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An Avid Reader, Young is Happy to Volunteer at Fitchburg Library

August 27, 2018

Fitchburg Public Library volunteer Carol Young cleans a CD-ROM disk, one of the many mundane, but essential, tasks she takes care of to help keep the library running smoothly. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / JOHN LOVE Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

FITCHBURG -- Growing up on her family farm in upstate New York, it seemed like Carol Young always had her head in a book.

“They were an escape, they took me to places I would have never been able to see, because I was a farm kid,” she said.

Seated in the basement office at Fitchburg Public Library Thursday, Young loaded CD-ROM books “on tape” into a machine that cleans them automatically.

The longtime library volunteer admits the task is a dull one -- it’s repetitive, and requires she contend with a machine so prone to breaking it earned the nickname “Lucifer.”

But she knows, from experience, how busy the librarians upstairs can be.

The bibliophile began volunteering in libraries when she was in high school. After graduation, she moved from rural upstate New York to Wenham to study education at Gordon College.

She began volunteering at the public library in Medford, where she learned how to mend old books, and saw the whip-quick pace libraries moved to keep up with patrons.

“I just like doing something that’s useful that other people don’t have time to do, because I know working in a library you don’t have a lot of extra time, ” said Young.

She rides the bus to the Fitchburg library each Thursday, as she has done since her husband passed away. Young also volunteers one day a week at Westminster’s Forbush Memorial Library.

“It’s the satisfaction, it’s the satisfaction of helping people,” she added.

Young found her help in high demand around 2008, when in the midst of the Great Recession former Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong reduced the library’s operating hours, causing the state to decertify the Fitchburg Public Library.

“It was devastating, very sad, but people kept coming,” she said. “They still did a good civil service for the public.”

Young volunteered through the recession, cataloging books and filling in as needed. Library patrons rejoiced when the institution’s operating hours were fully restored, she said.

She paused to open a cardboard box filled with “loaner” books -- hardcover titles the library returns if it doesn’t see much interest from readers.

An avid reader herself, Young said books have taken her places she’d never had the means to go.

“I haven’t been to many places in the world,” she said, “but I’ve read about them.”

The retired teacher sat next to a big brown typewriter, which she will use to catalogue those loaner books on small cards.

It’s an antiquated system the library as a whole has moved away from, she said, opting instead to track their inventory digitally.

Young prefers working in analogue, but noted the library’s range of digital products and services -- e-books, audio books and more.

The Fitchburg Public Library is an integral part of the city, she said. Its summer reading program helps students keep up with assigned texts, and municipal meetings are held in its halls.

“Libraries are a great service to the community, they do a lot of things that are over and above what you think of as a book, in and of itself,” said Young.

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