Meet: Kenya Spear a volunteer for the Friends of the Boca Raton Public Library bookstore, downtown Boca Raton Public Library
Q: Have long have you been volunteering with the Friends?
A: I started volunteering in the Friends' bookstore last April, where I would come to browse for books after the Downtown Library Friends Book Club meetings, of which I am a regular participant. (The downtown library Friends book club meets every 4th Tuesday of the month at 10:30 am at the downtown Boca Raton library; walk-in participants are welcome). As a visitor to the bookstore, I found the staff was approachable and responsive, and the prices reasonable. I became a regular purchaser.
I found coffee table art books by Henri Rousseau, Georgia O'Keefe, Chagall, Henri Rousseau and Michelangelo and travel books to places like Haiti, Washington, D.C., Italy and France. And I was elated to find Bright Lights Big City, I Dream A World, Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America, and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, to replace my dog-eared copies. Eventually, I inquired about volunteering, was given an application to complete, and called to attend an orientation.
As a volunteer, initially, I sorted, filed and cataloged books, checked out customers, accepted donations, and assisted as needed. When I observed the History section of the bookstore needed organizing, I requested and was given the go-ahead to label, consolidate, restructure and maintain that area. I devised a filing and sorting structure for the History section that makes it easier to locate books, under headings such as U.S. Presidents, Early American History, Women in Politics, Global Wars, and others. I answer customers' questions and help them search for books. Many customers are consistent shoppers and I regularly suggest books for them to buy. I find the work and services I implement very gratifying.
Q: What's your favorite thing about volunteering at the bookstore?
A: Volunteering at the bookstore is rewarding. In the months I have been there, I have met articulate, informed and enlightened people. I am appreciated and respected. My suggestions are taking seriously, and I think I am valued. In addition to my work in the History section, I have recently taken on the task of re-organizing the CD collection, and CD sales have increased. Together with Jo Ann Aebersold, another bookstore volunteer, we have devised a labeling system for CDs under separate headings, such as Jazz, Opera, Classics, and Male/Female Vocalists. Our next challenge is the children's' CD section!
Q: What are your favorite books that the bookstore sells and why?
A: My favorite books in the bookstore are commonly found in the History section. I enjoy reading about presidents of the United States, and I am an early American and civil war buff. I also like books about foreign affairs, particularly happenings in Europe and Africa.
The Children's section is my next favorite section. I have found books by Tomie dePaola, Ruth Krauss, Mildred D. Taylor, Maurice Sendnk, Arnold Lobel, Eric Carle, Nikki Grimes, Christopher Myers and Beatrix Potter. I purchase their books and share them with students I tutor. Books from the bookstore also become part of the Little Free Library book exchange that my husband, Sam, and I maintain in our front yard in the historic Del Ida Park neighborhood of Delray Beach, built by our grandchildren! Q: What is something people might not know about you?
A: Most people do not know that I am a published author, poet and writer. I have had short stories, poems and essays published in reputable newspapers, magazines and journals. My book, Furious Red, was published in 2009 to good reviews. The book is used in several school districts in Westchester County, New York, where I am from. I have Undergraduate degrees in Psychology, and Sociology, and a double Masters Degree in Reading and Learning Disabilities. After moving with my husband to Delray Beach four years ago, I have continued my interest in children's education by serving on the Palm Beach County School Board, working with classes for autistic children at the Boca Raton Art School, and working as a literacy coach for the last three years in the after-school program at the Milagro Center in Delray Beach.
I also have a concentrated interest in Jazz, and African-American history and art. My husband and I travel frequently to far- off places like Timbuktu, Mali, China, East Africa, West Africa, Turkey and South America to take photographs (my husband is an artist and photographer), and to learn about food, music, cultures, and languages.
Q: What do you think is an underused feature of the library?
A: The Boca Raton Library is an exciting place, and rich with resources. I like the fact that children's artwork is displayed frequently in the library, and I would support and encourage additional activities that enhance young people.