Put Charlotte's best (volunteer) foot forward

You hear, often, that Charlotteans excel at volunteerism. Here's a chance for the city's residents to prove that saying true.

Because the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools expect to get less money from the county than anticipated, Superintendent Peter Gorman says he has to eliminate 331 jobs. School libraries took the biggest wallop: They're losing 11 media specialists (what librarians are now called) and 93.5 assistants.

Librarians – who must have master's degrees – do far more than check out books. They help students with research – teaching them, for instance, that merely doing a Google search on a topic probably isn't academically sound. They teach classes. They help teachers find resources such as books and Web sites to use in the classroom. They get to know students in order to nudge reluctant readers toward books that might light the reading fire. And yes, they do check out books, re-shelve books and answer phones. Typically that's what the assistants do. If a school library loses its assistant, the media specialist must spend time on those tasks, which means more specialized jobs go undone.

This is where volunteers come in. If your kids attend a CMS school, or if you just want to help where help is needed, contact a school near you or one you're familiar with and offer your services as a media center volunteer. If you've never volunteered for CMS before, you'll have to fill out some forms and – depending on the job you're volunteering for – possibly undergo a background check.

If the school near you already has a fleet of volunteers – and some schools with active parent groups do – consider volunteering at a higher needs school.

The CMS media services office says it will try to reshuffle some duties to offer support to school media specialists. Some schools may change procedures and duties as well, to help the libraries. That means volunteer hours might not end up in the media center, but helping a teacher who's helping the librarian. Or volunteers may be needed to organize other volunteers. That's OK. There's plenty of need to go around.

The media centers need you, but most important, the students need you. Now is the time to show that the saying is accurate: Charlotteans are world-class volunteers.

Want To Volunteer?

If you'd like to volunteer you may call an individual school, or, if you don't have a particular school in mind, call the CMS volunteer supervisor, 980-343-6245.