MEET Nancy Cohen: volunteer, Friends of the Boca Raton Public Library bookstore, downtown Boca Raton Public Library
Q: How long have you been volunteering with the Friends?
A: I've been a Friends volunteer for approximately six months. My friend Betty Grinnan is a Friends board member and fan of the library bookstore, and suggested I volunteer. She knew I would love working here and I do!
I was a docent at the Broward County Main Public Library for many years and enjoyed introducing visitors to the library. People were always surprised to learn a library is more than books. After the docent program was discontinued I became a literacy volunteer for "Each One Teach One" which teaches adults to read, and most recently volunteered for "Reach Out and Read," a program which partners with pediatric clinics.
Q: What's your favorite thing about volunteering at the bookstore?
A: Each day is different in the store. This space encourages interaction between people, and people who visit libraries are interesting. When we help someone find a book they often share something about their own life. A fellow was thrilled to find a collectable edition on classic cars, and told me about his own cars as well as the Antique Car Museum in Fort Lauderdale on Packard Avenue - who knew! But it really makes my day to be on the floor with a child going through the book bins. A little girl dressed as a bumblebee quietly sat through a reading of an alphabet book (the letters all move to a cocoanut tree). Her mother said it was a first!
Another highlight of working here is the surprise of donations. You never know what a box will bring, or what you'll find inside; photos, news clippings, personal letters, and the occasional signed 1st edition.
I have to mention the other volunteers I've met here. The women and men have had varied occupations and have come to the bookstore to contribute something necessary. We seem to be birds of a feather.
Q: What are your favorite books that the bookstore sells and why?
A: Because I'm committed to literacy and believe early readers are lifelong readers, my favorite area is the children's book section. We have hundreds of books - most fifty cents to a dollar! There is nothing more satisfying than to connect a child to the right book. My personal reading tilts toward character studies within family settings. Elizabeth Strout is a favorite and I recently enjoyed her novel, "The Burgess Boys." Richard Russo, a Maine author, is another favorite. I picked up, "The Risk Pool," in the store just this week. The great authors like Tolstoy and Gabriel Garcia Marquez make me wish to never need sleep again. For nonfiction I read political biographies or memoirs. I'm currently reading Hillary Clinton's "Hard Choices", and I believe Madeleine Albright's 2006 memoir, "The Mighty and The Almighty," is still pertinent. In it she reflects on world religion and the role of foreign policy.
Q: What is something people might not know about you?
A: I'm one of seven siblings and spent my early life on a dairy farm outside Pittsburgh, PA. My mother was understandably busy and I don't remember having had a book read to me before I enrolled in school. I loved getting books from the bookmobile which came to our elementary school once a week. That's where reading began for me. My husband and I are proud that our own son is growing a reader, too, in the raising of our 5 yr. old grandson (who, by the way, receives a lot of books from our bookstore).
Q: What do think is an underused feature of the library?
A: The one underused feature of the library I've observed is the teen community center. I've seen it quite often empty. On one occasion I passed by and noticed a variety of kids one wouldn't see together at venues around town. It made an impression on me. More fun programing to foster those interactions would be a good thing. When teens do come into the bookstore they are some of the most enthusiastic customers we have. I love that!