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Summer Volunteers Make Exceptional Contributions

This post was contributed by Geneva Vander Poel in the Bookshare operations team.

Bookshare is proud of its strong community of dedicated volunteers. Since 2002, we have depended on volunteers to keep the library stocked with relevant titles — books that our members are eager to read. Year round, a dedicated group of people work diligently to grow the collection. Without their efforts, Bookshare would not have as many accessible titles today (more than 80,000) to serve over 100,000 members.

Summertime presents a unique opportunity for volunteering in our Palo Alto offices. Since schools are out of session and student book requests dwindle, we are able to dedicate our energy to training and educating volunteers, a task we all enjoy. Simultaneously, high school and college students arrive excited to devote their well-deserved summer days to improving the collection.  These students gain work experience in a variety of areas, witness the infamous “chopper” at work (the machine that de-spines the physical books that come through our offices) and get a glimpse of how a nonprofit organization operates.

Hundreds of books are processed each day and new publishers come on board regularly with donations of digital files. There is a steady flow of books ordered and sent out to be scanned and proofread. Processing all of these books in varying formats is a welcome challenge for our Collection Development department, so you can see the tremendous benefits our in-house summer volunteers provide.

This summer, a delightful group of high school sophomores came to our offices twice a week and gamely tackled every task that we put before them, everything from filing and organizing our physical library to dusting our vast collection of rubber ducks!

Anushka Patil told us, “When my friend found Bookshare while looking for summer opportunities, I knew that it would be the kind of organization that I would want to work with. Working hands-on to help build an online library for individuals with print disabilities is rewarding and fun.  I look forward to the days that I volunteer. ” Shaila Jain added, “Bookshare has provided me a great learning experience and I will continue to volunteer and to learn more.”

3 girls standing by a table full of yellow rubber ducks. They are washing the ducks.
The Duck Wash: From left to right: Ruchi Goel, Anushka Patil, and Shaila Jain scrub down our ever growing collection of rubber ducks. Aahana Sahai typically joins the girls. She was not available for the photograph shoot.

Oliver Tully, a sophomore at UC Berkeley, is another great asset to the Collection Development team. His contributions include writing synopses, improving some of our pre-existing metadata, and uploading books. In the past two months, Oliver helped to upload another 200 books to our website.  He saw his volunteer position as a great way to learn about what a nonprofit career might entail.  “I am interested in pursuing a career in the nonprofit and social justice field,” says Oliver.  “This is my first time working in a professional environment (namely, an office), which is a learning experience in itself. I have learned much more about the process of proofreading, submissions, and OCR scanning.”

Several student volunteers with library science backgrounds also found their way to Bookshare, curious about how a digital library operates. Lisa Nyung, Maria Parlante, and Suzette Maquino are helping Bookshare’s librarian Amy McNeely find lists of titles to add to the collection, especially textbooks for grades K-12.

The Bookshare team has an immense appreciation for the volunteers that come through our offices each year, eager to learn and also to offer their own unique skills. These bright, caring individuals add excitement to our teams, make our jobs easier, and spread knowledge to others who may not yet know about our organization. We proudly give these students and all of our loyal volunteers a great deal of credit for making us who we are.  We invite students and individuals looking for a volunteer opportunity to join us year round for a challenging and rewarding experience to make a difference in people’s lives.

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