Volunteering is important to every community. Many organizations could not be run as efficiently or effectively if volunteers didn’t step up to the plate to lend a hand. Something as simple as folding papers, taking out the garbage or even helping clean an area can take a great deal of pressure off a group or club.
David Hennessey claims the people of Lanesboro have a tremendous spirit of volunteerism. The Lanesboro Public Library is just one of the organizations supported by a network of volunteers within the community.
Hennessy also fills a unique role as a volunteer – a role not many may think about. He coordinates the volunteers who assist at the Lanesboro Public Library, taking that responsibility to relieve the limited staff that could be focused more on running the library than finding volunteers for specific things.
His position as a volunteer is to coordinate the other volunteers to help out with the library’s events.
Hennessey stated, “I was on the (library) board for nine years and I rotated off from my final term in December 2014. I started as the volunteer volunteer coordinator and helping Stella Burdt.”
The board created the volunteer coordinator position after considering what could be done to improve the library.
“There are some things the staff can’t do that the volunteers can,” Hennessey said. “There is an awful lot to do at the kickoff of the summer reading program that asking the limited staff to track down volunteers is asking a little much from them.”
When events come up that the library needs volunteers, Hennessey breaks out his ongoing list of people that have volunteered in the past. Through a series of phone calls or emails he inquires about their availability to help out on certain days.
One of the responsibilities he has undertaken as the “volunteer volunteer coordinator” has been organizing the first Meals on Wheels run with Burdt and the Friends of the Library volunteers. Among the half a dozen or so groups that participate in Meals on Wheels, each group picks out a specific week to volunteer and deliver the meals to people around town.
“We coordinate with Chat-N-Chew. Chat-N-Chew makes the meals and we deliver them to the people. The library’s turn (for delivering the meals) is next week,” Hennessey noted.
Meals on Wheels is not the only aspect at the library Hennessey works with. There are the special events with magic shows, musicians and various speakers coming to the library as well as the summer reading program that requires volunteer hands. The annual Rhubarb Run also requires help in spades.
“Every year we have the annual Rhubarb Run. This year is its seventh year,” he added. “All the proceeds go to the library. I help out with that and it is usually a pretty big deal. There are about 15 volunteers that help out the day of the race.”
Hennessey’s love for the library stems from his experience working in a library in the late 1970s.
“My original graduation degree was in library science,” Hennessey shared. “In the late ‘70s I ran the Waseca Regional Library. For various reasons I got out of the library field.”
When Hennessey moved to Lanesboro, he was approached to be on the library board.
“It’s important to me because it was what I was trained in and is part of what democracy is made of — people have access to materials no matter their walk of life,” he continued.
Ever since 2010, the Lanesboro Public Library has made great progress with events and improvements to its building. It has had some success with the reading program and the Rhubarb Run. It was also remodeled in early 2012, requiring a mammoth effort put in by the volunteers.
“The staff took the lead, but when the carpeting was put in, we had to move every single movie, book and shelf. Then (the library) had to be painted and everything moved back in again in two weeks,” Hennessey related.
With the volunteer aid, more than 300 volunteer hours were logged to complete the project within the schedule. Actually, the volunteering was such a great help in remodeling the library that it was finished a day and a half ahead of schedule.
“If we had to hire out the labor, there was no way the library could have afforded it,” Hennessey said.
He’s very proud of how much the library has grown and developed over the past few years – much of it a credit to those who support it through volunteer efforts.
“There has been a lot accomplished in the last five years,” he reiterated. “The reading room has been finished, the mural painted. We developed a logo. We have a really good enthusiastic group of people supporting the library.”
The library’s mission is to be “a vibrant community center meeting the information needs of all Lanesboro area residents,” according to its website.
Without the volunteers helping create that vibrant community, it would be much more difficult for the library to meet its full potential.
Having a “volunteer volunteer coordinator” to manage those wishing to help support the library gives the staff the chance to focus on providing great resources and programs for the community.