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‘We are all readers’

Brooksby library benefits from renewed volunteer support

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February 26th, 2014
Brooksby library benefits from renewed volunteer support
Brooksby library benefits from renewed volunteer s

It has all the makings of a quintessential library: rows of neatly stacked and categorized books of varying sizes and lengths, welcoming armchairs for reading, a peaceful ambience. But the Brooksby Village Library is unique for its untraditional management structure and its vital role within the Peabody, Mass., community.

Nestled along the well-trodden route from Brooksby’s Windsor Restaurant to the nearby Greentree Café, the library is a volunteer-run operation available 24/7 for those living in the community.   

Though the library opened in 2000, it has received a resurgence of attention from new, dedicated volunteers during the past year. With those volunteers at the helm, the library continues to build a significant and diverse offering of books, attracting residents who borrow thousands of books annually. 

Renewed space and expansive offering  

Meg Kerber, one of Brooksby’s first residents and a former librarian, accepted the task of founding the library in her new community. Among other leadership roles at Brooksby, Meg got the library off the ground—an achievement recognized by a plaque within the space. 

More than a decade later, stocked with books and other resources donated by Brooksby residents, the space has become a well-used fixture. But over time, Meg and other volunteers scaled back their time in the library, necessitating a call for new volunteers. One such call went out, prompting the formation last January of a steering committee of eight volunteers, co-chaired by Judy Kent and Paula Wall.

In total, the library has “about 20 terrific volunteers, without whom nothing would get done,” Judy says.   

Volunteer Janet Locke, who also lives in the community, recently led an initiative to further define the library’s categories of books. Consulting professional library and book websites for correct information, she divided a catchall category that included many of Brooksby’s books. 

Today, the library boasts a large offering of mystery, fiction, memoir, biography, and history books. Other categories include science, large print, classics, art, travel, poetry, reference, and social science. 

On his first visit to the library shortly after moving to Brooksby, Jim Fitzgerald easily found his way to his next read. “I think the library is well-stocked. It’s just an extensive number of books,” he says.  

Another newly added category is books written by published Brooksby authors, whose works range from fiction to reference. “These are labors of love; you can tell,” Judy says. 

All books are clearly labeled with color-coded, intuitive visuals, which are also explained in signage throughout the library. In addition to books, the library has a selection of movies on DVD, audio books, magazines, and a low-vision reader. Many library visitors head directly to the New Arrivals shelf. 

Books are signed out in a notebook and are available on loan for “as long as it takes,” says Patricia (Pat) Wall, one of the steering committee’s members. Last year about 4,200 books were signed out. 

“I’m always impressed by the number of sign-outs each year,” Judy says. 

Successful, appreciated volunteer operation 

Despite the substantive number of library volunteers, aside from monthly meetings of the steering committee and occasional assignments for help with specific projects, the group has no established volunteer schedule. Instead, volunteers stop by when they choose, shelving returned books, categorizing donations, and thinking through new ways to enhance the space. It’s a system that works.  

Members of the steering committee estimate devoting an average of a couple of hours a week to the library, often between other volunteer activities.  

“I like living where I can walk down two flights of stairs [or take the elevator] and volunteer at 9 p.m.,” Paula says, referencing the library’s convenience and ever-open door. “It feels like we’re performing a service.”

The library’s steering committee also includes Paula’s brother John and his wife Pat Wall. Though they come from different professional backgrounds, none of which relate to library science, Judy says they have one thing in common: “We are all readers.”

Each volunteer brings his or her individual talents to the library. For John, an electrical engineer, that means exploring ways to better organize the space and make books more accessible to people of all physical abilities.  

The Brooksby Village Library is just one resource for bibliophiles in the community. As an extension of the library in the Towne Centre Clubhouse, boxes of books are also placed in the McIntosh and Kingsbury Clubhouses. Brooksby also offers resident-run book clubs, writing groups, and lifelong learning courses focused on literature. 

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