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A Source of Quiet Inspiration

The Legacy of Henry & Dottie Swartz

In 1967, Henry and Dottie Swartz began their volunteer service at what was then the Colonial Park Library, a small Dauphin County Library System branch housed in the Colonial Park Plaza. At the time, neither they nor the library knew their service would extend an amazing 40 years. In the course of their long and dedicated volunteering, Henry, an engineer with AMP, and his wife Dorothy (Dottie) became mainstays of the library’s operations. Henry was known to all as the book mending “wizard,” while Dottie performed a multitude of duties, from evaluating books for the DCLS collection or the Friends of the Library book sale, to identifying gaps in the library collection, weeding outdated items from the shelves and pulling items in need of mending to pass along to Henry. Together they saw the expansion of the Colonial Park Library into the East Shore Area Library, now the main library for the system and attended library events, while enjoying a variety of recreational pursuits including sailing and sports cars. In the process, they became more than library volunteers—they became family. And they were mourned as family at their passing, Henry in 1996 and Dottie in 2007.

One of the most notable aspects of Henry and Dottie’s work with the library is how little recognition they ever claimed or expected for it. The library and the work that needed to be completed were their focus and in Dottie’s words, they didn’t “like the limelight.” When the Volunteer Center named them as the Volunteer Couple of the Year, they were pleased, but declined to be present at the ceremony, wishing instead to remain in the background. Similarly, when Dottie was awarded the DCLS Volunteer of the Year Award in 2006, she was honored to be chosen, but elected to have a staff member accept the award for her. Their generosity of spirit and unassuming demeanor was both humbling and inspirational.

Perhaps most humbling of all is that this quiet but passionately dedicated couple chose to support library service for their community even in their passing, leaving DCLS a generous bequest in their will. Those funds are currently invested while the Board determines how they can best be spent to support the library service, staff and building that Henry and Dottie held close to heart.

In honor of their unparalleled commitment to the library and extraordinary 40 years of volunteer service, DCLS has renamed the DCLS Volunteer of the Year Award in their honor. While they may not have enjoyed “the limelight” in their time with the library system, we are pleased to have their memory live on with us in the naming of this award. It is hard to imagine a more inspirational example of volunteering than Henry and Dottie provided.

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From The Information Place, Fall 2008; DCLS ; The newsletter for library lovers and lifelong learners; Karen Cullings, Community Relations Manager

 

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