by Ariana Bhargava, Sanjana Deshpande and Charlotte Ottmer, Features Reporter, Features Editor, Features Reporter
photos contributed by Transported and Auburndale Community Library
A warm smile and the newest display of exciting novels greets every visitor that enters the fully volunteer-run Waban or Auburndale libraries. While the Newton Free Library is funded by the city and marketed to all Newton residents, the Waban and Auburndale libraries are separate branches that are completely volunteer-run and more community focused.
When the Auburndale branch of the Newton Free Library closed in 2008, the community mobilized to keep the library from shutting down, librarian Janet Linder said.
“When it was closing, a lot of us in the community were very upset,” she said. “But we banded together and we were able to figure out a way to keep the library alive as a community library, volunteer run and nonprofit.”
Since 2009, community members have fundraised and persuaded city officials to support these fully volunteer-run, nonprofit libraries. Both libraries have now been open for over 13 years.
Alice Jacobs, the volunteer director at the Waban Library Center, said that she has been a part of this tight-knit community since its creation.
“We have been able to keep this organization going for 13 years — all volunteers, all donations,” she said. “And it can be done. It takes a lot of effort and energy, but the outcome is very worthwhile. You can meet people in your neighborhood that you never thought you’d meet, and you can feel good about giving part of your energy to the larger community.”
When the pandemic hit, the library actually expanded its services past just lending books. Co-President of the Auburndale Community Library (ACL) Ellen Chu said that despite the pandemic challenges, the library continued to keep its resources available to everyone.
“We try to always be of service to the community,” she said. “During COVID, we were a site for vaccines for a local community housing area, so the residents of that community housing came to the library because it’s within walking distance and they didn’t have to drive.”
Jacobs said that she is passionate about the impact of the library and its resources on young children.
“I just love reading,” she said. “Books are very meaningful, even from an early age. The experience of both reading and being read to is vital.”
Linder said that her favorite part of the job is helping others develop a love of reading.
“I really enjoy helping people find books that will make them happy when they take them home, and I really like being part of this community that runs the library,” she said.
Lynn Slobodin, the ACL activities coordinator, said that the library is always looking to start new initiatives, especially from high schoolers.
“All different kinds of groups use the building, and we are very open to any suggestions from the high school community of ways they’d like to get involved and [ways] they’d like to use the building,” she said.
The loyalty and hard work of library volunteers has enabled the ACL to stand the test of time, Chu said.
“When we first started, we didn’t know that we would be around for 14 years, and now it’s 14 years, and we’re still going strong,” she said. “We hope to continue to count on the community’s support for years to come.”