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Giving Back: A View from the Museum Library

The Crystal Bridges Library

The Crystal Bridges Library

At last count, Crystal Bridges had an active volunteer corps of 681 dedicated, hard-working, and friendly individuals. This post by Library Guide Bob DeGarmo provides a volunteer’s-eye-view of what volunteers contribute to the function and culture of Crystal Bridges, as well as what they gain in knowledge, fellowship, and fun.  It’s also a great reminder to guests to visit the Museum Library next time you are at Crystal Bridges, and not just for the spectacular view. –LD

The Crystal Bridges Library

The Crystal Bridges Library

This isn’t about the view from the Museum Library – we know it’s spectacular.

This is about a big idea we’ve signed onto – volunteering. It’s about how Library Guides like myself  connect with others, how we reach a level of personal growth, and how we contribute to community. Most of us devote three four-hour shifts a week staffing the Library Reference desk on the third floor of the Museum.  Some of us work two three-hour shifts a week in the Library, mostly because we just love meeting people, learning, and giving back. We have all gone through training that taught us about the history of the Museum’s book collections, shelving books by the  Library of Congress classification system, and a host of other important “information seeking” tips.

Do you know how Library Guides connect to others? One of many examples is support for the University of Arkansas architecture students’ Information Pavilion as it enhances the Bachman-Wilson House Installation.  Check out Kirk: a volunteer Gallery AND Library Guide who’s contributed rare and valuable Frank Lloyd Wright folio collections to the Library.  Not only does this important information support the pavilion and Bachman-Wilson House project, but also our broader Museum mission to celebrate art and nature. And then there is Emily, who is meticulous about catching our shelving errors so no one leaves without having located their book; or Craig, who is spearheading inventory of the books; or Cherie, Linda, and Barbara, who come to work on special projects in the library.  There are so many others, each with a special talent and interesting personality! They are all here to connect with our guests, to share what they have learned about this special place, and to pass along a little something new they experience every day in the Library.

We, the devoted, wise, funny, and helpful Library Guides also learn by watching the our Library staff and  guest service professionals like Catherine, Jan & Jan, and Glenn handle the darndest requests, such as  “May I speak with the Director about having the Museum purchase Granny’s valuable art?” or a mother’s request: “Will you cover those undraped figures while my son is in the Museum?” They respond to each question with professionalism, patience, wisdom, and humor.  And they enjoy their jobs.  I believe that is one of the most evident aspects of working in the Library—these folks have a good time.  I never knew this about librarians, but now I do.  Hang around here for a while and you are destined for some good fun laughter along with the learning.

How do Library Guides contribute to the community? The Guides use their newly learned skills to assist Museum guests, students, educators, and community members in their search for more knowledge about American art. It’s about having fun; getting to know all of the third-floor staff, sharing stories with our guests about Museum history, rare books, and how our Library started, and  a few special times we have actually met V.I.P.s who visit  the Library.

The bottom line for or me is that my time in the Library, as well as other Gallery Guides greatly enhances my knowledge and expands my understanding of the possibilities of art as it touches the lives of so many people. I use the many excellent Library resources and eventually pass along my passion for art during guided tours of the galleries I lead. I especially recommend volunteering as a Library Guide to any of the Museum guides, whatever their responsibilities. But to others who may want to become a part of the Museum family—the Library is a wonderful spot to become involved. Visit us in the Library and see for yourself! Click here to learn more about volunteering at Crystal Bridges!

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