Teen pages and volunteers gain experience while helping libraries

Jimmy Williams, Heights Libraries page at the Lee Road branch, shelves DVDs in the children's area.

Teen pages and volunteers are the unsung heroes of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library—just ask the staff.

“The page position is one of the most important jobs in the library,” said Jenny Greene, adult services librarian and page supervisor. “They sort and shelve every item in the library to make sure our customers can find what they‘re looking for. It sounds simple, but it’s labor-intensive. A lot of our pages, about 20 out of 30 total, are teens from our own community.”  

For many teen pages, their job at the library provides them with their first real work experience. Jimmy Williams, a recent graduate of Benedictine High School and current Tri-C student, started as a page last February at the Lee Road branch. “I was surprised by how much work it is,” Williams said, while shelving children’s DVDs. “But it’s great because I’m really learning to take initiative. You start at the bottom and have to work your way up.”

Alicia Coulter, 16, who started at John Carroll University this fall, works part time as a page at the Noble Neighborhood branch, and has made herself indispensable, according to Amanda Rome, youth services librarian. In addition to carrying out the regular duties of a page, Coulter keeps an eye on youngsters in Noble’s children’s area. “She often beats me to the punch, talking to the kids about proper behavior in the library,” said Rome. “She comes up with great ideas for getting kids more involved in the library’s programs.”

Like many teen pages, Williams and Coulter started out as library volunteers, who are just as crucial to the library as the pages, according to Heather Howiler, volunteer coordinator at Heights Libraries. “Some of our programs couldn’t take place without our teen volunteers, like our summer Reading Buddies program,” she said. “It pairs elementary school students with teen volunteers who help the younger kids practice their reading skills. We had 15 volunteers in that program alone this summer.”

Teen volunteers are also the backbone of the Summer Lunch program, sponsored by the Cleveland Foodbank and held at the Lee Road branch each summer. They serve lunch to youngsters, and help out with the less glamorous tasks, such as cleaning tables and breaking down delivery boxes from the Cleveland Foodbank. “Many of the teens who volunteer are also regulars in our teen room,” said Sam Lapides, coordinator of the Summer Lunch program and special projects. “They take great pride in helping out because, as they’ve told me many times, the library is their second home.”

The library seems to inspire some teens. Williams plans on transfer his Tri-C credits to Kent State University, where he hopes to eventually earn a master’s degree in library and information science.

For information about volunteering and openings for page positions, check the Heights Libraries jobs and volunteering page at www.heightslibrary.org/page/jobs.

Sheryl Banks

Sheryl Banks is the marketing and community relations manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library.

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Volume 5, Issue 10, Posted 11:19 AM, 10.03.2012