them to the new location and unload them. On April 30, from 3-5 p.m., volunteers will be honored, along with donors, at a community gathering at the library.

In Girdwood, there would be no new library building and community room without the years of fundraising and lobbying by local residents on the library boosters committee. Now that the library is built and running, the committee continues its fund-raising with events like the Ugly Mug Giveaway and book fair this past weekend.

Last week, AAVA, the local organization for professional volunteer managers, awarded its Golden Heart Community Service Award to the Anchorage (Downtown) Rotary Club for its support in the creation of a teen center at Loussac. Not only did the club hold numerous fundraisers, but its members helped organize the volunteers needed to move more than 100,000 books as part of the project. Construction on the Teen Underground, on the southeast wall of the third level at Loussac, began this week; the grand opening is scheduled the first part of June. This much- needed project would not be happening without the hard work of the Rotary members.

Volunteering is a way of life in Anchorage. Our community is a much better place because of your spirit of giving.

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