The 2017 Volunteers of the Year

Volunteers of the Year

Every year, each of our 24 branches and units selects a volunteer they want to acknowledge as their Volunteer of the Year. From these nominees, one volunteer is selected for system-wide recognition as San José Public Library’s Volunteer of the Year. As always we recognize the great contributions and efforts of all our winners. Join us in congratulating the 2017 SJPL System Volunteer of the Year — Jaximus Park from the Youth Services unit at the King Library.

Library System Volunteer of the Year

Jaximus Park stands in front of a Teen HQ banner to indicate Jax's involvement with designing the new teen space at the King Library.

King Library Youth Services - Jaximus Park

Jaximus Park grew up in the San José Public Library (SJPL) starting at the Berryessa Library when he was 13 and a freshman in high school. He is now a senior and a volunteer at the King Library. At Berryessa, he became a member of teensReach, the SJPL library volunteer organization for teens, and very quickly became an "advisor," setting up the teen Facebook Page and using it to share volunteer opportunities and other fun updates to keep teens involved. Jax then became a member of the Design Team for SJPL's Maker[Space]Ship, lending his creative ideas to how the space should look and the equipment it should have.

When the King Library decided to create a new teen space, Jax was one of the first to volunteer to be on that Design Team known as "The Groundbreakers." He quickly became one of the leaders, and it was no surprise that he was chosen by the team to represent his fellow Groundbreakers at the opening of TeenHQ in August 2016. Since then, Jax has become one of our most reliable, trusted and dedicated volunteers, working with both the Teen and Children's Librarians and helping with our many programs. He is also one of the most important voices in teensReach, always looking for ways to make the library great.

Jax is easy-going, friendly and a joy to be around. The many librarians who know Jax feel that he is a natural leader and foresee great things for him in his future. King Library Youth Services is so proud to choose Jaximus Park as our Volunteer of the Year.

Get to know Jaximus Park

  • As a child...
    I had a serious case of Konglish (Korean-English) and would often combine Korean and English terms together to get my point across.
  • My first job...
    Was being a volunteer at the Berryessa Branch.
  • My fondest memory...
    Is going into my first Teensreach meeting September 2013 and not saying a word.
  • I am most proud of...
    Giving a speech at the opening of the TeenHQ.
  • My biggest challenge...
    Is getting the motivation to get out of bed in the morning.
  • My role model...
    Is nonexistent. I read too much nonfiction to decide on just one.
  • My community...
    Is diverse in every way possible and I love it.
  • Libraries are...
    Gatekeepers to a world of knowledge and perspective.
  • My favorite book, movie, or song...
    My favorite edibles are bagels.
  • I volunteer...
    Because it gets me out of the house on a consistent basis and I can meet the cool librarians and patrons.
  • If I wasn't volunteering, I'd be...
    At home reading.

Branch Volunteers of the Year

San José Public Library salutes all of the Volunteers of the Year who have made such positive contributions to our community. We are truly grateful that you choose to volunteer with the Library.

Headshot of Jane Clear

Almaden Branch Library - Jane Clear

Jane comes in weekly and helps us by making sure our displays around the library are filled and look inviting, she shelf reads so people can actually find the book they're looking for, and she helps us in the back with paperwork and organization. It is so helpful to have someone who we know cares a great deal coming in consistently to help any way she can! Jane helps take some of the pressure off library staff so we can think up even more fun and creative things for the Almaden community.

Get to know Jane Clear

  • I am most proud of...
    My family.
  • Libraries are...
    Great places to find information on things you didn't even know you were interested in.
  • My favorite book, movie, or song...
    Movie - Apollo 13, it shows that one small problem can have the largest repercussions, but that hard work and human spirit can still prevail.

Headshot of Jhoanna AriasHeadshot of Akshaya Karthikeyan

Alviso Branch Library - Jhoanna Arias & Akshaya Karthikeyan

Jhoanna Arias has been a volunteer for SJPL since January 9, 2016 completing a total of 36 volunteer hours. Johanna joined forces with Akshaya Kathikeyan where they developed into a very productive volunteer team for the Alviso Branch Library. Akshaya has been a volunteer for SJPL since November 19, 2014 completing a total of 72 volunteer hours. Akshaya was first assigned as a general services volunteer for the Summer Reading Program where she was found to be dependable and thorough in everything she did.

Together these wonderful young women presented Alviso’s first drop-in play date program where they demonstrated patience, kindness, while being sensitive to each student’s skill level encouraging independent creativity in the form of arts and crafts.

Get to know Jhoanna Arias & Akshaya Karthikeyan

  • As a child...
    • JA - I admired my grandmother's cooking. My first “soup” consisted of Chocolate Milk, Tanbark, Carrots, and Ketchup.
    • AK - I was very social and tried to make as many friends as possible.
  • My role model...
    • JA - My father is the epitome of hard work. Despite lacking the basic financial needs as an adolescent, he has recently managed to open his own company. Working in a partnership, he has sustained the company for over year now - I struggle to eat my vegetables.
    • AK - Are my parents. They inspire me to be a better person every day.
  • Libraries are...
    • JA - Libraries are an armory. The power of people lies in their accumulated knowledge, captured in literature, recorded in libraries.
    • AK - A place to learn, a place to thrive, and a place to BE.

Headshot of Linda Nguyen

Bascom Branch Library - Linda Nguyen

Linda Nguyen has volunteered at the Bascom Branch helping English learners with their writing skills since the branch opened in 2013! Her ESL (English as a Second Language) Writing Class is one of very few in the San José Public Library System. Students have been known to drive across town to attend her class week after week. She has tutored students of all levels with many of her students needing help at the advanced intermediate level or higher. Linda volunteers to promote a love of learning, a passion she takes to heart and brings with her to each class meeting.

Get to know Linda Nguyen

  • My first job...
    Was a summer youth intern at Kaiser Permanente.
  • My biggest challenge...
    Is overcoming rejections and learning to embrace them.
  • I volunteer...
    At the library because I want to promote a love of learning to library patrons.

Headshot of Helen Cox

Berryessa Branch Library - Helen Cox

For 20+ years, Helen dedicates her time and talent to helping the Friends of the Berryessa Library with their fundraising efforts. She is an instrumental force behind the scenes with sorting, selecting and deselecting donated materials to prepare for future book sales. Helen works alongside other friends from set‐up to breakdown on book sale day. Even when Helen couldn't drive any more, she rarely misses a friends' meeting or a book sale. As time goes by, Helen may slow down, but she continues to work side by side with other volunteers to support the library. Despite all the physical challenges, Helen never stops coming to the Berryessa Library to volunteer. Helen's love for the library, her dedication, her commitment and her friendship are truly appreciated by all who know her. She serves as an inspiration for both staff and volunteers.

Get to know Helen Cox

  • As a child...
    I was a voracious reader and visited the Alden Branch Library (AKA Temescal Branch) in Oakland as frequently as my parents would allow.
  • My role model...
    My parents and my uncle who was an artist. My parents gave me a college education back in days when girls were not encouraged to go to college. My uncle inspired me to learn and explore.
  • Libraries are...
    The foundation for the community.

Headshot of Andrés Vásquez

Biblioteca Latinoamericana Branch Library - Andrés Vásquez

Having been volunteered at the Biblioteca Latinoamericana since August 2015, first as a Reading to Children volunteer and later as a Homework Club Coach, Andrés has gained the respect and admiration of the children that he has either read to or helped with their homework. As a Reading to Children, Andrés used his fluent bilingual skills, sharing his love of reading. Later, as a Homework Club Coach, he shared his love of math and learning with children by helping them with their homework in English and Spanish. As an immigrant himself, he has served as a role model to the children he helps.

Get to know Andrés Vásquez

  • My role model...
    Is probably my dad. As an orphan, he faced tough scenarios and difficulties early on in his life. However, it granted him determination to seek opportunities and make something of himself. He is extremely smart, relentless, and what I admire most is that he actually achieved the goals he set out for himself at a very young age.
  • My favorite book, movie, or song...
    I would say that "La Última Guinda" by Rutilio Quezada is one of my top contenders. It's about the civil war in El Salvador and how it changed the life of the main character, Zenaida. I remember that while I was reading, I was deeply engaged in those pages. And I couldn't help but feel the restless anger about everything that was happening in the story.
    I volunteer...
    To give back to the community. I enjoy having the opportunity to help raise the educational level for people with limited resources. To see a child finally understand a topic they've been struggling with is really a special feeling.

Headshot of Michael Shields

Calabazas Branch Library - Michael Shields

The Calabazas Branch Library Staff honors volunteer Michael Shields as our Volunteer of the Year! Michael supports our branch as a Friend of the Library by sorting and displaying books in the honor book sale area and by assisting with the quarterly Friends book sales. The fundraising effort Mike puts in contributes greatly to the library being able to host programs for our community. Michael helps raise money to support a wide variety of library programs. These include the Summer Reading Challenge, and performers for family and children’s programs. Michael is dedicated and works really hard processing an overwhelming amount of donations. He logs his volunteer hours regularly with us as well, which we appreciate. In addition to all the thought and muscle work involved in being a Friend of the Library, Mike also regularly trains new members of the group. Not only can Mike be counted on to mentor new members, he's also a lot of fun and can be counted on for a joke or wry comment to make us laugh. Michael is a wonderful person and we proudly bestow on him this honor!

Get to know Michael Shields

  • As a child...
    I wanted to be a geologist!
  • My first job...
    Was working as a construction worker for my friend's father.

Headshot of Celeste Dier

Cambrian Branch Library - Celeste Dier

Celeste Dier is a wonderful volunteer for the Cambrian Library! She has worked for the branch for six years. She assists with shelving and merchandising, and locating items that patrons have placed on hold. We always appreciate her reliability, friendliness and the accuracy with which she approaches her work.

Celeste grew up in beautiful Mill Valley. She has always enjoyed reading so working with the library is a natural fit! She worked as a newspaper reporter in Menlo Park covering feature stories. Celeste loves traveling with her family and spending time in Lake Tahoe. We are so happy she has chosen to volunteer with us!

Get to know Celeste Dier

  • As a child...
    I liked to read books. I was not athletic.
  • My fondest memory...
    My son being born.
  • I am most proud of...
    The writing I did as a newspaper reporter in Menlo Park.

Headshot of Krystle Dearing

Dr. Roberto Cruz - Alum Rock Branch Library - Krystle Dearing

Alum Rock nominates Krystle Dearing for Volunteer of the Year. Throughout 2016 Krystle volunteered nearly 400 hours of her time to support the branch primarily helping with after-school programs such as Afternoon Snacks, Homework Club, and OneInMath Tutoring. In these positions, she has developed a meaningful bond with the children and parents who attend these programs often going out of her way to provide incentives and support. Further, Krystle is also a trained library service volunteer and can be relied upon to support staff throughout the library. She is both a resource to staff and a friend to the public.

Get to know Krystle Dearing

  • I am most proud of...
    the accomplishments I've made as a volunteer and the impact I've seen on children I've worked with.
  • My biggest challenge...
    Getting out of bed.
  • My community...
    My community is diverse and colorful.

Headshot of Meghna Raguraman

East San José Carnegie Branch Library - Meghna Raguraman

Meghna Raguraman has been a loyal and dependable volunteer with the East San José Carnegie Branch Library for the past year. During this year, Meghna has contributed over 40 hours of community service to our library and will continue volunteering as a Tech Mentor. Her initial duties as a volunteer services participant quickly graduated to a Homework Club coach. Patrons who participated in this program were very pleased with Meghna’s pleasant and patient demeanor, and praised her positive and welcoming attitude. Our branch has decided to nominate Meghna as the “Volunteer of the Year” because of her dedicated passion to our community.

Get to know Meghna Raguraman

  • My first job...
    My first job was as a software engineer at Hewlett-Packard in India.
  • I am most proud of...
    Having come to the US and finishing my masters degree in computer science and able to work for five years here.
  • Libraries are...
    A great resource for people young and old. A great place to meet people of your community and I think everybody should utilize them.

Headshot of Irene Brown

Edenvale Branch Library - Irene Brown

Edenvale Branch happily nominates Irene Brown as Volunteer of the Year 2017, in recognition of her outstanding work with our community.

Irene, a retired teacher and reading specialist, has volunteered since 2015, sharing her extraordinary passion for knowledge and literacy. Irene volunteers for book sales and special events. She also creates and conducts weekly ESL Clubs and children’s programs such as “Enhance your Child’s spelling skills.”

Irene is charismatic and friendly. She connects to her students, respecting and embracing multicultural interactions; She makes learning a wonderful and entertaining experience.

For these reasons, Irene has earned this nomination along with our respect and gratitude.

Get to know Irene Brown

  • As a child...
    I remember the bookmobile.
  • I am most proud of...
    When I was teaching students and parents came to visit me years later to thank me.
  • Libraries are...
    My spiritual haven.

Headshot of Vinni Walia

Educational Park Branch Library - Vinni Walia

Vinni has been the coordinator of our ESL Conversation Club at Educational Park for two years. He is well-liked by our community of users and his commitment is impressive. Sometimes he adds classes to accommodate his program attendees' schedules. Vinni has made a large impact on our branch because of the way he breezes in here and brings so much good will and positive vibes with him. His energy is infectious and all of our staff feel that he exemplifies the most professional approach to volunteerism ever. He is truly an engaged volunteer.

Get to know Vinni Walia

  • I am most proud of...
    My parents who taught me values and respect.
  • My role model...
    Is Gandhi, who taught non-violence and tolerance.
  • My community...
    Is all about "people helping people" and lending a helping hand to less fortunate because that's what community does.

Headshot of Divya Shenoy

Evergreen Branch Library - Divya Shenoy

Divya Shenoy joined teensReach in May 2016, immediately showing resourcefulness by repairing several library puppets. Divya wanted to teach kids to sew, so she used SJPL’s program proposal form to create “Sew Easy” workshops for Evergreen. She identified learning outcomes and built an itemized budget. Her Teddy Bear Workshop series for 8-13-year-olds filled so quickly, she researched crafts and added two new “Penguin Pillows” programs for 6-10-year-olds. Divya’s recruitment and training of other teens to thread needles and to sew on buttons in order to help children to develop life skills while having fun with sewing crafts merits special recognition.

Get to know Divya Shenoy

  • My fondest memory...
    Climbing trees and playing with my younger sister.
  • My favorite book, movie, or song...
    Book: Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, by Roald Dahl. Movie: Despicable Me. Song: "Someone Like You," by Adele.
  • If I wasn't volunteering, I'd be...
    Singing Hindustani classical music.

Headshot of Pradeep Kumar

Hillview Branch Library - Pradeep Kumar

Pradeep has been a volunteer at Hillview Branch since July 2016 and has developed and facilitated excellent Citizenship Exam preparation classes for our patrons. Pradeep is currently studying to prepare for the Citizenship Exam and decided to lead a program to help others as he experiences this process as well. Pradeep is very organized, clear, punctual and approachable. He has developed his own PowerPoint slides for the citizenship classes he provides for our community. Patrons have verbalized that Pradeep is wonderful, well prepared and very informative in his classes. We are blessed and fortunate to have him at Hillview Branch.

Get to know Pradeep Kumar

  • As a child...
    I was very naughty :)
  • I am most proud of...
    Being the first member of my family to achieve a Master's Degree.
  • I volunteer...
    As a way to give back to society. I am preparing for my citizenship exam and as I help others I also increase my knowledge as well.

Headshot of Kathy Boyd

Joyce Ellington Branch Library - Kathy Boyd

Kathy is responsible for the Children's story time on Saturday mornings at the Joyce Ellington Branch. She is wonderful with the children and families. Kathy's animated spirit and enthusiasm is responsible for the growing audience. She and Margaret Fitch alternate months for Saturday story time and lately Margaret has been unable to fulfill her Saturday duties due to illness; so, Kathy has not only been responsible for her own Saturdays but for Margaret's as well. Also, for Joyce Ellington's Volunteer Away Your Fines event, Kathy volunteered all day. She was a huge help not only to the staff but also to other first time volunteers at the library. Kathy is always willing and wanting to help the library in any way she can and for those reasons we have nominated her as our volunteer of the year.

Get to know Kathy Boyd

  • My first job...
    Was a Christmas helper in a department store.
  • I am most proud of...
    Seeing the kids who used to attend my story times come back all grown up to the library and expressing how much they love books and reading.
  • I volunteer...
    Because I want to create a love for books and reading within the kids who attend my story times and help adults learn English. I just really love helping people.

Headshot of Anthony Nguyen

King Public Reference Resources - Anthony Nguyen

Anthony Nguyen is the 2017 KPRR Volunteer of the Year. Anthony began his stint as a volunteer Tech Mentor on July 1, 2015. Since that time Anthony has volunteered twice a week, garnering 287 volunteer hours and serving 294 library customers. As a Tech Mentor, Anthony provides those using public computers, personal laptops and tablets, with technical expertise, assisting in the building of individual computer and online search skills. Anthony enjoys assisting library customers with their technological needs and working with the variety of learning styles and people that come to him for assistance. Anthony says that working as a Tech Mentor has helped him to learn about himself and has improved his customer service skills immensely. He also loves working with library staff, who are always “ready to help.” Anthony relishes giving back to the community by volunteering at King Library.

Possessing a BA in journalism from SJSU, Anthony is interning with Chopsticks Alley, writing articles, currently comparing journalism in the United States with that of Vietnam. Anthony loves all types of music, but particularly punk.

Anthony is smart, engaging, technologically savvy, happy to be here and ready to help. We are very fortunate to have Anthony Nguyen serving as a volunteer with us at King Library.

Get to know Anthony Nguyen

  • As a child...
    I liked to be funny. I told jokes and enjoyed making people laugh.
  • My fondest memory...
    When I was in the 5th grade I won the Courage Award, for how I live my life despite my difficulties with cerebral palsy. I was on ABC and received my award at Flint center, in DeAnza college.
  • My role model...
    My mom. She had cared for me for over 29 years with kindness and thoughtfulness.

Headshot of Karen Andreasen

Partners in Reading - Karen Andreasen

Karen has been volunteering for three and a half years. She serves as the assistant and substitute teacher in the advanced ESL class and also does small group instruction with up to seven learners. On average, Karen volunteers six hours per week and has volunteered over 350 hours. Karen has helped over 200 learners improve their communication skills. She works with very diverse groups and is always able to put learners at ease - which is important when trying to get them talking! Karen is reliable, positive, highly capable and a wonderful ambassador for PAR and the SJPL.

Headshot of Therese Wiese

Pearl Avenue Branch Library - Therese Wiese

Therese Wiese has been part of the Pearl Avenue Book Club for 35 years - starting in 1982. She has been leading the Book Club since 2004, keeping it together even while the Pearl Branch was closed for two years. Therese always finds study questions and links to other book discussions to pass on to her Book Club members, and then follows up the meetings with additional information, or further commentary from the group. The Book Club has spirited discussion both online and in person. Therese has shown a long term commitment to the library, to reading, and to getting others to enjoy reading as much as she does.

Get to know Therese Wiese

  • As a child...
    I learned to read at 3 years old.
  • My first job...
    Was bookkeeping. You are either interested in it or are bored to tears.
  • My role model...
    I have two role models - both of my grandmothers. They were both working women, during a time when women did not usually work after having kids. One was a nurse, and the other was a real estate agent. Despite the fact that they were single parents, they worked because they liked to, not because they had to. They were both strong, independent individuals.

Headshot of Ben Graffenberger

Rose Garden Branch Library - Ben Graffenberger

Rose Garden Branch Library would like to extend our greatest congratulations to Ben Graffenberger, our One on One Computer Help Program Leader, as we select him to be our Rose Garden Branch Library 2017 Volunteer of the Year. Ben started volunteering with the Rose Garden Branch Library five years ago after decades of committed work as a process and test engineer in Silicon Valley having worked for international companies including IBM, HP-Palm GBSU, Palm Inc. Solectron Corporation and EXAbyte Corporation. He is happily married to his wife Janice, together they have a daughter and three grandchildren. Ben volunteers with the Rose Garden Branch Library weekly to provide his sought-after computer help skills where he promotes and teaches digital literacy to library patrons in need. Thank you Ben for your time, effort and dedication to the Rose Garden Branch Library, we appreciate it!

Get to know Ben Graffenberger

  • As a child...
    I was fascinated with the great outdoors, nature, mountain men and national landmarks like Yellowstone Park. I had a great appreciation for the outdoors and regularly liked to visit outdoor, pristine places when able with my family and friends in my spare time.
  • I am most proud of...
    My daughter, a lawyer who has blessed me with three grandchildren and perpetually shows me the meaning of authentic family bonds and connection.
  • My role model...
    Is my uncle Harry Chess who contributed to building the Pacific Crest Trail Route while working for the United States Forest Service. I appreciate the supportive role my uncle had in my life.

Headshot of Dr. Ramamurti Sridar

Santa Teresa Branch Library - Dr. Ramamurti Sridar

Santa Teresa Branch is excited to nominate Dr. Ramamurti Sridar, former IBM & Cisco employee and current SJSU professor, as our Volunteer of the Year. Sridar has been a wonderful presence at the Santa Teresa Branch since 2013. Sridar consistently spends two days a week with us helping us sort and shelve our media items. We are always excited to see Sridar each week. His hard work not only greatly helps staff by allowing us to work on other projects, it means our film‐loving community can find new items they want to watch. Sridar's happy and friendly personality, dedication to his community and our branch, and enthusiasm makes us so pleased to nominate him as our Volunteer of the Year.

Get to know Dr. Ramamurti Sridar

  • My biggest challenge...
    Is being able to maintain my value to the community as long as I can.
  • I volunteer...
    To provide service in my community.
  • If I wasn't volunteering, I'd be...
    Feeling that I would not be fulfilling my civic responsibility to give back what I gained in the last 40 years.

Headshot of Jasmine Shone

Seven Trees Branch Library - Jasmine Shone and Ruth Castaneda (not pictured)

The word Volunteer in the Cambridge Dictionary is defined as a person who does something, esp. for other people or for an organization, willingly and without being forced or paid to do it. This definition does not do justice to our Friends of the Library. We proudly and enthusiastically nominate our Friends group, Ruth Castaneda and Jasmine Shone as our Seven Trees Volunteer of the Year. We found it hard to choose between the two as both are wonderful people that are willing to take time out of their busy lives to commit to providing a service that is valuable to our library and the surrounding community. Ruth joined the Seven Trees Friends in 2015 and Jasmine joined in the summer of 2016.

Both are consistently diligent and enthusiastic about their role and duties. They are responsive to the community needs and also orchestrated a successful book sale in December. If the library needs support, we know we can count on both of them to come through for us. We are very fortunate and lucky to have them and now is our chance to let the system know how great they are. It is with great pleasure that we recognize them for their hard work and civic duty.

Get to know Jasmine Shone

  • My first job...
    As an accountant at a bottle manufacturing factory in India.
  • I am most proud of...
    My cooking and garden and my pets.
  • My biggest challenge...
    Learning to manage time.

Group shot of Anh Duong, Dennis Huynh and Chau Vu

Tully Community Branch Library - Anh Duong, Dennis Huynh and Chau Vu

The Vietnamese Computer Class has made a significant difference in the lives of students on a weekly basis since 2013. The dedication of Chau Vu (teaching since April 2013), Dennis Huynh and Anh Duong (2015-present) is evident in student testimonials. One student recently commented “Anh was really helpful and taught me how to pay my bills online. I’ve always wanted to do that.” These selfless volunteers really listen and then tailor the classes to meet student need. Recently, the regular attendees enthusiastically worked together to design their own class t-shirt. These reliable, energetic and knowledgeable volunteers have done a tremendous job of making students feel welcome and supported as they pursue their individuals goals. All of us here at Tully Community Branch feel that they are well deserving of the volunteer(s) of the Year Award!

Get to know Anh Duong, Dennis Huynh and Chau Vu

  • As a child...
    • AD - I was a little sad. My parents divorced when I was young, so this is all I remember.
    • DH - I liked to draw.
    • CV - I had a stroke when I was 4 months old.
  • My fondest memory...
    • AD - My mom's smile.
    • DH - When I was 13, going to Yosemite Valley w/ my class.
    • CV - My third-grade boyfriend.
  • I volunteer...
    • AD - To grow as a person.
    • DH - Because I have the time.
    • CV - I don't like staying at home.

Headshot of Friends of the Village Square Library

Village Square Branch Library - Friends of the Village Square Library

The Friends of the Village Square Library accept book and media donations and sell donated items in the Friends’ Book Nook and at periodic book sales. They sort books donated to the library and keep the Book Nook organized, tidy, and attractive. They also help customers looking for books in the Book Nook. The Friends of the Village Square Library deserve special recognition because of their dedication and hard work on behalf of the library and our customers. The community donates generously to the library and managing donations demands significant time and effort. The Friends volunteer at the library on a regular basis, giving their time to support the library and community. The money they raise makes a difference to the library and our customers by helping us pay for special performers and program supplies.

Get to know Linda Belba and Sharon Simmons (representing the Friends of the Library)

  • My fondest memory...
    • LB - Is when I adopted my son.
    • SS - Is being pregnant with my children.
  • My biggest challenge...
    • LB - Is not getting angry at misinformed people.
    • SS - Is keeping up with my grandkids (but I love it!).
  • My role model...
    • LB - is my mother. She had a positive spirit no matter what happened.
    • SS - Is my husband. I appreciate his patience, generosity, and optimism.

Headshot of Jamshid Samimi

Vineland Branch Library - Jamshid Samimi

Vineland’s volunteer of the year for 2017 is Jamshid Samimi. Mr. Samimi started volunteering in 2009 and since then has come in every Thursday morning to set up our community room for the Backgammon Club program. He has a large following, which is in part because of his skill in speaking the Persian language, and also because of his dedication in being here every week. There are a large number of customers who have been loyal to this program for years.

The backgammon program is a place and time where mostly Persian senior citizens can count on a few hours of fun and games, and a sense of community and friendship. This would not have been possible if not for Mr. Samimi’s dedication to the Vineland Library and to the community. We are lucky to have him as our volunteer.

Get to know Jamshid Samimi

  • My biggest challenge...
    To have a better life every day.
  • Libraries are...
    Great source for books and information.
  • My favorite book, movie, or song...
    Persian musician Golpa and movie The Great Waltz.

Headshot of Ronald Schwarz

West Valley Branch Library - Ronald Schwarz

We appreciate Ron's dedication and passion to the community. Ron spends a lot of time in the West Valley Branch helping to carry heavy boxes and organize friends book sales, he is always happy and smiling. Ron is a treasure to West Valley. His hard work and dedication has made our branch a better place by allowing us to offer extra programs to our community.

Get to know Ronald Schwarz

  • My fondest memory...
    Is my wedding in Dundock, Maryland.
  • My biggest challenge...
    Is continuing to volunteer with Age-Related Macular Degeneration.
  • I volunteer...
    Because it fulfills me.

Headshot of Norma Miron-Conk

Willow Glen Branch Library - Norma Miron-Conk

Norma Miron-Conk has been the Reading to Children volunteer for at least 4 years here at Willow Glen. She has built some lasting relationships with the children, who now read to her. She is upbeat and optimistic. She regularly reads on Wednesdays and rarely misses a scheduled reading. She can read both English and Spanish and has a joyful sense of humor that comes through when she reads.

Get to know Norma Miron-Conk

  • As a child...
    I remember reading every Nancy Drew mystery book that was available. Now as an adult I continue to be an avid reader.
  • My fondest memory...
    When my children were little I took them to Carnegie Library, our neighborhood library, for story hour. It was an activity that we all enjoyed.
  • I volunteer...
    When I retired, I went to Willow Glen library to volunteer. The head librarian suggested the Reading to Children program. For the last four years, I have been reading every Wednesday at 3 pm to children. My hope is that by leading a reading hour, the children will come to experience the library as ago to place for fun and instill in them a love of reading.


When so much bad news dominates media, reading about (and seeing pix) people who live to make things better for their community, to help others, to spread the joy of reading makes my day.

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