South Pasadena Public Library Director Steve Fjeldsted welcomes the more than 80 people that celebrated the scores of volunteers who make the local library one of the most active in the region as well as the state. Photo by Steve Whitmore

Community leaders, local elected officials and representatives from regional and statewide office turned out en masse last Friday to applaud the more than 150 volunteers that keep the So Pas Library running like a well-oiled machine.

Moreover, during Friday’s library volunteer recognition luncheon held in the community room longtime South Pasadena resident Lydia McDonald was honored as the 2018 Volunteer of the Year.

The South Pasadena Public Library is considered one of the most active and thriving libraries in the region and it didn’t achieve that reputation alone. The bank of community volunteers, set at 185, put in about 9,450 hours last year to keep the local library in top condition, according to library officials.

“This is important because it is the one day out of the year that we honor our library volunteers who total more than 100 and who enable us to so many activities for the community from the library,” Steve Fjeldsted, library director, said just prior to the lunch starting. “There are so many volunteers that do so many things, it varies greatly throughout the year. The library’s open seven days a week and serves the entire community of all ages, of all backgrounds. In order to do the things we do, especially at these times of budget challenges, we need the community support in so many ways and one of the ways they help us is by volunteering.”

Some the programs volunteers make happen include the summer reading Program, the Friends of the Library Bookstore, The Restoration Concert series, Author Nights, Arts Crawl celebrations, the Carnegie Stage Eclectic Music Festival concert, art exhibits, Living History presentations, according to Fjeldsted.

And one of the most dedicated of those volunteers is McDonald, a 26-year resident, who was honored as the 2018 Volunteer of the Year.

“This is a really great honor,” McDonald said at the luncheon. “Especially because it’s something that I enjoy doing so much.”

McDonald said she averages about 20 hours a month at the library, which says is a good community center.

“I think it’s a good focus and center for the community for people to get together,” McDonald said. “It’s not only about books. Although books have a lot of power. I wish the younger generation would be a little more involved but it’s still exciting when the little kids come in and they want to get this book or that book.”

On March 20, South Pasadena Mayor Dr. Marina Khubesrian proclaimed Friday, April 12, Library Volunteer Recognition Day in South Pasadena. Khubesrian also presented a framed copy of the proclamation at the lunch.

The lunch, an invitation-only event, also featured Alan Jutzi from the Library Board of Trustees as the keynote speaker. Jutzi  spoke about Alice Millard,  South Pasadena’s “antiquarian bookseller extraordinaire.”

In 1914 George M. Millard and his wife Alice Parsons Millard moved to South Pasadena, according to Jutzi. After George Millard’s death three-years later, Alice Millard continued their much-admired book business, initially in South Pasadena, and later in a house designed for her by Frank Lloyd Wright in Pasadena.   

“Alan Jutzi has served as a Library Trustee for more than two years,” Fjeldsted said. “Previously, he was employed for almost 40 years at the Huntington Library, most recently as the Avery Curator of Rare Books. Alan and his wife Laurie have resided in South Pasadena for nearly four decades.”

David Uwins, president of the Library Board of Trustees, said the volunteers are vital to the success of the library.

“Your great generosity has had a profound and lasting impact on our library,” Uwins said to the 80 or so assembled in the community room for the volunteer luncheon. “Your willingness to share both your time and your talent by volunteering says much about you. It speaks to both your strength and quality of your character. When you volunteer, you are making a commitment to share your most precious of resources, your time.”

Fjeldsted summed up the importance of the volunteers that make the local library and libraries in general work so well to where they remain a central clearing house for information and entertainment for the community at large.

“This year our country celebrates National Library Week from April 7-13,”he said. “It’s a time we celebrate the valuable role that libraries, librarians, and library workers, including volunteers), play in transforming lives and strengthening communities. If the library’s volunteers are any indication, both the community and the library are very strong indeed.”

Fjeldsted also said the theme this year for National Library Week is libraries equal great communities but he believes the reverse is true in South Pasadena.

“I’m glad that we can do this during National Library Week,” he said. “It’s been a tradition across America to celebrate libraries at this time. The theme this year is libraries equal great communities but I think it works in reverse for South Pasadena. We have a great community that helps make it a great library.”

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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