Volunteers are an integral part of Johnson County Library. They help meet the needs of a library system that serves patrons from all over Johnson County and beyond. Processing book donations, shelving books and assisting with library programs are just a few of the ways volunteers support the Library. The new volunteer services coordinator has been inspired by library volunteers and is excited about the future of volunteering at the Library.
Amber Bourek Slater has worked for Kansas City area nonprofits for 15 years, including managing volunteers at Hope House, Harvesters and NourishKC. Now she brings that expertise to Johnson County Library as the new volunteer services coordinator. She started in August and is full of enthusiasm for the job. “The really awesome part is we have so many volunteers that are so dedicated and love the Library and the mission of the Library,” Bourek Slater said. “There’s a passion behind volunteering at the Library which I think is so exciting.”
Bourek Slater realizes volunteers are a huge part of Johnson County Library’s success. More than 700 active volunteers collectively contribute more than 50,000 hours per year to their duties. That’s the equivalent of more than 25 full-time employees. She says the volunteer program is already vibrant and engages many people in two primary ways: helping at branches with circulation and other tasks, and helping the Friends of the Library organization with all its functions.
Bourek Slater has been inspired by volunteers like Lee Rowe, 86, who has helped out in Central’s circulation area most Mondays and Fridays for nearly 20 years. Rowe and her husband Ed lived 40 years in Emporia, where she served on the City Council and was Emporia’s first woman mayor in the 1980s. They moved to Overland Park and became Library volunteers in 2002. After Ed died 18 months ago, Lee stayed active in the community and remained devoted to the Library work. “As you get older you certainly need to socialize. In the last year and a half I realized how important it is to get out of the house and do things,” she said. “We’ve met some interesting people here. The staff are real nice. Everybody is.”
At Antioch, several teen volunteers provided invaluable help this past summer, according to Dorian Assenmacher, youth services specialist. Jordan Lyerla, 17, a Blue Valley High junior, put her creative skills to use making wonderful displays and was great with the children, Assenmacher said. And Esteban Alvarez, 19, a Shawnee Mission North senior, has volunteered over 200 hours at Antioch this year, including with the Library’s bilingual program. Alvarez moved to Johnson County from Colombia in 2018 and said he could barely speak English at first, but Library volunteering gave him confidence and job skills. “It was amazing,” Alvarez said. “I got to experience how the Library works and I was able to help the customers.”
Bourek Slater hopes to make the volunteer program even more rewarding for participants. She’s creating written materials to let volunteers know what’s expected and how staff can support them. In 2020, she hopes to provide orientation training on a regular basis, possibly monthly. She’s spreading the word that more volunteers are needed for the MakerSpace and to help facilitate English Language Learners conversations. She also wants to host some fun get togethers. “Some of our volunteers are really looking for a social aspect to their volunteer experience,” she said, “and they want to know more about the Library and the services we provide.”
If you are one of the many who love Johnson County Library, consider supporting the Library by becoming a volunteer. Simply visit jocolibrary.org/volunteer to get started.
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