Volunteer of the Year: Gwen Adams

Gwen Adams

From Circulation to the Friends of the Library, the ESL & Literacy Office to Kids’ World, volunteers help across the board at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, providing essential support needed for library services all year long. 

It is thanks to the contributions from volunteers like Gwen Adams that allow the library to be what it is today. Adams is the library’s 2023 Volunteer of the Year, contributing 630 hours of service in 2023. She is also being recognized for achieving volunteer milestones for both 3,500 and 4,000 hours of service.

The library world has always played a huge role in Adams’ life. She developed a passion for reading at an early age, earned a master’s degree in Library and Information Science and built her career working at a corporate library in Chicago. 

After her retirement, she discovered a passion for volunteering, which began with serving on the Friends of the Library (FOL) board for 10 years as Publicity Chair. 

“[Retiring] gave me the opportunity to finally come out and give back to the community, which is hard to do when you're commuting from 7 to 7. You pretty much commute, work, eat, sleep, repeat,” Adams said. “I had met some of the people that were working down in the Friends Room and I knew that they needed somebody to do a job on the board. So, when I told the president, she said come to the next meeting and that was it.” 

Now 20 years later, Adams is just as active in her volunteer work, constantly leaving a positive, energetic impression.

“When there’s a need, Gwen is there to help. Whether we need assistance directing movers for the sale, or have a huge donation to sort through, Gwen comes over to help get the job done,” said Friends of the Library volunteer Allison Anderson. “Gwen is fun to work with and very dependable. Fellow volunteers enjoy her quick wit and quirky sense of humor.” 

These days, Adams works in the Friends Room sorting donations and oversees the cleaning and boxing of music CDs and Blu-ray/DVD movies for FOL sales. Adams also volunteers in Kids’ World where she cleans toys and games in the library’s collection to make sure they are in good condition and ready-to-go. 

“Gwen is full of energy and when she gets to Kids' World, she is ready to get things done,” said Youth Services Assistant Michelyn Sabath. “Gwen goes above and beyond. For example, she will go and check under the bookshelves for any little toys that may have gotten misplaced under them. When we are working, it is always fun to share stories with Gwen [and] it is so nice to know that for us in Kids’ World, every Thursday Gwen will be here to help us out.” 

“How can you not like working in a place like this?” Adams said, recalling her time working as a volunteer. “The staff is great, the people I work with are great and it gets you out and about and keeps you busy. This is a great place to volunteer, you can’t go wrong.” 

Volunteer of the Year is a one-time award given to the volunteer who has contributed the greatest number of hours during the previous year and has not yet previously received the award.

The library also gives out an annual award for Newcomer of the Year to the volunteer who contributed the greatest number of hours during their first year volunteering at the library. This year's award went to FOL volunteer Maryann Hernandez, who contributed 186 hours of service in 2023.

Learn more about the library’s volunteer opportunities at ahml.info/about/volunteer