2024 Volunteers of the Year – Branches J-S

Joyce Ellington Branch Library – Joan Weagle

Joan presents her biweekly Reading to Children program with compassion, focusing on nurturing confidence and joy in program attendees. She expands the program offerings and creates a welcoming space for families with her lively stories and songs. For inspiration, Joan draws from her experience as a librarian and advice she received many years ago while reading to preschool age children, “If you have fun, they’ll have fun.” Joyce Ellington Branch is happy to honor Joan with the Volunteer of the Year award!

Get to know a little about Joan:

  • As a child… I remember my father taking me to the East San José Carnegie Branch Library when I was four years old. The children’s section was downstairs. My father told me three rules of being able to check out books from the library: I could not write in the books; I could not tear the pages and I had to return the books on time. If I followed those rules, I would be allowed to keep checking out books. I was amazed that I was able to take so many books out of the library at once!
  • My role model... I have many role models. From people I learn about in books, such as Maya Angelou, to people I know and with whom I work, I am inspired when I see people who work with skill and compassion and who keep striving, seeking quality assurance.
  • My favorite book, movie, or song... two of my favorite books from my childhood: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. I am fascinated by construction sites to this day! One of my favorite books as a teenager was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I liked Jane’s sense of independence and her integrity.

Pearl Avenue Branch Library – Keith Ball

Keith has worked at Pearl Avenue since 2019, as Tech Mentor. He comes in very consistently, even in the worst weather. Best of all, he has the patience to work with very difficult customers, with their hard and persistent questions. He has several patrons who come in each week to get help from him. Keith really knows his stuff, and can explain it so that folks with limited computer knowledge can understand what’s going on.

Every single person who nominated Keith spoke about his patience, because they have seen him working with the same person for over an hour, so that they could use their device correctly. One patron comes in nearly every week and asks more and more obscure questions, but Keith talks her through everything, and doesn't snap. It's wonderful! He's also helped folks with strong accents, making sure that they understand what he is conveying, older folks just trying to figure out their email, etc. Keith has been a real blessing for the Pearl Avenue community.

Get to know a little about Keith:

  • My fondest memory... seeing my daughter and then my son being born. With my daughter, they cleaned her up then put her in my hands, and I suddenly realized that I was responsible for this tiny human. Totally overwhelming. And it happened again when my son was born, although I knew a little bit more about what to expect.
  • My biggest challenge... I want to say that every day as an engineer was a challenge - Learning how to balance Life and Job. Otherwise, Time Management and learning how to do To Do Lists was important to learn, as well as learning the difference between "Important" and "Urgent."
  • Libraries are... important. They give access to things that people can't get to otherwise. They equalize knowledge and information that some have, and others do not. They provide a haven for schoolwork, study, and just a breath of quiet from a hectic world. In general, education is the great lifter of people and libraries are fundamental to that, and they provide access to life-long learning.

Rose Garden Branch Library – Mary Blanca

The Rose Garden Branch Library would like to honor Mary Blanca as their 2024 Volunteer of the Year. Mary is the Thursday Tech Mentor, who provides guidance in both English and Spanish. She has volunteered at the branch since 2022, helping countless individuals learn more about navigating technology in a friendly and welcoming manner. The impact Mary has on those she helps is priceless, as is her humor and kindness!

Get to know a little about Mary:

  • My first job... I worked at a bakery! One of my favorite jobs was writing “Happy Birthday” on cakes. I took it very seriously because I knew it meant something to the person who was receiving it.
  • I am most proud of... my Master’s Degree in Mathematics. It was difficult, but I did it!
  • My community... is still developing. I’m a recent transplant to San Jose, so it’s one of the things I’m working on, finding a group of like-minded people. I recently joined a wood-turning group and have found a very interesting community of like-minded women!

Santa Teresa Branch Library – Stephen Gifford

Stephen Gifford is one of the hardest working people that the Santa Teresa staff has had the pleasure of knowing. He is currently one of their Friends of the Library, handling book donations at Santa Teresa Branch Library. Santa Teresa Branch receives a lot of donated materials and Stephen can be found just quietly working every week. The staff feel very lucky to have him.

Get to know a little about Stephen:

  • Libraries are... One of the most important institutions too often underfunded, over-looked and underappreciated. The power of books, media and knowledge will open doors and opportunities to anyone who will invest their time. Libraries support communities and bring individuals into the fold. Providing all types of support to individuals, groups, businesses, employees, job seekers, scholars, students, elderly and families. Where there is a need, the library can help find a solution.
  • If I had a super power... I am not partial or drawn to superheroes. But I strongly believe in heroes – an actual human being going out of their way to help others. So I wish I could help as many people at the time they are in need; whether I knew of their need for assistance or not.
  • If I weren’t volunteering, I’d be... I cannot not volunteer. I’ve always volunteered with libraries, public schools and other charities. It’s in my DNA.

Seven Trees Branch Library – Alexander Zhang

The Seven Trees Library is pleased to nominate Alexander Zhang as their Volunteer of the Year! Alexander has been attending library programs for many years, and in 2022 decided he not only wanted to be involved with more programs, but lead them by becoming a volunteer. Since then, he has been an advocate of education and enrichment for younger generations of children and teens. As a leader of the Chess Club program, he has not only taught valuable lessons and skills to the youth, but takes an active interest in their education and ability to improve each week. Alexander is reliable, professional, and has a calm, patient demeanor. But most of all, he has built strong relationships with the staff, kids, and families, and everyone commends and respects his continued involvement with the library and community. Seven Trees Branch is forever thankful for the support he has given them!

Get to know a little about Alexander:

  • As a child... I attended story time at the library when I was 2 years old. It sparked a love for books and stories which I still cherish to this day.
  • If I had a superpower... it would be to be able to teleport anywhere and anytime. This superpower would allow me to explore the world and its beauties.
  • Libraries are... incredible places to collaborate and help others. They offer a unique sense of community where I can connect with others and feel a sense of belonging.