South Charlotte

Public libraries need volunteers

Got some free time this summer?

Chauna Wall has a request: Volunteer at the library.

Last year, the county cut $10 million from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library budget, resulting in a 50-percent reduction in library hours and layoffs for up to 40 percent of library staff.

Wall, the volunteer coordinator for the library system, said their greatest need in the summer is volunteers who can check in and reshelf materials.

"Materials fly off the shelves in the summer," said Wall. "We don't want things building up in a back room where people can't get to them."

Ideally, the libraries would get circulation helpers who are trained by staff and consistently donate two or more hours a week for a six-month commitment, said Wall, who has been coordinating volunteer efforts for the library system for more than 20 years.

Currently, 9 percent of total staffing hours are volunteer hours.

"We had a good volunteer base to start with, and we've basically amped up those efforts," said library spokeswoman Cordelia Anderson.

In the last fiscal year, volunteerism has more than doubled - from 25,000 hours a year to more than 55,000 hours, Wall said. "People who love libraries have risen to the occasion."

The Future of the Library Task Force was created last fall at the urging of Mecklenburg County officials, who wanted ideas on how to make the library system more sustainable in the face of steep budget cuts. In March, they presented their report.

The task force said the current level of volunteerism is unsustainable, so the group recommended Charlotte Mecklenburg Library work to maintain enough volunteers for 5 percent or more of total staffing hours, Anderson said.

Each library's needs are different, so volunteer opportunities fluctuate. All of the needs are listed on the website:

Wall asks that interested volunteers list a first- and second-choice location.

If you want to volunteer but feel you have a skill set that doesn't fit any of the opportunities available, library representatives ask that you complete the online application, and they will find a match for you.

Though the pilot summer volunteer program for teens is already underway, there are libraries that could use teenage volunteers, including the Matthews and Steele Creek branches.

"We have some really special people who came to our aid," said Wall. "We had a hard year, but that was the best part of it."