Author: Kathy Kremer, Community Volunteer

When Deb Anderson, the Jeffersontown Public Library manager, shared an opportunity with our book club friends that Metro United Way was looking for volunteers to fill “Little Libraries” in the California, Parkland, and Shawnee neighborhoods, I signed up.

I live in the Highlands now, but when I was a little girl, I spent lots of time with my grandparents. Mom grew up in Parkland, and Dad lived in Shawnee. Occasionally, when I am delivering books, I drive past their houses. Growing up, my mother borrowed books from the Parkland library, and the first job her sister, my Aunt Emily, had as a newly-minted librarian was at the Portland branch.

Being one of those lucky early retirees who left her day job a few years back to figure out what to do next, I signed up for this because it was something I could do for something I loved. It wouldn’t take much time either.

Every other Tuesday, I refill eight Little Libraries before and after I attend the Tai Chi class at the Shawnee Arts and Cultural Center.

Metro United Way’s Mary Sullivan, who just retired as Master Volunteer Manager after 40-plus years of dedicated service, and her staff always made sure that the books were ready for me to pick up. Like many other volunteer jobs out there, this is one that seemed to be pretty straightforward until I got into it.

In the beginning, I guess I thought filling libraries would be more like standing in one place and putting fliers in mail slots. Instead, it’s more like delivering pizzas, only the pizzas come in different sizes and flavors. I’m delivering them to the same eight places each week, and I’m not really sure who wants them or if anyone will ever eat them.

The good news is I’m delivering these books in neighborhoods where people walk and say hello, so I’m learning that people do help themselves to the books. The widow on Greenwood tells me she prefers murder mysteries. A little girl peeks out the window at the Parkland Boys and Girls Clubs and calls out, “Library Lady!” KT likes books about science. Books I didn’t put in the library show up because people leave them there for other people to read. One time I found a nice pair of shoes in one of the libraries, probably left by someone who didn’t need them and wanted to give them to someone who did. There was room left around the shoes for books.

Sometimes I think it’s kind of crazy impossible to pack a decent selection of books in such a small space. Look how big libraries are, and yet they don’t have enough room either. But the delicious secret about a book is that just one on its own can be anything from thrilling to maddening, so the several dozen or so in each Little Library promises its own kind of mystery and adventure.

Mary Sullivan has retired now, but Felicia and her MUW staff pack up the books for me to deliver. Mary still helps, too.

It’s a rewarding, interesting gig for someone like me who likes the freedom to drive around her hometown and become acquainted with neighborhoods and the people who live in them. It’s also satisfying–filling friendly, colorful little houses on posts with thousands of possibilities.

Volunteers like Kathy help make positive change in our community every day. Search hundreds of volunteer opportunities HERE.


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