For Bonnie Gerken, the only thing that compares to the joy working at a library is volunteering at a library.
The recipient of the Governor’s 2018 Volunteer Service Award for Education should know, she’s done plenty of both.
Twenty years at Sno-Isle Libraries and 14 years at libraries in Colorado and western Washington before that weren’t enough. Since her retirement in 2009, Gerken has been volunteering at the Lynnwood Library near her home.
“I just enjoy the library and being able to help,” said Gerken, who generally volunteers twice a week at the library.
Gerken retired as head of Sno-Isle Libraries “Wheels” department, overseeing bookmobile and other mobile library services. In her other librarian roles, she has focused on children and teen customers. Her experience in those areas helps shape her volunteer duties.
“Bonnie is best known for her beautiful display boards and cases in the library,” said one Lynnwood Library staff member. “You can see Bonnie’s influence as soon as you walk in the door, but you will never hear her.”
Gerken adopted the two bulletin boards and display cases in the Children’s and Teens sections several years ago.
Starting months in advance, Gerken coordinates with the librarians to ensure alignment with the Library’s current youth program themes and goals. Then, doing the prep work at home, Gerken likes to arrive early with boxes of materials to create the displays that are joyful, engaging and inventive. Her displays are well-known for sparking conversations between customers and library staff.
“She has so many cool things, and then it all happens so seamlessly,” a staff member said.
Gerken doesn’t mind doing whatever is needed during her volunteer time. Sometimes that’s shelving library materials or just tidying up the library before the first customers arrive. Year-round, Gerken helps with various science and technology programs. During the summer, she lends a helping hand to the children’s summer reading programs.
The Governor’s Award shines a light on the normally quiet Gerken. She recently attended an award ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia and was honored on the field at a Mariners game.
“I encourage all Washingtonians to join me in thanking these individuals who answer the call to serve,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “These volunteers are helping to build a better Washington for current and future generations. Without their gifts of time, talent and resources, our communities would not be as successful and vibrant as they are today.”
Attention or not, Gerken said she plans to continue volunteering at the library, helping in any way she can.
More local volunteers
Other local recipients of the 2018 Governor’s Service Awards are:
- Amy Howell, Marysville Community Food Bank, Human Services category, Marysville
- Myra Rintamaki, Heroes’ Café, Veteran category, Lynnwood
- Mary Toews, Mari’s Place for the Arts, Arts & Culture category, Everett