The University City Regional Library is just one of 20 branches in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system that offers a lot more than books.
Libraries now offer a wide range of programs, services and volunteer opportunities. Now that the new school year has begun, the University City library is gearing up to offer free tutoring for teens and opportunities for them to give community service time.
“We’ve had to ask ourselves, ‘What do our patrons need and how can we help?’ That kind of observation has led the library into new and different directions,” said Tiffany Boeglen, teen services librarian at University City Regional.
Boeglen’s teen services outreach effort offers teens a chance to learn leadership skills and development. They learn interview skills and much more.
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“We try to teach them to balance it all,” Boeglen said.
Teens ages 14-18 who volunteer at the library must commit to at least one day a week for four months. Usually students volunteer about two or three hours a week. The library also offers volunteer opportunities for tweens, ages 11-13.
The library partners with other organizations to make volunteer opportunities possible. The organizations work together to offer meaningful tasks for the youth. This year, they will be able to recruit 10 teens to volunteer.
A separate program called Community Service Saturdays requires three hours of time from youth ages 11-17. This does not require a long-term commitment; it can be a one-time opportunity.
Jesse Isley is the children’s department manger who oversees programs for children from birth to age 11 at University City. She sees a real value in young people volunteering and making a difference.
“It’s great to see the young people so excited about volunteering,” Isley said. “It’s actually workforce development, because they work as a team and they have to exercise their own judgment. … Just like any future job they will have.”
Free tutoring for teens is another valuable service offered by the library 5-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Children ages 5-11 also can get free tutoring on Tuesdays. The University City library is looking for adult tutors who are qualified and trustworthy and who like children and teens. The application process is online.
“We let people know what our true expectations are. We want it to be a good fit,” said Boeglen. Volunteers are asked to commit to six months, or at least a school semester, of service.
After the public library system went through budget cuts a few years ago, Boeglen said, the staff looked at how they could better use volunteers. All branches of the library accept volunteers in a variety of capacities.
Another volunteer opportunity is a program that allows children to read aloud to volunteer therapy dogs. The program is called Paws to Read. It takes place at 6:45 p.m. Mondays. It gives children an opportunity to practice their reading skills.
All branches of the library will participate in Banned Books Week beginning Sept. 23. Teen Read Week will be Oct. 13-19. The library also will offer a program called “Camp Fire Stories” in October, to give ages 12-18 a chance to tell their own stories.
The library offers programs for every age. From Baby Storytime to technology and research support services to job hunting, there is literally something for everyone. The list of programs is online at www.cmlibrary.org; select the University City Regional Library (or another site near your neighborhood). You can get a printed schedule of programs by visiting your local library.
Boeglen said, “It has been rewarding to see our young volunteers go on to college and tell us how much the library changed their lives.”
Isley added, “You get to know the teens, watch them grow and feel good about what you can help them accomplish.”