BATAVIA - Barbara and Roger Palmer say they are retired. But a closer look tells us that these Batavia residents haven't stopped working at all.
Once a school librarian and a fireplace salesman, the two now are devoting their time to community endeavors, as volunteers for a host of Chicago area groups and organizations.
The couple will be honored this month as Library Leaders by the Batavia Public Library, nominated by several members of the Friends of the Batavia Public Library, a group they joined after moving to Batavia in 2003.
The Palmers have been volunteering within the library walls for almost ten years. Together and as Friends of the Batavia Public Library, the Palmers advocated for a permanent space in the library where the Friends could host used book sales, the group’s major fundraising event. The logistics of sorting and storing donated books on the library’s lower level and moving them to the upper level meeting room once or twice a year for sales were proving to be too costly and time-consuming.
For Barbara Palmer, volunteering at the library is familiar work. A school librarian for many years , she works with the Friends and in the Library’s Technical Services department.
The Friends group runs a book sale at the library, the first Saturday of the month, ten times each year. The books are donated by the community, the result of moving, spring cleaning estate sales and leftovers from garage sales. but a few books have values much greater than the one dollar sale price offered on Saturdays.
One gem was a signed, first edition copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in 2004, which sold at auction for $6,500.
After that find, Barbara began researching book values and, under her leadership, the Friends began to train other volunteers how to examine and research books for resale. The Friends now sell books online via Amazon and average 10–20 individual sales per month.
For husband Roger, a love of library work has come to him through his experiences volunteering with his wife.
"That was ten years ago, and I tagged right along with her," Roger said.
Now, he's a treasure hunter, of sorts, searching through piles of donated books to be sold in the Friends weekly used book sale, always looking for the diamond among the rough. Roger digs through the boxes and stacks, and Barbara researches the prices for what he discovers.
"I'm sort of a 'dumpster diver'. It's really neat to find a valuable book in all those stacks," he said. "There's a lot of junk, but there are some wonderful pearls."
And those pearls, along with the one buck monthly sales, have really added up.
The book sale effort funded library reading programs and other library services, as well as to fund FriendSpace, a spot devoted to storage, sorting, and selling place of used books in a once unused space in the library’s lower level. The group recently purchased a motorized cart, so patrons with disabilities can move easier throughout the library.
Barbara also volunteers in the libraries at the Morton Arboretum, Lisle, and the Field Museum, Chicago, and participates in scholarship and development activities of the University of Michigan, her alma mater.
Roger also is a founding board member of Fox Valley Court Watch, for which he maintains a schedule of 50 volunteers who monitor the domestic violence judicial process in Kane and Kendall Counties.
"At Christmas time, you hear the theme of 'the joy of giving'," Roger said. "well when you are working with volunteers, it really is a joy. Everyone wants to be there. Everyone accomplishes a lot."
The Library Leader program was established in 2002 to honor persons who have made outstanding contributions to the Batavia Public Library District.
Nominations for Library Leader are accepted annually between July 1 and December 31. Criteria and application forms are available at the library.
Batavia Public Library will host a reception to recognize for their many contributions to the library, at 1 p.m., Sunday, April 21, in the library meeting room, 10 S. Batavia Ave. The public is invited to attend. The reception will include a brief program and refreshments. Registration is not required. For more information call Michele Martzel, (630) 879-1393, ext. 410.