I have been an avid reader as long as I can remember. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of running around libraries pulling enough books off the shelves that they spilled out of my arms. So it should come as no surprise that my first “job” was assisting in my elementary school library. At 11 years old, I volunteered for an hour twice a week. Here are some lessons I learned:
Organizing gives everything a place to go.
I used to love getting a fresh stack of books to put away (yep, not ashamed). I learned the Dewey Decimal System and I realized that it’s so much easier to find things when you know exactly where to look.
Libraries are quiet, safe havens.
I have always been on the shy, quiet side, and often I can’t handle the hustle and bustle of socializing. Libraries are inherently peaceful. They are my retreats when things get too crazy. I can just find a secluded corner, pull out my book, and escape to whatever world I choose.
You can learn about anything and everything.
I would walk down the aisles and pull books from nearly every subject. One day it would be astronomy and the next it would be medieval costumes. While now we have Wikipedia, back then I thought libraries alone were the gateway to endless knowledge.
You can experience the world by turning a page.
Although I never traveled much when I was younger (outside of Florida), I was able to explore foreign countries, ancient civilizations, and various cultures. Our librarian would even tell us interactive stories about the Civil War, forest animals, and the Tudors.
Not all material is age-appropriate.
Once at a book fair, I picked out a book titled “Emergency Room” that had accidentally fallen in the wrong pile. Our librarian explained to me that it wasn’t a subject for someone my age, but that in a few years she would have it saved for me (and she let me pick out a second free book instead).
Teachers care. A lot.
Our librarian dealt with all the classes in the school, and spent all her time getting us interested in stories about historical events and finding books we’d love. She staged reenactments, brought in games, and read to us constantly. I always knew I could go to her if I wanted to learn something new.
Some jobs are worth getting paid in gummy bears.
At the end of every volunteer session we’d get to pick our reward: gummy bears or Jolly Ranchers (watermelon, of course). At 11, this was the equivalent of a full paycheck. In my case I enjoyed it so much, I would have done it for nothing. My goal in life is to feel that way with a job again.
Free books = best day ever.