Originally Published: March 13, 2010 10 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Jan Christman is past retirement age and has other commitments in her life, but she does not plan to stop volunteering at the new Prescott Valley Public Library anytime soon.
Some 30 hours a week, Christman labors behind the scenes in the library's electronic sorting room, ensuring that returned books, DVDs and VHS tapes, among other items, find their way back home at the complex.
Christman, 68, has been married for 48 years. When she's not at the library, she cares for her 18-month-old granddaughter, Brandy, and tends to her seven Chihuahuas.
PV Library director Stuart Mattson said this past week that in his 23 years on the job, he's never had a more dedicated, knowledgeable volunteer.
Christman began at the library in 1999 and, until this past fall when the location moved to a bigger complex at 7401 E. Civic Circle, worked at the old library on the third floor of the nearby Civic Center.
She typically volunteers six hours a day, five days a week, whereas most others in her position work only 3-6 hours per week.
"I love books and I have always read," said Christman, a retired babysitter from Flint, Mich., who often took the children in her care to public library story hours. "My dad and my grandmother always read, and there were always books around."
Before moving into her role as a sorter three years ago, Christman helped patrons check out books. Today, she is mostly out of the public eye in the sorting room, which now features an automatic materials handling system that processes returned items at a quick pace.
"Everybody says, 'How can you do it? It's such a monotonous thing,'" she said. "But it's not. It's like taking care of babies. They're the same, but there's something different every day. It's really interesting to see the books we get here."
Mattson said Christman needed little time to learn the ins and outs of the computerized check-in system, which started in October.
"There's been a lot of changes here, and she has caught on to anything that we've asked her to do," he said.
Linda Bobadilla, the library's circulation supervisor, concurred.
"She just took over and acclimated herself to what was going on," Bobadilla said. "When she's not here, we really notice that she's gone."
Prior to the move to the new complex, the library had 35 volunteers in its circulation department. Now it has around 70, Bobadilla said. This past fall, more than 50 volunteers assisted with electronically tagging the library's approximately 65,000 items with radio frequency identification.
Volunteers are integral to the library's operations. They help folks check out books and issue library cards to new patrons. They also return books to their proper shelves and track lost or misplaced items. Others greet patrons, catalog materials and mend books in disrepair.
PV Friends of the Library volunteers assist in the operation of the gift shop near the front entrance. Others lend a hand with Parents Night Out activities on Friday evenings. The program allows parents to drop off their children at the library for a few hours so they can go out on a date or run errands.
Before the economic downturn, the new library was supposed to receive 17 additional employees. Instead, some town staffers switched departments and volunteers were added to supplement the library's work staff, which currently has about 16 paid employees.
After the move away from the Civic Center, the library extended its Saturday hours to accommodate more visitors. Initially, Christman worked Saturday mornings to aid in the transition.
"I will volunteer until I'm physically not able to," said Christman, a diabetic who also suffers from arthritis. "I'm doing something I really like to do."
The library is currently recruiting volunteers who can work security. Mattson said when the library's Virtual Interactive Room opens, it will require volunteers to monitor activities there. The room will have three virtual reality stations.
"We always are willing to take volunteers, and we still do get people every now and then who fill out an application," Mattson said.
The library does background checks on all of its prospective volunteers. For more information, call the library at 759-3040.