PITTSBURG — For Diane James, the scent of old books in the Pittsburg Public Library bring back childhood memories.
She grew up in Mulberry and her mother was an elementary school teacher who frequented the library.
“Coming to a library was a function we did quite often when I was younger, and I have very fond memories of the old [part of the] library … I always say there are three places that when I enter, I have memories of childhood,” Diane said. “One is the public library, because of the smell of old books that some people don’t like but I love. There used to be a Kelso Grain not far from here, that’s where we would get feed for our animals and it has its particular smell, and then Bowlus School Supply.”

As the years went on Diane continued to visit the library.

She went to college at Pittsburg State University where she studied business. Diane worked for the district court for 22 years and then finished her career at the PSU Alumni Relations Office.

Now retired, Diane spends her time volunteering, supporting the library she loves.
“I’ve always thought a lot about our library, I cannot say enough about our staff here,” she said. “They are easy to work with as a volunteer, they are always happy to see me when I walk in and if I need any help from them they are always willing to give it.”

Diane has volunteered for Friends of the Pittsburg Public Library for a little over a decade. Of those years, she has served as book sale chair and co-chair. Friends of the Pittsburg Public Library is a 501(c)(3) is an organization which fund raises for the library. The group is most known for its book sales at the library.

According to PPL Director Bev Clarkson, through the proceeds of these book sales, the Friends of the Library has given a total of $102,441 to the library.
“Those donations have funded a great portion of the library’s programs each year—including our entire summer reading program, which consists of over 100 programs for all ages,” Bev said.

The Friends have also funded the purchase of new water fountains, book returns and other special projects.

Diane’s position as the chair or co-chair requires hundreds of hours of preparation each year. According to Bev, the library has calculated — conservatively — the hours that Diane has donated sorting books, attending meetings, and preparing and working the books sales over the last ten years.

It amounts to 3,100 hours.
“In addition to her ‘behind the scenes’ duties, Diane always made working the book sales an enjoyable experience for the volunteers,” Bev said. “Her enthusiasm is contagious and she rouses all the volunteers with speeches about how much the library means to the community.  
“Diane also enlisted her husband Donnie in assisting in the setup and working the book sales. Donnie and his ‘golden dolly’ have literally transported tons of books to happy book sale customers.”

Diane attributed the funds raised as the hard work of the group and the staff of the library.

It was Kathy Stuckey — who was chair before Diane — who helped pave the way, Diane said.
“She really led me in the direction that enabled me to be able to take it on and do what needed to be done,” Diane said.

Diane also praised Friends board members Elizabeth Smith and Bev Mitchelson for being “extremely good helpers.”
“They came in every week to help me on Fridays to sort the books,” Diane said.

She also credited her husband for his help at the library.
“I couldn’t have done it without him, especially at the time of the book sales,” Diane said. “He would help me set up shelving and tables and put signs up, and during the sales anything that needed to be done he would do.”

Because of her efforts, Clarkson nominated Diane for the Friends of Kansas Libraries Outstanding Individual Award, which Diane then received.
“I’m extremely honored,” Diane said. “I don’t think I’ve done anything extraordinary, I just followed my heart and I enjoy volunteering and I love the library.
“What a better place to put my time and energy?”

Diane thanked Bev Clarkson and PPL Assistant Director AnnDee Peterson, “who have been a great help,” she said.
“I think we have the best staff and a wonderful library for a community this size, it does more for our community than people understand,” Diane said, adding people from different areas of the community benefit from the library. “Being a volunteer, I feel good about what I’m doing because I know it helps someone else.”

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. To nominate someone for Patrick's People send an email to patrickspeople@morningsun.net