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Volunteering Virtually

Beata McBride hosting a Zoom video conference for English Language Learners

One of the library’s English language practice leaders shares her experience with moving conversations online during the pandemic.

By Erin Chernisky, Library Volunteer Manager

Continuing Engagement

As the pandemic has limited the number of people in our branches, one of the things library staff miss seeing every day are the cheerful faces of all our volunteers. We’re fortunate to be able to still “see” some volunteers virtually.

Following the initial library closure to the public in March 2020, many volunteer English conversation class leaders made the switch from in-person to online meetings. Volunteer Beata McBride acknowledges that transitioning to a virtual medium has its challenges, but she thinks participants have adapted well. During her online sessions she is constantly mindful of encouraging interactivity between participants to allow the natural flow of a conversation to occur as much as possible. 

New Format, New Opportunities

“So much of learning a new language has to do with facial expressions, eye contact and small head movements, which are harder to see on a computer screen,” explains Beata. On the other hand, she notes some positives of the new format, as well. Not only has she has been able to add more people to her sessions, but also — without the need to travel — many participants are now joining multiple sessions a week and enjoying more opportunities to practice English.  

While she hopes to return to in-person classes soon, Beata is thankful to have been able to continue volunteering virtually. “It is so important for people’s social and emotional well being to be able to stay engaged with each other,” she said. “These sessions have really helped participants feel less isolated.” 

Find language practice opportunities in our calendar. Learn more about volunteer opportunities at

Fairfax Virtual Assistant