On any given summer day, the Mountain View Library is busy with kids looking for books and movies, sitting at the computers or learning to tie knots or read a compass or play a new game of cards.
And on any given summer afternoon, there’s a handful of teenagers there helping them.
They’re part of the Anchorage Library’s VolunTeen program. Open to students in grades 7-12, the program runs throughout the summer, connecting local teens with neighborhood libraries.
For 15-year-old Callie Little, it was a natural fit.
“I come here every day anyway, my schedule is pretty much free and I want to help out in my community,” said Little, who lives in Mountain View.
She began volunteering at the library for the first time this summer.
The work involves everything from shelving books and movies to playing games with kids in the community room. Little’s favorite part? Helping others enjoy the library, too.
“Usually, before I volunteered, I would come and say, ‘Oh, man, I wanted to have this movie, it says it’s here but it’s not on the shelf yet.’ Now here I am, shelving the movies myself,” she said. “Just today when I was shelving movies, this little kid saw two Scoobie Doo movies in my hand, and they’re like, ‘I love Scoobie Doo! Can I see those?’ And I let him have it, and he wouldn’t have had that to look at otherwise if I wasn’t helping shelve it. So having that really made me feel good.”
Behind this summer’s VolunTeen program is Chanz Patterson, 20.
A student at the University of Alaska Anchorage, he came to the Mountain View Library a few weeks ago through an AmeriCorps program called VISTA – volunteers in service to America.
Patterson, who helps coordinate the teen volunteers, saw the opportunity as a stepping stone toward a future career in social work. So far, it’s paying off.
“This has been one of the greatest summers I’ve ever had so far,” he said. “I’m getting a chance to meet so many cool people and so many cool kids.”
Getting to know the kids and teens who come through the library every day is one of the best parts of the job, he said.
While there might only be 20 or 30 some days, “That’s 20 to 30 kids that’s in there, doing something productive as opposed to being on the street doing something dumb.”
“I always try to look at things like, ok, maybe even if I don’t change the world, I’m working with kids,” he said. “This kid might grow up and be the president. This kid might grow up and be the governor of Alaska, I don’t know. This kid might be a famous actor or a billionaire. You never know what kids are going to turn into.”
In the summer, the Mountain View Library is open Tuesday from 2-7 p.m., Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.