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The Perfect Choice: How Volunteering Can Serve Our Community

Guest Blogger,
teens on a zoom meeting
“It’s really important to check your emails and be active on it. When I first started at the library, I wasn’t checking them every day but I really wish I had because I know they give all of the information on emails about programs, meeting times, and anything relating to volunteering."

Lila Perl is a sophomore high school student and volunteer at her local public library. She hopes that by sharing her experiences over the last 2 years, other teens will be excited to participate in the many projects and programs that each library hosts. In particular, Lila wanted to highlight the Teen Council program which allowed her to discuss issues with others that were important in her community.

How often do you volunteer at the library?

Lila: As of now, during the pandemic, I go to the Robertson Branch teen council meetings every Sunday, and I try to go to Medtalks or career day talks, hosted by the general library community, every Wednesday.

The career day talks are organized by the Chinatown Branch, and they meet every Wednesday or every other Wednesday. A couple of people from a certain career, come into the meeting and give a presentation about their jobs so we can learn more about each field. I just attend the meetings, learn a lot, and log my hours into the library tracker. The Medtalks focus on learning about different careers/topics in the medical field and cover everything from skincare to optometry. The various doctors give interesting talks and are always available for questions.

What are some of the features at Robertson Branch Library that is special to you?

Lila: The Robertson Branch is my local library and I’ve been going there since I was very young. One of the special things about my library and many others is the wide range of programs that they offer. Some of those wonderful programs offer tutoring services for grades K-12 for homework and free printing for students. There is also a study zone in the back, and before the quarantine, there were several programs throughout the month including crafting days and movie nights. Another special thing is just how nice the library is in general, I get a special feeling at the library.

How did you juggle your school life with volunteering at the library?

Lila: When I first started volunteering, it was a challenge because I didn’t have the time management skills that come with experience at the library. By now, I have learned how to manage school with any of the other extracurriculars from volunteering so it’s become a lot easier. If there’s a lot of work one day, I try to make sure I get the most important assignments first, and I make a checklist to make sure I have time for volunteering and school.

Why did you choose to volunteer at the library?

Lila: One day I happened to see a flyer advertising for new volunteers at my local branch, and I thought about how long I had been going to Robertson, and how I felt really comfortable there, so I decided it would be a great place to volunteer. I had done some volunteering for non-profit activities at my school, but I hadn’t done a long-term commitment volunteering before Robertson

What were some of the positives you learned about volunteering in the first meeting?

Lila: In the first meeting, We got to meet some experienced volunteers and they explained that volunteers get to learn from other students and build a sense of community by working together on projects and helping out at the library. On that same day, I was taken around the library and shown the basics of being a volunteer. There was a lot to learn but it was all exciting at the same time.

What advice do you wish you had known before you started volunteering?

Lila: “It’s really important to check your emails and be active on it.” When I first started at the library, I wasn’t checking them every day but I really wish I had because I know they give all of the information on emails about programs, meeting times, and anything relating to volunteering.

What are Teen Council meetings?

Lila: The meetings are every Sunday from 4-5 p.m. Normally we talk about what we’ve been up to and any project ideas we have, or what we want to work on next. The Teen council meeting before the pandemic was on a weekday, a few hours after school, and it was the same as now just in person.

How did you learn what you wanted to do at the library?

Lila: As a group in the teen council, We brainstormed about current issues we were facing including mental health and the environment. The first project we focused on was homelessness because we felt that was the most important issue in our current situation. Our librarian Dawn, the head of teen volunteering at Robertson, helped all of us brainstorm and choose how to tackle the issues. We discuss the housing issue, research the project, and speak with advocacy groups.

It was a really meaningful project for me because it was eye-opening to see how we could help and give back to our community. Another project we did in Council was on anti-racism. We did research and all chose a sub-topic and used Canva to make Instagram posts that went up weekly to raise awareness about anti-racism.

What were some of the activities you participated in outside of teen council?

Lila: Before the quarantine, there were weekly or seasonal programs that we could participate in. For example, there was a program in December where teen volunteers got to read to children and connect with kids. Teen volunteers also get a chance to work with a lot of kids in other weekly activities like the sewing project and a project on iMovie mini-movies. The sewing was new to all of us, so it was difficult to learn but I focused on helping the kids with questions and supplies.

Our upcoming tutoring project

Lila: As a sophomore, I still have 3 more years to volunteer at the library so I hope we can do a lot more projects and gain experiences through them. I’m excited about our next project focusing on tutoring; volunteers will get a chance to tutor students in the subject they know best. My subject is history and it would be really nice to help struggling students.

The library welcomes middle and high school student volunteers ages 12-19 to participate in Teen Council and high school students ages 14-19 as Teen Volunteers.

teen volunteer Nathan Han

My small bio: Nathan Han is a junior in high school and a teen volunteer at the Sherman Oaks Public Library. He decided to interview other volunteers with previous experience to help new students who were interested but unsure where to start. With help from his wonderful librarians, Nathan hopes to bring in many new volunteers.