Why I Volunteer at the Denver Public Library

Asa

From a letter by Asa Erlendson - DPL Volunteer

I started volunteering at the Denver Public Library in February of 2010. I had just finished my first semester of my third year at Pitzer College in Claremont, California and had decided to take a leave of absence for the Spring semester. I needed to do something with myself during my time off because I didn’t want to only laze around (though I had plans to do some of that).

It was important to me that I pursued my interests: tutoring, working with kids, and continuing to learn. The library seemed like a good first stop. Ultimately, I accomplished my goal of tutoring and working with kids instead by volunteering with Denver Public Schools, but I also volunteered at the two nearest library branches to me at the time: Ross-University Hills and Eugene Field. There, I was sorting movies and shelving books, DVDs, CDs, graphic novels, etc; just helping to do whatever needed to be done, but I did a whole lot of learning in the process due in part to some different factors.

Firstly, and, perhaps, most importantly, the people. The people who worked at the library were friendly, engaging, and interesting. I interacted with a variety of characters, and each had a rather interesting background. So, not only was each person quite different from the next, but they also had special perspective to provide in our conversations.

Each day that I went into the library, I discovered some knew field of knowledge from the materials I shelved, or I learned about a different perspective on things from the people I worked with. Education, food, health, movies, life! Nearly everyone had some say on a different subject based on their experiences. And, of course, I learned about the library system here in Denver, as well as a little bit about the neighboring library systems. What I learned surprised me and gave me a new appreciation for the library and the people who made it work.

Because, amongst other things, what the library stands for drew me to be a volunteer: sharing, community, culture, freedom of thought, and equal access to information. The public library is free and makes available so many different types of information (as well as accompanying perspectives on that information). To me, a library branch is a sort of hub for the community where people can begin to make connections: with other people, between ideas and the practice of those ideas, and even between communities. Oh, and there’s internet access, too.

So, volunteering at the library allowed me to explore different avenues of information and thought. If I wasn’t having an interesting conversation with one of my library friends, then I was finding interesting titles of films and books. Often times, one led to the other. I studied qi gong, quantum mechanics, psychology of emotions, philosophy (I’m a philosophy major), and watched all kinds of films thanks to the recommendation of people I worked with.

So much is circulated through the DPL and resources are steadily being taken away from it. The public library stands for so much and so many people benefit from it. Sometimes the work was tedious, but it’s a process. As long as people want to read or learn, they will need the assistance and resources of the public library. But the library will always need the help of its patrons, also. It’s a process of reciprocity, symbiosis, yin and yang, of give and take quite literally. I gave some of my time to the library, and the library gave me a lot in return. Volunteer and ye shall receive!

Submitted by Asa Erlendson - DPL Volunteer

Comments

Hey. First of, you're cute.
So I sat here reading your experience on volunteering at the library. My service learning class (last year of high school) teacher wants us to go out and volunteer for 15 hours and learn something, anything, everything on the place of our choice. I've been looking at everything but the library has caught my attention. Maybe because it's like 4 blocks away from me but thats besides the point. Like yourself, I have a love for children and I love kids. When last did you hear that from a guy? Anyways, I really enjoyed the fact that you've learned so much out of your time volunteering and it has made me want to volunteer at the library myself. I'm not the best book lover but I'll do anything for kids. Thank you for posting this because it's people like yourself who can change the lives of others by telling the importance and positive views on volunteering. Thanks again!

Asa, thank you for sharing your experiences!  Those of us who work here (especially those of us who have been lucky enough to work with you) so appreciate your dedication and curiosity.  You and all of our many, many volunteers have my gratitude and respect.  Thank you!

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