It’s National Volunteer Week! Service Takes Many Forms here at the Library, and this year we want to highlight the winners of the Friends of QPL Shining Star Award.
The Shining Star Award is given to individual Friends members that demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities that inspire and motivate others to action; and groups that exemplify a collaborative spirit and strive to work together to provide ideas, resources, and opportunities that uplift their community.
Here's our conversation with Shining Star Award recipient Annette Tow, Treasurer of the Friends of Flushing Library. Learn about her beginnings with the group, her experiences during her tenure, and what lies ahead for the Friends of Flushing Library.
When did you first become involved with the Friends of QPL?
What attracted you to becoming involved with the Friends of QPL?
As a "book reader" and a "bookshelf browser" of "what can I learn today," I have an opportunity to pay back, as well as pay forward, by reinforcing the value and importance of a regional community library.
Why are the Friends of QPL an asset to your community or neighborhood?
The Friends offer an opportunity to have a voice in how/where the community will grow. Library personnel are not necessarily residents of the branch's community, so their values and how they view a community library can be different from a neighborhood resident.
What have been your proudest moments to date during your time as a Friend of QPL?
In 2003, I was able to coordinate an auditorium multicultural fashion show in Indian, Vietnamese, Mongolian, Korean, and Chinese. And in 2012, we held a successful summer STEAM program for 30+ elementary school-age children. During the program, 10 high school students were used as presenters. They learned practical task management, oral communication, and how to create effective visual presentations. Several business community leaders contributed funds as program sponsors.
Why was it important for you to remain actively involved with the Friends throughout the past two years during the height of the pandemic?
Pride in being a long-time Flushing resident and awareness of neighborhood changes, as there were repeated acts of building vandalism and vendor abuse in sidewalk market growth.
In what ways did the Friends support the neighborhood during this period?
A few members and I developed an informal survival "info" network and a Flushing Library service to select books for pick-up and return. We also helped with reporting any vandalism of library premises, supermarket shopping for food options, inventory, and hours.
With the world changed as a result of the pandemic, in what ways can the Friends (and the library) remain relevant and an asset to the community?
The Flushing neighborhood’s life cycle has changed, and because of its central location, the library can be a source of information to businesses, and offer employment, artistic/cultural, and educational opportunities as effective outreach, especially to immigrant families as well as long-time residents.
What are the benefits of working alongside other members to accomplish your goals as a Friend of QPL?
I have met a variety of people and had opportunities for personal friendships not ordinarily encountered, thanks to stepping outside of our personal spaces.
In what ways have library staff supported your efforts during your time as a Friend of QPL?
Library staff have advised us on what strategies would work and efficient operating methods or alternatives. Also, since the lockdown, building service employees have taken on taking care of the building's plants, which are a signature of Flushing Library.
What would you still like to accomplish as a Friend of QPL?
I'd like to see how the neighborhood and community have changed and how resilient we can be to grow and thrive in this "new normal"; to conduct a survey (public and business) to see how the community has changed and what we as Flushing Library Friends can promote as community outreach, so our residents can recover and move on in their lives.
For more information about joining an existing Friends group or starting your own chapter for your neighborhood library, visit https://volunteer.queenslibrary.org/qplfriends.
If you're interested in other ways of volunteering at Queens Public Library, you can visit https://volunteer.queenslibrary.org.