Name: Maria Esguerra
From: Clayton, North Carolina
School: Longleaf School of the Arts
When engaged in small talk, you might bring up that you do a lot of volunteer work. Depending on who you’re talking to, they might think you’re trying to impress them or that you have a lot of free time. While these examples might be true, that’s not the case all the time.
My high school requires all of its students to do ten hours of volunteer work each year they attend the school. I have worked with all kinds of people with different jobs and lives that it amazes me that I was able to worked with them. My first hours were with the North Carolina Art Museum for a children’s Renaissance festival. Now I am not one to willingly work with kids, but my mother had signed us up and coming into contact with children was inevitable. Yet, I enjoyed the time I spent helping children make fairy homes and applying temporary tattoos on them at the “Pirate’s Tattoo” station. My journey and close relationship with the Art Museum only had just begun.
After a few other volunteer jobs as a toy collector for children affected by cancer and helping a local vet take care of disabled pets, I decided to become a permanent volunteer at the Art Museum. I learned through the grapevine of employers that the museum’s librarian desperately needed help. When I walked into the library, it was a mess. Books were stacked in corners, papers needed to be filed, and the constant stream of books entering the library needed to be put into the system. For three months, I worked six hours for three days out of the week in the library. My job was tedious; over 10,000 books
needed bar codes to be manually put in them and then those bar codes needed to be put back into the online system. I estimate that I put at least 2,000 books into the library’s system, while doing other jobs the librarian asked me to do. I was to process new books so they could go on the shelves, reorganize misplaced books, rebind broken books, and run small errands around the museum office. It was a lot of work, yet I reveled in the challenge. I almost fell off the tall ladders used to reach the ceiling shelves a couple times and my throat was scratchy from inhaling all the collected dust. In the end, it was all worth it.
A volunteer, by definition, is a person who does work without getting paid to do it (Merriam-Webster). Being a volunteer is so much more to me though; it’s the act of giving your time to others or a cause that you are passionate about. That time I spent laboring away in the library gave me a new respect for librarians and all they do for the community. It’s a lesson that I will hold onto as I move through college to become an art historian to work in such an exciting environment.