By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter
A group of teens at the Westwood Public Library chatted enthusiastically amongst one other. Some sat in a circle on the rug folding pamphlets for the annual Harry Potter Night, while others gathered at one of the tables, carefully cutting out letters to spell the names of the four houses.
Although these teens visit the library at least once a week to check out books, do homework, and simply hang out, this particular group meets once a month with Head of Children’s Services Lizzy McGovern as a part of the library’s “VolunTEENS” program.
In addition to preparing for special events, such as Harry Potter Night and Westwood Day, the volunteer teens keep the Children’s Library neat and organized by helping to disinfect toys and claiming responsibility for bookshelves to care for.The volunteers also write small book reviews on Westwood Library card stock to recommend their favorites to library visitors.
If you’ve seen the decorated windows in the Children’s Library, those are thanks to the volunteer teens, as well.
“All of the kids are here completely voluntarily,” said Lizzy. “It’s cool, most of them, when I asked why they wanted to volunteer, said ‘Oh, because the library is a fun place to be.’”
Such was the case with seventh grade “VolunTEENS,” Veda Reddy and Lauren Alden.
“It’s fun and we get to be with our friends, too,” said Veda.Lauren agreed, adding that she frequently visits the library during the week. “A lot of people come here after school,” she said. “It’s like the hangout spot.”
“Depending on the month, they do different things, so it’s not always as fun as decorating windows,” admitted Lizzy. “But they’re good sports about it. They’ll put on some music while they clean and they’re hanging out with friends, so they have some fun.”
This month, the “VolunTEENS” program, which was introduced in the fall, met in conjunction with the Youth Advisory Board (YAB), started and headed by Head of Adult Services Molly Riportella.
“With ‘VolunTEENS,’ this is how they’re helping the Children’s Department, with projects and things,” explained Lizzy, “and the YAB is really for them. So, they can decide what programs they want to do, which books or video games they want to buy. That’s kind of their voice being heard and represented here at the library.”
While the “VolunTEENS” must apply and be accepted into the program, all are welcome to register for the YAB to give their input on bettering the library.
With such a dedicated group caring for the library and interested in seeing it grow, 2018 will surely be another promising year for the Westwood Public Library.