I have always loved the library. I have loved to read for as long as I can remember, and for me the library is a natural extension of that. Libraries serve many purposes, acting not just as repositories of books but as centers of communities that foster a love of reading in people of all ages. Before the pandemic, I regularly volunteered at my local library, but I always wanted to play a larger role than simply shelving books. Working as an intern at the Harrison Public Library, I am able to play a role in organizing and running library events I never could have as a volunteer.
The Harrison Public Library serves many functions, as I mentioned. As with any library, it loans out books for the people of Harrison, and indeed anyone who has a library card in the Westchester Library System. The library also organizes numerous community events for people of all ages. This includes but is not limited to Q&A sessions with authors, art receptions, and various workshops covering topics ranging from painting to resume writing. It also provides numerous opportunities to aid people learning English as a second language, including conversational hours and a book club. For children specifically, the library hosts a number of events, especially during the summer. This includes cooperation with the 4-H STEM program and Westchester Battle of the Books.
For my part, these first few weeks have seen me largely assisting in the training of the Battle of the Books teams and researching into The Human Library. Once the school year ends for most children, I will be spending more time helping to supervise various library events, but for now this has meant a lot of time reading books and doing research.
Battle of the Books is a kind of trivia competition for children from grades four to twelve. Each library involved in the Westchester Library System organizes teams, who read five pre-selected books in preparation to the event. There are different selections of books for teams from grades 4-6 and for grades 7+, and the Harrison Library has one team for each grade range. The Battle itself is a trivia competition, where teams compete to answer questions about the books chosen. My part in all this is helping the Children’s Librarian to write practice questions specifically for the 7+ team, and to help run practice sessions for both teams.
Human Library is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to confronting prejudice by creating spaces of open dialogue. It does this by organizing “books” (volunteers who have faced discrimination and are willing to tell their story) to attend public events where they will have one-on-one discussions with “readers,” giving a brief synopsis of their lives and then engaging in an extended Q&A session. The library will not be able to hold an event until after I return to college, but I will be doing much of the research and helping to recruit for and advertise the event.
My presence here frees up the time of the librarians to pursue other projects. Given the time it would have taken to organize a Human Library event, I am unclear if the Harrison Library would have really been able to get it started without me providing extra manpower. Ultimately, the goal is to get kids excited about reading, and in the case of Human Library, to help people confront their prejudices. I do not think I will be volunteering here long enough to really see the fruits of my labors, but I hope I will help in accomplishing those goals.