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Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Volunteers keep St. Marys schools' libraries operating

By Amy Kronenberger

St. Marys City Schools volunteer Linda Opperman stocks books at the primary scho. . .

ST. MARYS - When the school district faced more than $1 million in budget cuts last year and reduced staffing levels, residents heeded the call for help.
Volunteers - mostly mothers and grandmothers who help in their child or grandchild's classroom - have aided the school for many years. However, Primary School Principal Sue Sherman recently touted the work of those who have gone above and beyond to run the libraries and perform other tasks.
To prevent a deficit, St. Marys City Schools board members last summer did not replace several vacated positions, including library technicians and media specialists in each building. Paraprofessional positions, the art teacher at the primary building and administrative assistants also were eliminated.
The duties of the paraprofessionals - supervising students' arrival, dismissal, recesses and lunches - and the administrative assistants were mostly absorbed by other staff members, Sherman said. However, volunteers have ensured the survival of the three district libraries.
"If we didn't have volunteers we wouldn't have a library," Sherman said. "We also wouldn't be able to provide that one-on-one tutoring so many of our volunteers assist with. I'm very grateful for each and every one of them."
Sherman said the library volunteers check-in books using the computer software system and restock shelves.
"We circulate over 1,000 books per month so it takes manpower to keep those books on the shelves," she said.
Sherman said much of the work keeping the libraries open has fallen to Jane Nuss, who retired from her library technician position at the end of last school year.
"(Nuss) volunteers several hours each week and she helps keep track of the inventory - ordering and cataloging new books, taking damaged or unused books out of circulation, running overdue notices for students, repairing damaged books, etc.," Sherman said. "Her assistance and knowledge is invaluable and we are extremely blessed to have her."
High school principal Bill Ruane agreed, adding she makes a big difference by already knowing the students, their parents and the ins and outs of the district.
Nuss said she had no problem returning to help out.
"I love working in the library with the students," she said. "It's my niche. I'm here for the teachers and the students."
The new state standards and the third grade reading guarantee have increased the importance of a functioning library, Nuss said.
"Reading is so important," she said. "Getting a book into a child's hands is the best thing we can do."
Wapakoneta resident Dianna Epperly decided to help this year when her daughter, Polly Ruedebusch, an eighth-grade teacher at the middle school, told her of the need for volunteers. Epperly retired from a publishing job about three years ago.
"We usually go to Florida every year, but we aren't going this year," she said. "So I was looking for something to do."
Epperly helps two days per week and said she enjoys working with the kids.
"I'm only there to help out," she said. "Jane (Nuss) is the one with the experience and knows how to keep the library running. She's been a godsend to keeping those doors open."
Longtime volunteer Linda Opperman turned her attention to the libraries this year.
"I can't think of a better way to spend my time than helping the kids," she said. "It's rewarding knowing that I'm helping and filling a need in the district."
Opperman said she started volunteering with the district seven years ago, helping out in classrooms, when her first grandchild started school.
"When kids drop off books, they need someone to put them back," she said, indicating the stack of books recently turned in by students at the Primary library. "If there's no one here, what would happen? Teachers say they wouldn't bring their students here anymore."
Sherman said the volunteers, ranging from five to 10 in every building in a typical week, have made a large impact. In addition to everyday duties, last week the helpers also organized and ran the annual book fair, a large event lasting into the evening.
Opperman said if anyone is interested in helping the school but is unable volunteer during the day, small gifts, such as everyday classroom needs, can make an impact.
During the book fair the volunteers asked teachers to provide a wish list of items they would like for their classrooms or library, Opperman said. One of the teachers requested a magazine subscription, which Opperman purchased.
"Just little things like that can really make a difference," she said.
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