With the hectic lifestyles that tie us down, it is ordinarily a challenge to find time to volunteer for a cause. Volunteering contributes positively to the community and improves one’s mental well-being. Helping other people or an organization keep us mentally stimulated with a sense of purpose in life. Some large projects may need a long-term volunteering commitment while smaller scaled projects require a shorter commitment. Conversely, both types of commitment can help those in need and improve our mental health.
Volunteering comes in many forms. I like to patron libraries and read books and magazines, and thus glad to be a part the National Library Board’s (NLB’s) “Friends of the Library” volunteering movement, which offers flexible hours for volunteers. The NLB is a Singapore statutory board that manages the National Library, neighborhood libraries, the National Archives of Singapore (NAS), as well as a digital library that provides a range of electronic resources. The board implements nationwide initiatives to enhance citizens’ literacy with good reading habit and social learning with interactive workshops and seminars.
Volunteering as a Library Service Steward at neighborhood libraries brings me closer to the thing that I love most – books! Surrounded by the realm of bookshelves triggers the senses. Sorting books according to the classification of book genres train the mind and eyesight to be sharp and coordinated. Woody smell from older books and fresh paper smell from newer books invigorate the mind, akin to how coffee and chocolate energize our senses. Carrying of books and being surrounded by them bring back the good old memories of schooling days. The stimulation connects to my emotions, makes me focus my mind to strive to achieve personal development of being mentally resilience with calmness. Besides shelf-reading, interacting with librarians and library patrons is a valuable experience. As an introvert, this is stressful initially. However, I build up confidence by learning from librarians of the classification of book genres, the various functions of online and offline library services, and understanding from patrons of their concerns. Being able to assist patrons of all ages with knowledge of books provides a sense of fulfillment.
Contributing to the project of Library@Harbourfront’s successful launch on 12 January 2019 was a great experience. I am able to connect with senior and younger librarians and learn of their unsung efforts in daily library duties to ensure smooth operations, as well as project tasks to ensure the successful opening launch of Library@Harbourfront. It is located at the southern district of Singapore and set against the splendid backdrop of Sentosa Island. The spacious interiors with ample seats, fixture lighting, and natural lighting are optimal for reading and hosting programs that support digital readiness and lifelong learning. Hence, the scenic view and ergonomic interiors are a great combination for conducive reading and learning.
Image Source: National Library Board, Library@Harbourfront, Reading Lounge 2 (https://www.nlb.gov.sg/Portals/0/library/gallery/harbourfront/Programme%20Lounge%202.JPG)
The NAS is the official keeper of records of national or historical significance. Volunteering as an audio transcriber with NAS brings me closer to our nation's history. Understand from the perspectives of great pioneers provide a captivating history and enriching learning experience. The Citizen Archivist Project is a long-term project that allows citizens to contribute to describing photographs, transcribing and translating documents and records labels, and transcribing oral history recordings. It is an honor to contribute modestly in transcribing the oral history interviews.
The life skills I learn consequently from volunteering with NLB and NAS are building communication, interpersonal relationships, task organization, and teamwork. This is an opportunity to develop and practice social skills from interaction with fellow volunteers and patrons with the common interests of reading and writing. Dedicating to volunteering – regardless of the size of the tasks – allows one to connect to the organizations and communities and improve the communities’ conditions and one’s well-being as well. With the ideal connection and contribution, we can discover our strengths and weakness; thus, improve life skills that help our personal and professional development.
Keen to learn volunteering experience from the Project Management community.