Lisa Kahn, a dedicated volunteer at the lives in Yorktown Heights with her husband Howie and their three children. Danielle is the oldest and she is 12. Her twin brothers, Jake and David, are 10. Other ‘family members’ in this busy and loving home, are three energetic dogs.
Why does Lisa deserve a ‘hip-hip-hooray cheer,’ as so many of you successfully juggle work and family? Because Lisa, in addition to her day-to-day chores, driving her children to their clubs, activities, and sports, shopping, dog-caring, cooking, and the countless things that make a house a home, has thrown herself into volunteering many hours each day at the Hart Library.
Lisa joined the Friends of the Library Board a year and a half ago. She said “I was always at the library,” but one day while checking out her selections, she noticed the Friends’ brochure. She took it home, read it, made out her check for family membership, checked the box offering to volunteer, and returned it. The timing was perfect. The Friends of the Library’s Annual October Book Sale was coming up. Lisa was contacted. She agreed to help. The rest is history.
Lisa said, “That's how I first started... It was great since I love books! I got to meet a lot of people in the community that I probably wouldn't otherwise meet.”
Lisa’s enthusiasm, so much a part of her, as are her passion for reading and for the Hart Library, is contagious. Danielle likes to bake for the bake sale that’s part of the October Book Sale. Family members also help Lisa when the donated books arrive in overwhelmingly large quantities, stuffed into an assortment of carriers from large cardboard boxes to grocery paper and/or plastic bags. Some books are chosen for the annual sale, some go to the daily book sale. There’s an area set aside on the porch, and an area inside the library that are dedicated to the daily book sales. Lisa said “these shelves need to be restocked and reorganized regularly.”
Donated books are an important part of the fundraising planned and implemented by the Friends of the Library. Donations are welcome and accepted during the first week of each month.
Lisa said, “The community is very generous in their donations, which is wonderful…”
Lisa’s work with donated books means that she must work closely with the professional staff. Together they attack the huge task of examining and organizing the number and variety of books that have been lugged down to a small basement room and piled one atop another. Each book is scrutinized to determine how best to use it. For example, if a donated book is in great condition and needed in the library’s collection, it is placed in circulation. Lisa pointed out the advantages if this happens. The book could save the library the replacement cost of one that’s worn. It could fill a gap in the collection. It could decrease the wait time for a reserved book.
Even though the library is part of the Westchester Library System, when a book is very popular, people may wait a long time for their names to climb the list. If a copy of the book is donated and put into circulation, it shortens the wait time. A really exciting part of examining each book carefully is that some of the children's books become part of the Summer Reading Club. Children who participate in the club get a chance to win a book as a prize. Lisa joyfully noted “The donated books are great resources to help keep kids motivated and reading in the summer. The ones we don’t use are included in either the daily sales or the Annual October Book Sale.”
Her two words, ‘children,’ ‘book sale’ evoked a teary, smile filled memory of a magical incident at last year’s sale. Browsing through the children’s books, I noticed a boy of about 7 next to me, doing the same. Something about his attention and precision captivated me. He’d choose one book, skim through several pages, and return it to its original place. Almost ready to continue my own search, I sensed a new intensity. He slid out a book on which only the spine had been visible. This time he skimmed only two pages. Closing the book, he hugged it to his chest, wrapping his arms protectively around it. He turned slowly. He looked up at his mother who had been standing beside him. She smiled and nodded. Without a word they walked together towards the table set up for payment.
Charmed by how wordlessly attuned the child and his mother were, I collected my books and waited in line behind them. The child took a small plastic bag, the kind used for sandwiches, now almost bursting with coins, out of his pants’ pocket. As he placed it on the table, some coins spilled out. His mother helped him count out the amount needed. Solemnly and silently he paid and then carefully returned the rest to the bag. The volunteer’s ‘thank you’ broke the spell. I turned to the mother and described what I had seen and how delighted I felt. Smiling, she explained that since his very first visit to the Book Sale, her son had saved money expressly to buy books. I said “A child inspired by the enchantment of books. How marvelous!”
I felt like dancing and crying at the same time. The scene flooded back while I write about Lisa and her role with donated books. Her hands-on-work may be invisible, but the results of that work are tangible, admirable, and cheer-worthy.
How many people think about the volunteers who toil behind-the-scenes so that those of us who descend on the Book Sale can find what we treasure? I want their hard work acknowledged and appreciated. Believe me, it isn’t Lisa who wants credit for her contributions. That’s the furthest thing from her mind.
In fact, Lisa is embarrassed by accolades. I can tell you that she is driven solely by selfless devotion and dedication to the Hart Library. When I asked her to tell me about herself, after all I needed to gather information to write this, she responded by praising everyone else, other volunteers, library staff, her family, and the community. She’d deflect my questions with comments like “it’s the community that’s a great support to the library by making donations.”
Lisa usually works as she talks. She’s often in the midst of unloading a huge carton of books or restocking the daily book sale shelves. When I congratulated her for her hard work, with characteristic generosity of spirit, she said, “We're lucky that we get so many books, and that we have a team of volunteers, who come in on a scheduled basis to help. We've also had Scouts involved with the October Book Sale.”
She gave credit to other volunteers, to members of the Friends Board, to Girl Scouts who helped with the Library’s June Penny Social, to members of the Children’s Room Makeover Committee. I respond with “hip-hip-hooray, Lisa Kahn. You deserve the cheers for your unnoticed work behind the Hart Library’s many successful programs, services, and events.”
Lisa’s reminder: mark your calendars for the 2012 Hart Library Annual Book Sale,
Friday, Oct. 12 through Monday, Oct. 15.