REGIONAL ROUNDUP Volunteers are considered vital to area libraries

LANESBORO -- While Drue Fergison applauds and appreciates all the hours and money volunteers have given to the Lanesboro Public Library, she said her library is not unique.

She's right.

Officials with Southeastern Libraries Cooperating said its 36 libraries in 11 southeastern Minnesota counties also rely on volunteers to raise money, read to tots, and do other chores and services.

With government budgets stretched thin, those volunteers are even more vital, they said. No one really knows how many volunteers there are and how much money or time they give, they said. But it's a lot.

It doesn't replace regular staff, however, said Judith Jordan, who does public relations and marketing for SELCO. "Volunteers are an incredible add on …; but the volunteers aren't taking over basic library functions like circulating books," she said. "It isn't the best situation when funding bodies decide volunteeers can take on the function of trained professional staff."


Some examples of the volunteers:

In Kasson, the library is committed to a summer reading program. In its finale last summer, 15 to 20 volunteers dressed up for the tropical theme and staffed areas where children could play games and earn prizes.

In Houston, 42 volunteers from age 6 to 74 spent 333 hours painting a mural on one side of the library building. They also raised $5,000 with a play and auction of decorated chairs.

In Red Wing, volunteers go into the local jail to bring library services to inmates.

"Every library has a volunteer group, and they are all deserving of attention," Jordan said. "They all do unique things."

-- John Weiss

Regional Roundup appears Friday in the Post-Bulletin. If you have comments or news items, call John Weiss, regional reporter, 285-7749.

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