Volunteering  |  22 Jun 2021

A “case of arm twisting” has kept Barbara Clarke busy with books as a volunteer despite retiring from Christchurch City Libraries in 2013 after a 35-year career.

“I was about to retire when I was invited for a coffee with the then Chairperson of the Friends of the Library and the Libraries liaison person,” she recalls.

“Obviously, there is no such thing as a free coffee as it turned out they were looking for someone to take on the volunteer roster for the annual book sale. With all that time to spare in retirement and my background, who better?”

Today, Mrs Clarke is an integral member of the volunteers working with Christchurch City Libraries to raise funds for a range of library-related items and oversee the popular book sale.

“After the first book sale, I was invited to join the Friends’ committee. I went along to the AGM and returned home as the incoming Chairperson. Eight book sales later – including six years of being in that Chairperson role – I’m still on the committee.”

Mrs Clarke says that the book sale is “our biggest fund-raising effort for Christchurch City Libraries each year and involves about 40 volunteers over three days”.

“It's physically demanding work but always a lot of fun watching the pleasure people have selecting their purchases. As you hear many times, ‘there's nothing like a book’,” she says.

The group also hosts a monthly programme of book talks with local and national authors.

“The topics are varied and it’s fascinating learning more about the process of writing, illustrating and publishing in New Zealand,” she says.

“However, our prime function is to advocate for the libraries and just recently we spoke to the Council on our submission concerning proposed changes to library services in the Long Term Plan.”

She finds it “satisfying to be among people who value our libraries and the wide scope of services they provide”.

Mrs Clarke believes that the libraries are the “flagship for Council services” and urges anyone who “cares about literacy and equitable access to information” to join the Friends of the Library.

20 to 26 June is National Volunteer Week. Find out how you can make a difference in your community by volunteering.