It’s National Volunteer Week 2017, and we want to celebrate the important role of volunteers at Queens Library!

All this week, to say Thank You to our volunteers, we will share their voices and let them tell you what their service to the Library means to them and their communities.

If you're interested in becoming a Queens Library volunteer, you can find out how by visiting volunteer.queenslibrary.org.

April 24: Andrea Aronowitz

April 25: Karen Lee

April 26: Gabby Hew

April 27: Aletta Seales

April 28: Paulette Weir


Andrea Aronowitz and Thomas MaxheimerI have been a Queens Library user for over 30 years. When I retired, I saw it as an opportunity to give back to the library, a chance to be helpful to the staff of Hillcrest Community Library and encourage readers of all ages to participate in the joys of reading. I love my time as a volunteer, especially if I'm shelving—then I get an opportunity to talk to patrons, recommend books I have read, or enjoy listening to what they have read.

I have always been a sociable person. I love to meet people, and volunteering at the library has given me the perfect venue to do this. I have met so many different people that, when I walk into the library, I can be assured that there are friendly faces to greet me, especially a lovely young lady who shares my name. She is studying to be a lawyer, but always has time for a chat. Or the retired teachers who, like me, find a visit to the library to be an important part of their lives. We trade information on books that have excited us, share our knowledge, and share the joys of retirement. I also enjoy interacting with the library staff, a great group of folks who value the written word as much as I do. Meeting children and their parents is fun—finding out what books they are reading, what excites them, and getting involved with their choices.

The most satisfying lesson I have learned is that my opinion counts. So many times, I have read a book and was able to share it with a patron. People come looking for me now to ask what I would recommend. Then, when I see them again, I get their opinions. I really enjoy this sharing! For instance, last week I read No Man’s Land by Simon Tolkien; I thought it was an amazingly well-written book. The same day, a lady asked me for a good book, and I gave it to her, and she was so pleased. Now, I’m waiting to find out if she shared my enthusiasm! My time spent as a volunteer at Queens Library is time well spent, and I sincerely hope to continue.

Andrea Aronowitz, Hillcrest Library Volunteer Since 2014. Andrea is pictured here with Thomas Maxheimer, Assistant Community Library Manager at Hillcrest Library.


Karen LeeI volunteer to be the reason that someone’s day is better. I volunteer to be the reason that someone’s belief in the goodness of others is reinforced. I volunteer to be the reason for someone to smile. I volunteer to be the reason that someone feels cared for and acknowledged.

A library can feel like a home away from home, and in some cases be a haven. I feel very fortunate to be a volunteer at Flushing Community Library, which has a huge presence in downtown Flushing.

The neighborhood has many middle-class and blue-collar workers from Asia, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. My family settled here over 30 years ago because so many ethnic groups co-existed in harmony in this area. Our neighbors shared the same goals of hard work, education, and community. For most of us, English was a second language, and parents learned alongside their children. Our library was the hub to bring together strangers and turn them into friends while learning English.

The Flushing library has doubled in size from when I was a youth, and the services that are available now for immigrant families are beyond anyone’s dream. I have helped with a Lunar New Year arts-and-crafts program at the library and taught children about Chinese culture and celebrating that holiday, while tapping into their creativity. Parents and caregivers have told me how much they enjoy having free, safe, and kid-friendly programs at the library. I recall a grandmother who expressed that this was the greatest library she had ever been in. She said she could come in with her grandkids any time to get books and DVDs, and to use the computers. She could read Chinese newspapers, find information, get things translated, and receive other kinds of support.

I have also worked on a summer STEM program that provided science and math lessons to elementary-age children, and teaching experience to high school interns. One of my fondest memories is when one of those children said she was happy to come to class during the summer because the library had air-conditioning and her apartment did not. She said that the interns were nice and she had made friends her own age instead of tagging after her older siblings. What stuck with me the most is when she said, “Everyone loves libraries!”

Karen Lee, Flushing Library Volunteer Since 2013


Gabby HewVolunteering at Queens Library allowed me to meet amazing people, expand my professional experience, and give back to the community. One of the highlights was tutoring pre-High School Equivalency students in the area of creative writing. I loved watching the students become more engaged with the material as they improved their skills.

Additionally, I assisted the Volunteer Services department with web design, newsletter layout, and copyediting needs. I was mentored by staff members who graciously helped me to advance my editorial career. Interning with the Marketing department was also a character-building experience, as I proofed digital and printed materials, created blog content, and shot/edited videos for the Queens Library is for Everyone campaign.

I’m awed by the generosity displayed by library volunteers and staff, as well as the overarching dedication to community-building and public service. I would encourage anyone with a little extra time to spare to give volunteering a try—you won’t regret it!

Gabby Hew, Central Library Volunteer Since 2016


Aletta SealesI serve as a volunteer at the Hollis Community Library. My specific title is “activity assistant.” In this role, I plan and implement activities for children with the children’s librarian and the other librarians.

Recently, I was asked to plan a program for the celebration of International Mother Language Day, which was February 21. The program was a total collaboration between the library staff members and our customers.

Our manager set up a short video that showed the history of International Mother Language Day. A student did research on the country where she was born, Haiti, and shared it at the program. She also taught the participants some Creole words. One parent encouraged the children to find Mozambique, the country where she was born, on our world map, and taught them and the other program attendees some Portuguese words. After viewing the short video, children were encouraged to locate Pakistan on the world map. As a final activity, the children completed a Mother Language Word Search puzzle. They had to find and circle 17 different languages, including Spanish, Creole, Bengali, English, and Urdu. The children and adults worked together and enjoyed the challenge!

I was impressed with the level of engagement, respect, patience, and curiosity. The children were challenged and helped each other. And everyone who came to the program had fun.

Serving as a volunteer has given me the opportunity to interact positively with students, library staff, parents, and adult customers. This specific program exemplifies the appreciation for cultural diversity at Queens Library. As a retiree, I am truly grateful that I have an opportunity to continue to use my skills on a weekly basis as a volunteer. Being a Queens Library volunteer has made a positive impact on my life and the lives of others.

Aletta Seales, Hollis Library Volunteer Since 2012


Paulette WeirWhen I discovered the Central Library Adult Learning Center, every opportunity I had I would bring the message about this amazing program to the people I serve in my workplace. “Learn to read and write at the Adult Learning Center” became my mantra. I had become an advocate, and went a step further to become a volunteer. In my daily life, I continue to find ways to help others—all around me are people who are in need, and you don’t have to offer a lot; small gestures can make a world of difference to their recipients.

I remember my very first student, who could only sign her name. She wrote words, but they were not legible; she kept writing, and I kept correcting. It was many years later when I was able to read a sentence that she wrote. She exclaimed with joy, “You can read what I write?”

Yes indeed, her determination for “higher” learning had risen to a level she did not expect. It was her “Eureka!” moment, and she felt good that the journey she was on came with possibilities.

The love of culture, learning about students’ lives and their interests, and accepting our differences all find their way into our weekly lessons.

As a volunteer, I have developed patience, I have learned not to be judgmental, and I continue to find ways to create an environment for learning. I certainly understand the difficulty in mastering this new “language,” but I have taught the students to work through the barriers and become hungry enough to want to learn more.

Volunteering is in my veins; it is extremely important that I stay mindful of my duties as a citizen of this world, committed to social justice and improving the lives of others.

Paulette Weir, Central ALC Volunteer Since 2014