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Sno-Isle Libraries volunteers are strong community connection

Originally published Aug. 24, 2017

Christine Stansfield (standing) leads a recent workshop with Sno-Isle Libraries staff members who coordinate volunteer activities at community libraries.  

The Sno-Isle Libraries volunteer program changes lives and helps build communities.

With roughly 700 participants at any given time, Sno-Isle Libraries has one of the larger groups of volunteers in the area. The volunteers provide key assistance at 22 community libraries and a service center across two counties.

“Our volunteers provide valuable support to library staff,” said Sno-Isle Libraries Executive Jonlayn Woolf-Ivory. Volunteers haven’t always been part of the mix. “In 2003, we responded to the community’s desire to create this opportunity,” she said. “The result has been a wonderful connection.”

Overseeing the intricacies of such a large organization that meets a variety of needs is Christine Stansfield, Volunteer & Community Engagement Coordinator for Sno-Isle Libraries.

“I love working with staff at the community libraries and the volunteers,” said Stansfield, who was recently appointed to the board of directors for the National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government (NAVPLG).  “Volunteers help build capacity at our community libraries and free up staff to use their skills in helping customers.”

Stansfield and volunteer coordinators at community libraries recently met to share experiences and learn from each other. “Bringing together the staff who are working directly with volunteers in the community libraries was really valuable,” she said.

Another of Stansfield’s roles is to help match skills and abilities of volunteer applicants with opportunities in the libraries. The application form is available at sno-isle.org/volunteers.

“Truly, anyone can be an outstanding volunteer,” Stansfield said. “We have retired teachers and librarians who want to stay connected to literacy and school readiness. We also have volunteers with a range of cognitive abilities.”

Stansfield said her personal motto is that volunteerism is about giving people the opportunity to engage in a community, a place where they belong and find worth and connections. Sometimes, she said, that pays off in inspiring ways.

“One volunteer came to us as nonverbal during their shifts, but did a great job cleaning books,” Stansfield said. “Through the experience, that person grew to be able to say a few words and make eye contact.”

Those kinds of impacts can have help shape lives and communities, Stansfield said. “It’s a huge ripple effect,” she said. “While we have about 700 active volunteers at any one time, there are more than 10,000 names in the volunteer database.”

The volunteer program develops relationships with communities.

“Everyone loves the library and this is an opportunity to interact with something they love,” Stansfield said. “In some case, they are continuing a lifetime of service and in other cases, they are beginning a lifetime of service.”



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