They’re focused, well-read, and happy to share their talents and knowledge with others. We’re lucky to have so many wonderful volunteers — and happy to share them with you through our ongoing series. Go here if you missed Shirley, Debbie, Chris, Linda, Karen, Johnny, or Ricki.
Meet Alan. When construction on the new children’s wing wrapped up last fall, he was among the small team of staff and volunteers who moved everything from the old children’s area into the new space in just one day. Thousands of books, DVDs, audiobooks, toys and more were loaded onto carts and pushed up the ramp one cartload at a time — and Alan here did a lot of that grunt work.
Thank you Alan! We appreciate you and all the other volunteers who helped with the transition to the new children’s wing and who make EPL a wonderful place. We couldn’t do it without you.
How long have you been volunteering at the library?
I have been at the library since early 2018, going on a year and a half.
[Note: ‘Shelf-reading’ is the task of checking the spine labels on books one at a time to make sure they’re in the correct place on the shelf. It’s both tedious and thankless, but if you’ve spent any time in the children’s area, where little hands pull out and put back (not always in the same place) hundreds of books each day — or looked for a book that should be in the W’s, but somehow ended up in the A’s — you’ll appreciate how important shelf-reading is.]
What inspired you to volunteer with us? Have libraries played any special role in your life?
I retired in 2017 after 25 years in the preservation microfilm/digital reformatting business, where we dealt with libraries, universities, museums, etc.
I was looking for something to do after retirement and saw a call in the paper for a volunteer at the library. I thought I would enjoy it and that it would be a good fit.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I was born in Bethlehem. My wife Sandy and I have been married 28 years and live in Emmaus. We have a son, who is married, and two grandchildren.
The company I worked for evolved over the years. It began as MAPS (Mid-Atlantic Preservation Service), then became OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), then finally became Backstage Library Works — same building, mostly the same faces, but different owners.
The service began as microfilming for out-of-print publications and documents going onto high-resolution film (35mm and 105mm fiche cards). It should be noted that the ‘high resolution’ was provided by the cameras — and the film just recorded it.
There were some really unique historical documents, such as those signed ‘G. Washington’ from when he was a 16-year-old land surveyor, and original concept drawings of Cartier jewelry designs for Fanny Brice.
Some of the newspapers we captured went as far back as the late 1700s (at least the ones I have seen). Some of the bound materials we preserved included first printings of Victor Hugo. There were hand-drawn maps of the world from the 15th century…blueprints…the list is endless.
What kinds of clients sent you material to preserve, and what did you do there?
Some of our clients included local universities such as Lehigh and Moravian, but also Notre Dame and the University of California, to name a few, as well as libraries and museums. Our clients were many and varied.
Preserving the materials on microfilm allows the institutions to preserve the content up to 500 years. Over the years, the service expanded to include digital technology, so we could capture the materials directly to a digital format, or transfer the microfilm to digital.
I was a receiver and materials handler. My job included checking the materials we received against a detailed packing list, as well as inspecting for damage, then notifying the client of time of arrival and condition of those materials. I was privileged to get to see and handle materials with that much history behind them.
What are your hobbies or interests?
I have a wide variety of interests including model trains, American Civil War, amateur astronomy and the Alamo. I also enjoy old movies and movie soundtracks. I took a film-making course at Moravian College and a sculpture class at Baum School of Art.
I was a ‘techie’ in high school and I’ve always had a lot of interests, but I’ll probably never have time to pursue them all.
I do have a few model trains, although I am not a collector. I enjoy constructing miniature landscapes, though. The trains simply give them motion.
I own two telescopes (at this time) – a 10” reflector and a 4” refractor, and yes, I dabbled in sculpture just for personal enjoyment from time to time, but it’s been a while since I did that.
…and since you like old movies, do you have a favorite?
My favorite old movie is usually the one I’m watching at the time. Some standouts include King Kong (1933), Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, The Ox-Bow Incident, Key Largo…any film with special effects by Ray Harryhausen!
If I had to pick just one, though, it would be The Andomeda Strain. What stands out for me in that film is the documentary style and the matter-of-fact presentation, along with what appears to be an entirely plausible scenario.
I do enjoy reading, and I read a variety of different genres and authors — from The Federalist Papers to J.K. Rowling. Right now I’m between historical and non-fiction books and am simply content reading — if it isn’t a contradiction in terms — pulp fiction items on a Nook!
Lightning round! Favorite place(s) you’ve been to:
Acadia Island, Maine
Last book you read:
With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge.
I can make a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream disappear. I realize I may share this talent.
Do you have a special interest or talent that you’d like to share with others? Would you like to lend your energy to the library in other ways? Stop in and ask for a Volunteer Interest form at the desk!
[Disclaimer: the views, information or opinions expressed in ‘Meet Our Volunteers’ interviews are solely those of the volunteers and do not necessarily represent those of the library or its employees.]