Branch Out

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Ashley Atkinson
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Library Volunteers Provide Programming Support

Library volunteers provide support

By Alana Quarles, Assistant Branch Manager, Centreville Regional Library

When the Lorton branch closed its doors for renovation, staff bid a temporary farewell to its volunteers. They now look forward to welcoming volunteers back once the branch reopens this fall. “Our volunteers are instrumental in helping us provide the best customer service possible,” said Circulation Manager Laura Bumgardner, who oversaw the volunteer program prior to the closure for renovation. “It’s a relief going to work every day knowing there are hardworking, well-trained volunteers helping with our day-to-day operations. Especially after long weekends when we come back to a looming pile of items in the book drop, we are grateful for the extra hands helping to get items processed quickly and back onto the shelves for our cardholders.”

Another important group of Lorton volunteers are those that help with library programs. After retiring in 2014, Suba Satay searched for volunteer opportunities and responded to an advertisement requesting help with an English Conversation Group at the Lorton branch. The library had an existing conversation group but wanted to add another one. Suba, who came to the United States from India in 1968, didn’t have any experience leading a conversation group but wanted to give it a try.

“The first Tuesday, no one showed up. That was pretty disappointing. The branch manager encouraged me to stick with it and assured me word would spread about the group. The next week two people showed up and from there it grew,” he said.

Over the years, group attendance has ebbed and flowed but generally averages eight to ten attendees. The record, according to Suba, was 16 attendees all from different countries. “It was like our own mini-United Nations!” he said.

The sessions are casual and unstructured. Suba usually comes with a topic for the group to discuss and lets the conversation flow from there. Many people in the group have children whose grasp of the English language is better that their own, so they want help with words and phrases to communicate better with their kids. Suba has also assisted members with resumes and helped prepare them for job interviews. “It’s bittersweet when someone leaves the group because they’ve gotten a full-time job and are no longer free Tuesday mornings.

During the library’s renovation, Suba has kept himself busy volunteering at the Lorton food bank and giving presentations through the AARP speaker’s bureau on brain health, decluttering and fraud protection. Despite his busy schedule, Suba is looking forward to returning to the library. “I’m excited about the new building and resuming the conversation groups. I love meeting different people and learning about their cultures.”

Keep an eye on the library volunteer opportunities page for openings at the Lorton branch as they become available.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant