Youth Forward Scholarship Summer 2017 – Small Starts and Butterfly Effects

Name: Chloe Taton
From: Snohomish, Washington
Grade: High School Junior
School: Shady Lane Academy (homeschool)
Votes: 2

As a homeschooler graduating independently, I didn’t technically have to
do the volunteer hours required of many teenagers. However, the local
library was a mere five minutes’ drive from home; it was too good an
opportunity to pass up. As a weekly volunteer, I would have regular
access to books of all kinds, and would also learn something about
the system in which I someday wanted to work. A few forms later, I
became an official volunteer at Lake Stevens Public Library.

For the past three years or so, I have worked two hours every week,
cleaning books and toys in the children’s section, shelving reserved
materials, retrieving materials requested by other branches, and
doing anything else that needs to be done. I’ve also ended up helping
at various children’s and teen events next door at the community
center. The commitment has lasted through three part-time jobs, a
move, and various assorted nasal infections. So far, it’s been worth

It hasn’t always been as easy as I originally thought. Aside from the
ever-present temptation to just sit and read the books instead of
shelving them, there is also the ugly truth: some of the tasks are
downright repetitive. Shelf-reading is no one’s idea of fun. Also,
there are the people who come through. In the normal course of
things, I’m not required to interact with them much, but problems
with fit-pitching toddlers, loud middle-schoolers, and people who are
just plain confused do arise. I like to think I’ve gotten better at
dealing with all of the above. All I know is that the librarian team
is consistently happy with my performance. Their appreciation, plus
the satisfaction of organizing things and being around books, is
probably my favorite part of the volunteer job.

Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about the way libraries function,
particularly in the areas of shelving, computer cataloguing, and
customer service, mostly by observation, but a little by doing. I
hope to be able to use the experience I’ve gained in my future
career, when I hope to become a librarian professionally.

As I’ve stated before, I don’t have much opportunity to interact with
the people of the community who come through the library. Most of my
interactions are with the librarians, who then serve the community. I
hope that my impact on the community will be made through them, by
making their day better so that they can better serve library
customers. Perhaps in a decade or three I will find out that somebody
in Lake Stevens was helped in an extraordinary way by one of the
librarians, who in turn had the energy to help them because of
something I did. That might not ripple out to change the whole world,
but even if it just makes one person’s life better, that would still
be a good thing. We never know how broad of an impact we are going to
make on the world. To somebody like me who’s just getting started,
that’s a pretty encouraging thought.

Join our Facebook group "Volunteers for a Better World".