Sending thanks to all our volunteers

Volunteers’ Week, which is 1-7 June this year, is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering.

As a service we value the contribution our volunteers make, whether they’re teaching children how to code, selecting and delivering books to a Home Library Service customer, helping customers feel comfortable in our branches or supporting children’s reading though the Summer Reading Challenge.

We’re also proud to be able to offer a broad range of volunteering opportunities that are flexible and accessible, with options for students under the age of 16 who are volunteering to complete a Duke of Edinburgh Award too.

Research has proved that regular volunteering can also support wellbeing – providing opportunities to connect with other people, be physically active, keep learning and give to others – which is why we proudly display the five ways to wellbeing logo on our volunteering web page.

Whilst this week is about celebrating everyone who volunteers, we are grateful to the following volunteers, who shared a little more information on their experience of volunteering with our service:

Pat H – Home Library Service Volunteer
Pat N, Home Library Service & branch volunteer

Pat H

Pat H has been volunteering for the library service since 1989. Pat is a Home Library Service Volunteer (HLS), whose role includes choosing, delivering, and returning books, in this case audio books or Story Tapes to her customer. 

Pat told us: ‘I like to get to know my customer through our chats, getting a better understanding of what makes them tick and what they might prefer to read and, in some cases, introducing new authors. I have always been a reader and used libraries so thought volunteering would be a good way to help others.

I love chatting to my customers and over the many years I have been doing this a lot of them became friends, which was and is, a bonus. I remember one of my ladies who lived alone and could no longer get out and about because of mobility issues.  She always insisted I had a cup of tea and biscuit with her. A tray was always laid ready for me with a lovely china cup, saucer and matching plate, it somehow made me feel extra special!

I believe the Home Library Service is a very worthwhile service, it only takes an hour or so about once a month, but you can make such a difference to somebody. My top-tip for anyone considering signing up to be an HLS volunteer is my little book in which I record the books I choose for them so as not to take them again; I also record any they have hated or any requests!’

Pat N

Pat N joined the Home Library Service and Reading Friends scheme as a volunteer during Covid.  She also volunteers in the library at New Milton.

Pat told us: ‘I volunteer in New Milton library one morning a week which involves shelf filling and organising books, preparing crafts for children’s activities, which I particularly enjoy, and occasionally helping with events such as the summer reading challenge as well as other general duties.

For the HLS I select, collect, and deliver reading material in all forms, books, audiobooks and digital downloads, for up to five customers. I enjoy browsing the library catalogue to select suitable books and I love the enthusiasm and the joy receiving their monthly delivery brings to the readers.

Until recently I also had a monthly call with a very elderly lady as part of the reading Befriender scheme (Reading Friends). Although we didn’t talk much about the books the lady had read, as she claimed she couldn’t remember them, we covered lots of topics and always had a good laugh on the call. I found talking to this lady particularly inspiring.

The customers I have met have become friends, sharing their personal history and experiences. Their appreciation of the service is genuine and whilst selecting for them it has opened my mind to reading genres of books I would not have previously considered. If you enjoy reading and meeting people, it’s a very rewarding service to be part of.’

For more information on volunteering and the Home Library Service please visit our website. We are currently recruiting volunteers to help support the Summer Reading Challenge – a national scheme to support children’s literacy throughout the school summer holidays.

Finally don’t miss our Pride Month blog post from Chandler’s Ford Library volunteer Ren too.

Books and me: on my shelves

Volunteers’ Week, which runs this year from 1-7 June, is a time to say thank you for the contribution millions of people make across the UK.

Clive Grewcock, a volunteer for Hampshire Libraries’ Home Library Service, talks about delivering books to readers who can’t get to the library, the importance of a sense of place in books and what he considers as the quintessential Dickens novel

I started volunteering for the Home Library Service just before Christmas when my wife who works at Lymington Library said they needed people to help. At the moment library staff choose the books for those who can’t come to the library and I do the deliveries and collect the returns. I’ve got four regulars who seem to appreciate the service and they all enjoy the books too so the library staff seem to be picking the right sort of books for them. One of my regulars reads a phenomenal number of books and she thinks the service is the bees’ knees. It makes a real difference and I’ll carry on with my volunteer role once my other volunteer activities start up again. 

Book habits
I read anywhere, everywhere and any time. As soon as I could read – I suppose since I was six or seven – I’ve always had a book on the go and I usually know what the next book is going to be too. I enjoyed adventure stories as a kid: like everyone I read all the Enid Blyton books. There was a series I loved called the Doctor Syn novels by Russell Thorndike (brother of actress Sybil) about a vicar who doubled as a smuggler on Romney Marsh. We used to go to the Romney Marshes as children so I loved that sense of place. 

I tend to read one book at a time although if I’m reading something a bit heavy, I might have a lighter book in between but generally it’s one book, start to finish, and then on to the next one. And since I’ve retired my books are 100% from the library.

What are you reading right now?
The book I’m reading at the moment isn’t necessarily typical of what I usually read – it’s a book that one of my Home Library Service users returned last week which caught my eye: The Manner of Men by Stuart Tootal. It’s about a unit of British paratroopers and the mission they were given ahead of D Day to take out one of the guns that swept down the main invasion beaches. Although I like history, I’m not a big reader of war books unless they are written from the standpoint of people involved. This book pieces together the story from diaries and letters from those who were in the regiment and also some letters and reference material from some of the Germans on the beaches. Another war book which has a different perspective is The Dead Man in the Bunker by Martin Pollack which follows the author as he discovers his father’s past in the Gestapo. It’s the best narrative I’ve read of how Hitler’s message was able to resonate with many Germans.

Reading patterns
I’m a regular reader of crime and detective novels especially the Scottish ones. One I particularly like is Glasgow-based writer Denise Mina who’s written two trilogies about people investigating criminals who aren’t necessarily police detectives: the Paddy Meehan series about a journalist which starts with The Field of Blood and the Garnethill trilogy about Maureen O’Donnell, a former psychiatric patient. She often interweaves real life crimes into her books.

Other authors I read in this genre include Ian Rankin, who everyone loves of course, Val McDermid, and Ann Cleeve’s Shetland series. I’m not sure what draws me to Scottish crime novels: perhaps it’s that they use a sense of place very well. I probably prefer Tartan Noir it to Scandi Noir although I’ve read a fair new Jo Nesbos. The Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French is another excellent series – the first one, In The Woods was really very good indeed.

Despite the fact I don’t usually like books with magic, I love the Peter Grant/Rivers of London novels by Ben Aaronovitch which are about a young officer in the Metropolitan Police who is recruited into a branch of the Met that deals with magic and the supernatural.  Again, the sense of place is probably what draws me to it as these novels reference London in so much detail.

All time favourites
Graham Greene is a big favourite of mine but I got to a point where I’d read every single one at least twice, although I have just reserved Brighton Rock from the library as I feel I could read that again quite happily. I usually try to read a Dickens at Christmas. Great Expectations would be my top choice possibly because I did it for O levels but also because it’s got all the classic Dickens elements: you can tell it was written as a serial as virtually every chapter is a cliff-hanger, and a character that disappears early on in the book suddenly reappears ‘Eastenders-style’ at the end. It’s Dickens to a T.

Recent recommendations
One book that’s stood out for me recently is The History of Loneliness by John Boyne. It’s about a devote Catholic priest whose his life unravels around him when revelations about child abuse in the church come to light. It’s a hugely moving book. I don’t set out looking for great writing but when I stumble across it, it really holds me.

Clive was talking to Kate Price McCarthy