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Three Volunteers Celebrate 50 Years with Calgary Public Library

Do you remember what you were doing in 1974? Many of us weren’t even born, but for Nellie, Carolyn, and Norma, it was their first-year volunteering with Calgary Public Library. 

These three women join more than 2,400 volunteers at the Library who helped deliver 14,581 programs to Calgarians in 2023 — building skills, making stories come to life, delivering Library materials, helping patrons explore computer technology, and much more.  

We are so grateful for all our volunteers and are thrilled to celebrate the half-century milestones of Nellie, Carolyn, and Norma during National Volunteer Week (April 14 – 20, 2024). This year’s theme of “Every Moment Matters” resonates deeply with our most experienced volunteers. 

Meet Our 50-year Volunteers 

“I can’t believe it’s been 50 years. I’ve really enjoyed it,” Nellie said as she accepted her 50-year anniversary award. 

Nellie, who is 96 years old, is one of Calgary Public Library’s first ever volunteers. She signed up for the Homebound Readers program at its outset 50 years ago. Nellie took city buses — and occasionally rode her bicycle — to deliver books to readers. She continued to volunteer with the program into her 80s and treasures the connections she has made. When carrying books on the bus became challenging, she started helping with Libraries in Residence. Since the Library started tracking volunteer hours in 1998, Nellie has the most in the Library system with more than 2,500 hours spent volunteering.  

Nellie also has advice for anyone thinking of becoming a volunteer: “Be nice and be yourself.” 

At 91 years old, Norma has also volunteered in the Homebound Readers and Libraries in Residence programs, clocking in thousands of volunteer hours along the way. Norma spent a lot of time in Calgary hospitals, where she shared books and created connections with patients. As a former nurse, she was able to show a high level of empathy. It was an environment she felt comfortable in, and she is proud to have helped so many people. Norma also persuaded her husband, children, and grandchildren to volunteer with her over the years. 

“It’s a wonderful experience. When I look back at all the people I’ve met over the years, I’ve made some wonderful friends. They give as much as I give,” Norma said about the people she helped over the past 50 years. 

The youngest of the three volunteers is 83-year-old Carolyn. She is one of the original Homebound Readers volunteers and continues to support through that program today. 

“Taking books to so many different types of people has been quite remarkable,” Carolyn said. 

In 1974, Carolyn took her son and his friends to the former Georgina Thomson Library for storytime. She noticed a sign at check-out that mentioned the Library was seeking volunteers for a new program. Carolyn knew she would be the perfect fit with her background as a former teacher, and her love of reading and meeting new people. Looking back on that day, she would have never predicted the longevity, or the impact Homebound Readers would have on her life. She hopes to continue with the program as long as she can. 

“I wouldn’t be able to call it hard work. It’s enjoyable work, if you can even call it work,” Carolyn said. 

Thanks to our dedicated volunteers, the Library can continue to connect with and reach members of the community who need us most. Volunteering with the Library can be an incredibly rewarding experience. With our volunteers ranging from ages 12 – 96, there’s an opportunity that’s right for anyone.  

Learn more about adult volunteer opportunities. 

Learn more about youth volunteer opportunities.  

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