In a previous post I wrote about my work with Color Online. In order to build our library collection, I spend a good amount of time acquiring books on book trading sites. I was recently asked by a book trader how I ended up running a library. I thought I repost it here:
If you know anything about non-profits, you know there are never enough volunteers. I approached the agency about creating a lit group for them. Well, if we were going to be reading we needed books and a place to keep them. You can imagine I was thrilled to learn they had a library. Now let me tell you about the library. It was a room not much bigger than a walk-in closet and it looked every bit like the closet you don't want your guests to see. It was just plain pitful. Full of outdated, cast off encyclopedias and throwaways from libraries and private citizens who I'm sure genuienely believed were good books for reading. Now let me ask you, if you don't want old, tattered, outdated books in your house or library why would you think anyone else would? I get that we are a non-profit. I get we work with underpriviledged youth. But our girls aren't junk. They aren't throwaways, and frankly I was offended by what I saw there. Honestly, I can only imagine the impression it made on the girls. Correction, I don't have to imagine, I know. Nobody was using the library. No surprise there.
So, I gutted it. Yep. I tossed a bunch of classic stuff, too (donated actually). Why, because our girls weren't reading it, weren't likely to read it and space was premium. Well, administration was thrilled with me taking on the library 'project' but of course there was no money for us, so being the resourceful, tenacious, bullheaded really, woman I am, I set out to build a collection that reflected the community we serve. In order to fund our library, I collected cans. Yep, cans. Five days a week I collected cans on my job, posted promotional material everywhere and talked to every person I could trap, I mean encourage to hear me. My campaign picked up and soon I had regular customers calling me to pick up their cans. This is how I funded the first one thousand or so books.
I also created a wish list for us at Amazon and promoted our need via e-mail, blog, etc. I also spent my own money (and I have very shallow pockets) so don't be impressed with what I was able to contribute. I solicited and gained supporters who made book donations and donated gift cards and occasionally monies that were given to non-profit and designated for the library or Color Online.
I created a check-out system, catalog system (very informal and limited, but hey you work with what you got). I worked for almost two years as if it were my second job (ask my family who complained but know me well enough to know that I can't help myself. Thank God they love me like they do). I decorated, organized the space, created a soothing, inviting space. Traffic picked up. I hosted contests, activities, workshops and events. Open House and a seven-day Women's History series was our biggest, greatest efforts.
All good things come to an end? Not really, but in the last year a lot changed and I could not live at the agency like I did. I am finally in a position to re-invent us, Color Online and the library. I have one, committed volunteer/peer. We have no funding. We have more than three thousand titles. We have our shelter residents who are psyched about taking on stewardship of the library so we're back in living color!
I am blessed to have this work. It is my passion and my life. I am committed to serving our youth and with me that means I do it using what I know and love. I previously worked in reference publishing. My clients were librarians. Librarians and teachers are my favorite folks. I am a writer and reader. I use what I got. What I know is that our lives matter. My vision is to help my girls find their voice and make themselves heard.