Potomac Library Manager Nancy Benner handed out index cards with quotations about service and volunteerism for patrons to read aloud Sept. 22.
More than just the quotations, the gesture itself spoke to the community spirit, perhaps unique to libraries, that the community had come to celebrate.
Five volunteers were honored as part of the library’s annual volunteer appreciation night, led by Benner, Friends of the Library book sale chair Judy Davis, and Maryland Sen. Rob Garagiola (D-15) and Del. Jean Cryor (R-15).
Smita Sharma was recognized as volunteer of the year.
“Smita represents all that’s good about volunteerism to us,” Benner said. [She] has really become a member of our family. We consider her one of us.”
Sharma began volunteering at the library nearly three years ago. She had started spending time at the library as an alternative to “spending a crazy amount of money” at big bookstores. She quickly became enmeshed in the Potomac Library community and inquired about volunteering. The library staff said they would call her.
But no one did.
“I called a couple of times … I was very persistent. I said, ‘I will help in any way I can,’” Sharma said.
Soon she was helping with shelving and labeling several days a week.
“I’ve enjoyed reading since I was a child. This is the best place for me. I’m lost in my own world,” Sharma said. For me it’s the perfect job. It’s not a job actually — this is something I love.”
The Nanci Natham award, for a young person who exhibits a spirit of volunteerism, went to Winston Churchill High School ninth-grader Rupal Thacker.
Anthony Carter, a 27-year county employee, received a special award this year for his help with the library’s monthly book sale. For several years, Carter has voluntarily picked up boxes of leftover books from the sales and delivered them to a partner sale at Wheaton Library.
Two other book sale volunteers — Holly Nance and Helen Stupar — were honored in absentia.
“It is volunteers like Helen and Holly that turn chaos into order and make our book sale the success it is,” Davis said.
In the last fiscal year, the book sales raised $21,000 for the library, which has supported the summer reading program and other children’s programs, new shelving and furniture, spring musical programs, and more.
“When we first started here … we were in the basement of the bank building. We had as much spirit as that small room could contain,” Cryor said in remarks to the volunteers. “Montgomery County is known for its libraries across the nation … This library stands out frankly as one that the whole world would like to be like, because, not of the books, and not because of everything else, but because of you.”