Teen Library Volunteers Learn Skills While Helping Out
By TAYLOR GRIFFIN
During the summer while most kids are enjoying their time off from school, the Tyler Public Library opens its doors to willing volunteers who want to go further than just checking out books.
Through Volunteer Tyler, a program that provides opportunities to serve around the community, East Texas youth ages 12 to 17 can work with kids and books while earning community service hours at the Tyler Public Library.
"Our community is such a great one. It's so giving to us as its citizens, and it's important to teach our youth to give back to it," said Renissa Wade, City of Tyler managing director for administrative services. "If you can give a helping hand, man, that is great."
While acquiring their service hours, the volunteers help events at the library run smoother for patrons and the staff, Pauline Eng, interim city librarian, said. Their responsibilities include setting up events, shelving books, helping the kids and assisting the activities.
However, Ms. Eng said helping at the library entails more than most people would assume. The youth volunteers gain experience interacting with the public. They also are able to locate resources and learn the intricate skills of how the library works.
"They're around wonderful resources all day here. It gives them the opportunity to have such great information at their fingertips," she said. "They can see the usefulness and creativity of learning at the library."
Not only does serving at the library provide community service hours, it also teaches youth about responsibility and how to get involved in their community, Ms. Wade said.
"They come and set an example to those kids, and they're inclined to give back," she said. "It gives them a chance to demonstrate leadership in the community."
As a self-proclaimed book worm, Melanie Webb, 15, of Tyler, found serving at the library a no-brainer. She loves getting involved with different age groups during the activities.
"It's a lot of fun for us because the kids are having a good time," she said. "Being around books and kids all day just sounded like a good idea."
Karis Stephen, 16, of Tyler, has volunteered at the library for two years. Going to the library as a child, she wanted to give back to the community and be around children in the process.
"My brothers did it, and it's really good experience," she said. "I like it because of the kids -- just helping them and seeing them happy. That's fun."
According to its website, Volunteer Tyler seeks to fit individuals with appropriate service jobs that will benefit the community. Ms. Wade said volunteering at the library specifically can have enormous benefits to the person giving their time, and she traces the love of libraries back to childhood.
"Libraries are the heartbeats of the city," she said. "You're learning and feeding your mind and soul. It's one of our first memories as kids, and there's always something that makes us come back. It epitomizes Tyler."
For more information about volunteering at the Tyler Public Library and other community service opportunities, please go to volunteertyler.com.