Charles B. Washington Branch has been many things for Imani Stafford. It started out as a place she visited with her daycare, or to attend lock-ins and other programs. As she grew older, it became the place she walked to after school to work on her homework. Eventually, when her friends started to join her after classes, it became their hangout spot.
Today, Stafford is a junior at Omaha North High School who continues to visit her local branch to check out books, movies and more from OPL’s collection, and also to assist the staff.
“When there’s something they need help with, I’ll usually help out,” said Stafford, who has volunteered at the branch for about six years, since she reached the minimum age for volunteers—11 years old.
The evolution from patron to volunteer was natural for Stafford. While she enjoyed attending library programs when she was younger, she eventually felt she had outgrown them. Rather than stop coming to the programs, Stafford began helping at them. She’s assisted with everything from creating book displays to helping prepare for and clean up after Prime Time Reading Time programs on Saturday mornings. Volunteering led to a paid Prime Time internship last year, and Stafford continuing to help at other programs.
“Imani is always willing to step in, whether to paint faces at a kick-off party or lead a craft station during our maker lock-in,” said Washington Branch Youth Services Librarian Amy Wenzl. “I can always count on her. Whenever she’s assigned a task or a project, I never have to worry. She is an absolute blessing to the branch.”
Outside of volunteering, Stafford also has two part-time jobs—one at the Hope Center and the other at Banister’s Leadership Academy. But for this avid reader, who is usually reading four books at a time between her personal reading and school, Washington Branch will always be a home away from home.
If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering at OPL, visit your neighborhood branch or omahalibrary.org/volunteer for more information.