Friday, April 3, 2009

Historical Volunteer

Mike S. has a lot of history with the Friends of the Reston Regional Library. An avid reader, Mike found us first by coming to the Semi Annual Used Book Sales as a patron. Then he found out he could get first crack at the books by becoming a Friend of the Library, so he signed up and began attending Friends night. Then he discovered that by volunteering to help with set-up, he really got the first look at the books and could purchase books he enjoyed. The spring after he retired, Booksale Chair Charly K. nabbed him. She asked if he'd be interested in sorting...and the rest, as they say, is history. Mike has been a sorter since then, continues to work the book sales, and has served on the Board of Directors of Friends of Reston Regional Library as well. He's the guy you see on Thursday restocking the on-going sale area.

But wait, there's more! Mike doesn't volunteer only for the Reston Library. He has found a little corner of Loudoun County that needs someone who is patient and meticulous, and has given them his time and talent for several years.

Mike also volunteers at the Heritage Farm Museum in Claude Moore Park in Sterling.  He assists the curator.  A few years ago he was looking for some different volunteer work because he "seemed to be spending too much time at home reading."  A museum job was a possibility, so when he saw a museum booth at a senior job fair he stopped to ask questions.  He had never heard of it and hadn't visited the park, although he kept saying he should check it out.  After doing so he asked for a position behind the scenes.  He worked for about 10 months or so, left for a while to work at the Loudoun Co. Govt. Building for a year clipping articles and through some strange coincidences ended up back at the Farm Museum.

During Mike's first "tour" at the Museum he helped clean and conserve an ancient apple sorting
 machine, transcribed an oral interview with an old farmer into the computer, and filed donated artifacts and annotated folders in the archives. 

Mike says, "The museum has two main archive collections.  One is invoices and postal material from the Waxpool General Store from 1899 to the 1940's.  The store closed and sat vacant for about 50 years from 1946.  Part of it was then moved to the Farm Museum where kids now play with plastic vegetables and old envelopes encased in plastic."

He goes on, "The second collection is the James Smith and family letters and his journal with dates from 1815 to 1872. Mr. Smith was an abolitionist farmer from New York State who was born in Scotland, took over his father's farm in NY and migrated to Virginia in 1849.  Among the largely family stuff in the letters are some politics, some Civil War mentions and much religious sentiments.  The journal contains essays and poems and accounts of trips to the Midwest and Virginia.  I have just been studying how to do archiving and the curator and I will start this coming week to re-number the items.  The old acquisition numbers and arrangement of items do not allow a researcher to work with the material and there's a trove of history there."

Why does Mike do it?  "I love the work.  History is one of my passions and now I'm into it at a basic level, reading old letters and seeing the many companies and myriad goods a general store dealt with.  I'm also seeing how a lack of information on a collection hampers the archiving and research into the material.  The Farm Museum has only four salaried, county employees.  So volunteers are always needed to man the front desk, prepare things for kids activities, clean, plant in the heritage garden and assist with special programs.  The Museum offers classes for elementary schoolers in a variety of subjects and birthday and tea parties for kids.  A bluegrass weekend jam has been
 started twice a month.  Volunteers get a party and free apples at the Fall Apple Festival.  Working with the 
staff and other volunteers is just great and the amount of responsibility and involvement in the work that I get is both amazing and deeply rewarding."

As we've said before, we get the VERY BEST volunteers with 
Friends of the Reston Regional Library! Mike S. is a great example of someone who 'retired' and 'went back to work'. We are fortunate to have him and grateful he continues. We don't have many male volunteers so any men who want to lend their wisdom and muscles are welcome to come join Mike! Everyone is welcome to meet Mike and all of our other fabulous volunteers at the end of April at our Semi-Annual Used Book Sale! You do NOT want to miss this event!

Friday, April 24, 10-5; Saturday April 25, 10-4:30;
 Sunday April 26, 12-3:30

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