Queens Public Library's Go the Extra Mile (GEM) Award

It’s National Volunteer Week! Service Takes Many Forms here at the Library, and one of the ways we recognize it is with our Go the Extra Mile (GEM) Award!

The GEM Award is given to those QPL volunteers who go above and beyond in their service and embody the Library’s mission “to transform lives by cultivating personal and intellectual growth and by building strong communities.”

We are proud to name Konrad Antonowicz, a Homework Helper at Briarwood Library, as one of our 2023 GEM Award recipients! Read our interview with Konrad below.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities with Queens Public Library at https://volunteer.queenslibrary.org.


Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm Konrad Antonowicz, a student at Hunter College High School, and I want to build a career around chemistry and physics.

Give us 3 words that best describe your personality.
Curious, Competitive, Efficient.

What was your first memorable experience at Queens Public Library?
I always loved visiting the library as a child, and came back each week to see what new books were available. I think my most memorable experience was reading the Magic Treehouse series as fast as possible, speeding through all the editions the library had in about a week, which was no easy feat.

Why did you first volunteer with QPL? What was your first volunteer experience at the Library?
I volunteered with Queens Public Library because it felt like the easiest and most direct way I could help the people in my community. I think the Library is beautiful in the sense that it is truly the last indoor public space, and one of the only places almost anyone can enter and use.

Konrad Antonowicz

"Konrad is so patient and caring with the children at Briarwood. He goes above and beyond in his service, not just assisting children with homework—he is talented in teaching our children origami every Saturday morning. He initiated a program for us that is so popular, families are pleased. Children at Briarwood are so appreciative of his kindness. We are very fortunate to have him on board."—Susan Paredes, Community Library Manager, Briarwood Library


Can you share your reasons for volunteering as a homework helper and why you felt a need to serve in this capacity?
I think volunteering as a homework helper is very important, both to me, as the volunteer, and to those whom I help. It is a way for elementary school children to get free guidance, almost a second teacher after school, which is hugely beneficial to learning and development. The most memorable moment I have is of a child giving me a Christmas card; it was something I totally hadn’t expected, and it demonstrated to me how much my efforts meant.

Can you name some skills that you have learned while volunteering at the Library, and how they are useful to you?
I have most definitely learned patience and time management while volunteering. A new schedule forced me to become more efficient with things outside of the library, like hanging out or doing homework. Working with kids for a few hours in a row also means learning how to work with them, and keeping my composure.

QPL continues to explore different ways for its volunteers to contribute to the community. What are some new ways you would like to support the community through the Library?
I think the Library’s efforts would be well spent in promoting more special events and classes. While I was in the STACKS program, I really enjoyed the guests we had who would come over to lead an activity or put on a show, and I think more of that would be great. I also believe the community would benefit from even more volunteers.

Give us some tips for anyone who is thinking about volunteering at the Library.
Be open and communicate your availability and schedule, and definitely build a personal relationship with the people and community you are working with.