PICTURE THE HUB: GIVING TIME
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
My name is Mike Violano and I've been a longtime volunteer with the Friends of the Westwood library and I've also served as a Trustee on the Board of the Library for about 10 years now.
The Friends of the Library play an important role because it's a fundraising organization for the library. And I've been active in on the fundraising side. I do public relations for the friends. I've worked on Taste of Westwood, which has been sort of a major contributor to the funds that we've raised over the years. As a trustee, I've been active with the number of committees-- the building and grounds committee as well as among the committee that does the strategic plan for the library. We've gone through two of those so far, so almost six years plans..
Volunteering is has been kind of a part of my life for a very, very long time. Dating back to when I was in high school when I was a volunteer at the Foundling Hospital in New York City. So when we moved to Westwood, just about 20 years ago, I always felt that it was important to give back for the benefit of the community.
The strategic plan has been kind of an important component of what I've done with the as a trustee. In my work life, I worked in publishing for the better part of 40 years, I was always involved in strategic planning. So that's something that I enjoy doing. And I think it's important to have a vision of the future and a pathway to get there.
Some of what is involved is getting a feel for how the library and how the community is changing and how that affects the plans for programs and different things that the library offers. We really want it to reflect the needs and interests of the community. So we start out with with kind of a an environmental scan. And then the other members of the board all contribute to what they feel are the things that that are needed. And certainly, you know, Martha Urbiel, Library Director, is is a key driver of, you know, what's needed -- everything from building and grounds improvement to really making sure that the the resources that the library provides are exactly what the community needs.
One of the biggest changes we've seen in the past 10 years or so is the interest and demand for digital resources. It is probably the single thing that has changed the most. Now years ago, libraries were really measured on how many books circulated. But today, between databases, ancestry.com, all the things that people really want to explore and in addition to ebooks and your audio which are becoming much more popular as as the years go by.
We're always looking for people to join the Friends of the Westwood library, and we've been fortunate. We've managed to add about 12 new friends in the last year and a half, even even during this time of COVID. They're very active and helping with book donations and book sorting for the book sale, as well as the fund drive that we just completed for 2021. So when I have a chance to speak with people, I always kind of encourage them if they're interested they should they should join the Friends and the other organization that I do work with Westwood For All Ages -- another very worthwhile cause here in town as population, including me, are aging. I think that's also very worthwhile organization to join. When I joined as an ambassador, I didn't know what to expect, or what the goal was other than knowing that people who are aging in our community may need certain resources, help, advice, information, and those are all things that appealed to me. So we had a couple of early meetings at the library. And and that goes back more than three years ago. And and I just enjoy the the interaction with people who are also ambassadors. But I enjoyed the interaction and worked on a number of the programs that we've been conducting over the years. We're always looking for fresh blood and new volunteers. And I would encourage anyone who's interested to join us there as well.
One of the other volunteer projects that I work on is I'm a teaching volunteer at the Museum of Natural History in New York. I started doing that when I retired five years ago. And it was just sort of a source of great joy because you get immediate response from the kids and these are kids of all ages who come in, I only work with students. We do tours, a bit of various halls and they get a chance to tell me what they know. I try to tell them some things that they might be interested in. But it's a it's a very sort of interactive type thing so you get immediate feedback from people and I just find that to be very rewarding.
I moved to Westwood about 20 years ago, and from from Teaneck, New Jersey. And I just find this to be sort of a great community to live in, to grow in. Find that many of the things that that I enjoy are really just just being part of the community here and and waking up in the morning and looking forward to the day to come.
It's never too late and never too early, to become a volunteer for the community in whatever way that you feel you can contribute. When I first joined the friends, almost 12 years ago, I was surprised because I was the youngest member of the friends at that time. So I would have to say I just find that quite a few people who were up there in their 70s and 80s are very interested in joining various organizations.
And whether it's an organization like the Friends of the Westwood Library, or other activities that we have in town like the Recreation Department's ForeverYoung program joining is a great way to make new friends and meet new people. And I find a lot of the people who live in Westwood are just very welcoming of newcomers.
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