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Image Of A Manual Typewriter With The Words From The Editor Typed On A Piece Of Paper In The Typewriter

To volunteer

To volunteer: A person who spontaneously undertakes tasks, offer services
 ~ The concise Oxford dictionary

I love owning a dictionary (well, four actually). For me, this reference tool is unparalleled as a place to start when I don’t understand an idea. I can go back to the basics by finding a fundamental definition in order to gain some clarity around what I think a “person, place, thing or action” is.

But, inevitably, a basic definition doesn’t always capture the complexity or nuances of a given concept. To wit: Volunteer.

Last month, the Open Shelf editorial team received a lovely letter of recognition from OLA executive Shelagh Paterson during Volunteer Week. Shelagh thinks that the publication wouldn’t be the same without this group of volunteers and I agree. As a group, we dedicate our time and creative energies to producing a publication that’s engaging enough to be read by folks in many library communities.

However, neither the idea of spontaneous service nor the uniqueness of our team speaks fully to the deep value of volunteerism and what this experience can mean to us individually as well as collectively. Spontaneous service, yes, but in the case of the Open Shelf team, also a long-term commitment to giving to and working well with others. 

In the four years that I have been the editor-in-chief for this publication, my volunteer work with Open Shelf has been a source of personal joy. We’ve had some tough issues to face but, in working together respectfully and generously, we’ve responded well to these challenges and have continued to produce a publication that is (frankly) really good; diverse in voice and subject, relevant, creative, and well written.

Collaborators and contributors par excellence

I like the people I have gotten to know while I’ve been in this role. Folks such as our regular columnists John Pateman and Rhea Smith, the Readers’ Advisory team, Jennifer Brown and her “elementary” insights, as well as Amanda Wilk and John Vincent, both of whom only signed on for four articles in a new LGBTQ+ column and yet are willing to keep writing until the end of my tenure. 

And the list goes on…our culture@work contributors, Sam Martin-Bird and her fabulous podcasts, Kasey (Mallen) Whalley who found an idea for a new column at our presentation at OLA, and Rashed Ahmed, who helped create culture@work. Plus, I can’t leave out the InsideOCULA team (Rob Makinson and Thomas Guignard) who are collaborators par excellence, or Ryan Tucci and Fiona Inglis, who were members of the original editorial team in 2017.

I would like to give thanks specifically to the folks on our team with whom I have worked the longesttheir work is a testament to their dedication, patience and commitment.

Nikolina Likarevic is our deputy editor and I am very grateful to be working with her. What I love most about our partnership is that she can go so easily into the creative, brainstorming flow and then grow a germ of an idea into an article that is virtually print readyno mean feat. I also value her ability to think through challenging problems and find solutions that are sensible, doable and respectful.

Devon O’Leary has a fierce dedication to doing things well and holds the rest of us to a high standard. As our digital copy editor, she really has been our chief “readability” editor, ensuring that the final versions of our articles are clear, grammatically correct, and stylish (i.e., we are applying our in-house style correctly). And she thinks about ways to remove the “bumps and barriers” that can make our workflow less than ideal.

Kelly Thompson has brought her deft touch to relationship building to the team. As volunteers, we have to respect the folks who write for the publication. These volunteer writers give their time and talents in addition to working (full- or part-time), being with family and friends, and maybe pursuing a hobby (and sleeping?). Kelly is able to build strong connections with our contributors that make the editing and publishing process go smoothly for all.

We are so blessed that we now have three new members on our team: Kerry Badgley, Justin Ball, and Kiah Russell. Already, their new energy is making a difference to the quality and creativity of our work.

I am quite sure that folks on other OLA teams are also thanking those with whom they work (because volunteering is work)…I’m just lucky enough to have this forum in which to do so. 

Thank you, merci, miigwech.

Martha Attridge Bufton
Editor-in-Chief, Open Shelf

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

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