Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

April 24, 2013

Volunteering at local libraries ‘good for the soul’

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — A love of literature inspired both Maria McLane and Linda Cryer to volunteer several hours a week at their local libraries, but it's the satisfaction they get from helping patrons that keeps them involved.

“The kids' room (at Singletary Memorial Library) is an inspiration. Just seeing the faces of the little kids as they discover reading” is priceless, Cryer said. “We got books about trucks and bugs and dogs, and it's neat seeing the kids get going.”

She is one of two volunteers at the Rusk library, helping out as needed, often shelving books, keeping the area straightened up, even helping “check out materials if someone is not here,” said circulation clerk Nancy Ford. “When they're here, we can focus on other things.”

Children's librarian Peggy Jo Jones of the Jacksonville Public Library agreed.

Having volunteers like McLane – who recently was helping enter books into the library's AR Bookreader system – “frees me up to do other stuff, which helps a lot,” Jones said. “And for our special program in the summer, (youth) volunteers provide relief by helping smaller children do crafts.

“Volunteers are a very valuable asset to a library,” she said.

Both Cryer and McLane are new to the program – Cryer got involved last year after she met librarian Amy Derrington while she and other local Master Gardeners helped plant a garden in front of Singletary Memorial.

“I got to talking to Amy, and it just went from there,” she said

Laughing, she added, “I've always loved the library and have gone all my life. Even as a kid growing up in Houston, my dad would drop me off there and say, 'OK – one hour,' and I'd tell him, 'Daddy, come back in two hours.'”

McLane, who is from the Rio Grande Valley city of Mercedes, began assisting at the Jacksonville library last month, after her husband – a QIS pipe inspector assigned to work on the new pipeline coming through East Texas – began working locally.

She is, as the group affectionately calls themselves, a “Pipe Line Lady.” The women travel to job sites across the country with their husbands, often immersing themselves in the communities where their spouses work as a way of giving back because of the warm welcome they've received.

“Wherever we go, I try to find a place to volunteer,” McLane said. “I have not been here that long … maybe a month? But I do this because I want to help the community. I want to meet people and use my time for doing something that helps somebody else.”

Cryer feels the same way.

“There are things that you do physically that nurse your soul,” she said. “I've always wanted to do something for my community, so that part of volunteer work is something that's important to me.”

Both women have served in other areas of the community as volunteers – Habitat for Humanity for Cryer, and McLane at her church.

Prior to her husband's assignment to Cherokee County, the McLanes were in Mount Pleasant, where she quickly became immersed at Titus County Cares, a food bank based in that town.

“You learn when you meet people and serve their community,” she said.

“You get to know these communities, and every place you go is different from the others.”

As she discovered with her work with Habitat for Community, volunteers “are really good folks doing things, changing the community and changing lives,” Cryer said.

“Volunteerism is extremely important (to a community).”

The women suggest people look for something that appeals to them and give volunteering a try.

“Experience it, because it's a very rewarding feeling,” McLane said.

“Because I think (for) as much as you do for others, you get it back.”