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Through pandemic, volunteers step up to help meet growing Library needs

Through pandemic, volunteers step up to help meet growing Library needs

Dona Ditri is a Holds Hunter volunteer. During the pandemic, she picked up more shifts to meet increased demand for curbside hold pickups.
Jim Kovarik volunteered in the sorter room before the pandemic. Over the last year, he’s volunteered creating Closed Captions for virtual program videos on YouTube.

When Dona Ditri walks into the Library, she said she feels like she’s home.

“The Library is my happy place, and I just love it. The people, the staff, are so friendly and appreciative,” she said. “And now that the patrons are allowed back in, I love helping them.”

As a volunteer on the Holds Hunter team, Ditri comes in multiple times a week to help staff by searching for materials Library patrons have put on hold.

When the Library started offering curbside hold pickup during the pandemic, demand for the work she does surged. At the same time, less volunteers were available to come into the building in person. Ditri and other volunteers like her stepped up.

“I walk in on Monday mornings, when there is always the biggest list, and I always do a happy dance, because it’s like 30 pages, which means I can stay a couple of hours,” she said. “I absolutely love finding books for people. If the book isn’t there, I will search high and low to find that book.”

She also carries her own list with her – to write down books she finds that she wants to read when they are returned. She started volunteering at the Library after retiring from the Cedar Rapids Community School District. In the first few months after retiring, she said she was reading about a book a day. So when she started looking for a place to volunteer, the Library was the perfect fit.

“I love being surrounded by books; books are a huge, huge part of my life,” she said. “I love to read; I always have. But not only that, I love the welcoming feeling I have when I walk in everyday.”

During the pandemic, some volunteer roles in the building were paused to limit the number of people in the building for safety reasons. Some of those are in the sorter room, where volunteer Jim Kovarik started in 2017. Instead of volunteering in person, he and others have taken on new roles, helping add Closed Captions to virtual Library program videos posted on YouTube.

“I like it. It’s kind of a learning experience in a couple of ways,” Kovarik said. “Just learning how to Closed Caption was a nice little exercise. And on probably every video I’ve learned at least one thing I wasn’t aware of.”

Still, he’s looking forward to the day when the Library is fully reopen and he can return to volunteering in person.

“Lots of people walk through the sorter room, so you get to smile and say hi, and some people stop and talk for a while. You get to learn about them. We get to talk to each other and enjoy socializing a bit. I miss that. I guess all of us have been missing social interaction to some degree over the last year.”

Before retiring, he worked in computers at Iowa Electric and TransAmerica, where he was a capacity planner. He started looking for volunteer opportunities a few years after his wife died.

“As a family, we’ve always been big Library users. My wife was a big user, and then my daughter started volunteering there, and she said, ‘Why don’t you volunteer at the Library?'” Kovarik said. “I was looking for some additional stuff to feel good about doing. If you can’t feel good about volunteering at the Library, what can you feel good about?”

Interested in volunteering with the Library? Visit CRLibrary.org/volunteer or email volunteer@crlibrary.org. 

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