Dottie & Henry Swartz Volunteer Excellence Award
The Library is proud to honor volunteers that build a stronger community. The Dottie and Henry Swartz Volunteer Excellence Award is given to a volunteer who supports and enforces the values of volunteerism at The Library.
Dottie and Henry Swartz created the foundation of volunteerism at The Library by giving of their time for over 40 years. Learn more about their story.
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 operation. Henry was known to all as the mending book “wizard,” while Dottie performed a multitude of duties, from evaluating books for The Library collection or the Friends of the Library book sale, to identifying gaps in the library collection, weeding outdated items from shelves and pulling items in need of mending to pass along to Henry.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, 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 Dauphin County Library System 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 The Library 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, The Library has renamed the Dauphin County Library System 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.
Award Winners listed by Year
2016 – Joseph Underkoffler
Joseph Underkoffler is a 10th grader at Commonwealth Academy. Once a week he arrives at the Northern Dauphin Library to assist with projects. His diverse abilities have included dusting shelves, picking up, and cutting branches outside the library and program preparation. Since June of 2015, Joseph has given 107 hours to The Library.
Joseph's volunteer activities strengthen The Library's ability to deliver on our mission, by impacting the look and feel of The Library. A clean and neat appearance is known to make Library patrons feel at ease and comfortable. This environment has been proven to impact patrons' browsing habits, and to result in an increase in the number of materials checked out. These positives in turn contribute to each patron becoming a part of The Library family. Joseph has also assisted in preparations for adult programs, including painting cans and cleaning toys in preparation for youth programs. If he had not done these tasks, (library) staff would have had less time to devote to customer assistance.
Joseph has a smile on his face every Friday afternoon when he arrives at The Library. His smile is contagious to both staff and customers. His is willing and eager to do whatever task the staff has ready for him that week. When asked what his favorite activity is at the library he stated that "just being at the library" is his favorite.
2015 – Shirley Covert
Shirley Covert’s main function within the Dauphin County Library System is to provide general library services. Shirley has served at the East Shore Area Library since 2003. She usually serves twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays. Her monthly service averages around ten hours. Shirley has been a member of the Centennial Club (serving over 100 hours in a calendar year) since 2012.
Shirley is one of those regular volunteers who quietly goes about her work, steadily contributing to keeping things on course. She does “lots and lots” of shelving. She helps with circulation workroom tasks like stuffing patron bags with library brochures and other materials for new library users.
Shirley regularly contributes to keeping materials shelved in good order, thereby helping to improve customer service. The sooner that borrowed materials are back on the shelves after being returned to the Library, the more discoverable they are by other patrons. Shirley helps us meet our customer service goal of providing user friendly resources. Shirley “adopted” a section of the Adult Fiction collection to which she devotes specialized attention.
It is because of dedicated volunteers like Shirley that the Library has been able to continue being the wonderful community resource that it is today.
2014 – Jo Sheppard
Jo Sheppard has a long and established history at the Kline Library, where she has been a Friend of Kline Library for about 25 years, supporting it with her leadership and fundraising efforts. She became an official Volunteer Program participant with The Library in 2013.
Jo provides patron support on the public computers, a volunteer position requiring expertise and patience. Jo has extensive experience in computers, and can perfectly identify with novices who know nothing about PCs. “That’s how I began! When I share everything I had to learn by mistake, it gives hope to others,” Jo says. “Jobs are found on-line! I like helping.” Jo has been giving hope to others for decades. She began volunteering when she was 19 years of age; giving back to the community is a family value.
Jo is a vital resource for both the staff and patrons on Wednesday evenings at Kline, and within the community, where she has served many local organizations. Literacy is a passion for Jo and she cannot imagine a world without flourishing libraries. “Kids need books to succeed in life, even digital ones. And all ages need a place to visit and find those books.”
2013 – Nancy Schwanger
Nancy was a consistent and welcome presence at East Shore Area Library during 2013. In addition to her regular duties, she continually offered her services throughout our main library software upgrade, and ably assisted with the many extra tasks required to make the move to a new system a success. She performed any and all tasks asked of her, completing them with little or no guidance in a timely manner and with great accuracy. This allowed library staff more time to focus on the library user, including enabling staff to better prepare the user for the change to the new library software.
Nancy’s volunteer work has a meaningful, positive impact on the community, and helps to fulfill The Library’s mission to provide resources and services for information, education, and recreation. She is an exceptionally flexible and dedicated volunteer who will help in any way she can, and do whatever is needed, to improve and strengthen services to library users. Her commitment to The Library never waivers, and her ongoing contributions for over 20 years equate to a rare and valuable gem that has helped to light the way to learning for countless library users who have benefitted by her steadfast presence.
2012 – Ron Blood
A testament to Ron Blood’s worthiness to receive the Dottie & Henry Swartz Volunteer Excellence Award is the fact that three East Shore Area Library Departments – Circulation, Youth Services, and Reference – collaborated on his nomination.
A volunteer since 2011, Ron typically works 3 days a week on a wide variety of tasks. Shelving and re-shelving, weeding and shelf-reading, pull lists and duplicates – Ron does it all with enthusiasm and a smile. He works to keep the difficult juvenile non-fiction collection neat and orderly, a task not suited for the faint of heart. He restocks the free resources and community flyers, processes Community Collection and withdrawn books, readies library information bags for new cardholders, and shares a cheerful and positive attitude with everyone around him. He provides critical assistance to reference staff by performing microfilm searches they wouldn’t otherwise have time to do. Library staff knows that a task assigned to Ron will be done quickly and efficiently. His devotion to the mission and the people of The Library is priceless.
2011 – Jack Snodgrass
A volunteer at Kline Library for two years, Jack helps the staff accomplish more things that they would have time to do without his help. Whether it’s shelving book or watering flowers, his willingness to do whatever is needed always with a smile and a wry sense of humor, is outstanding. Jack’s spirit helps boost morale and everyone looks forward to seeing him on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He sets an excellent example for staff and other volunteers alike with his persistence, encouraging words and attention to detail. The Library is grateful to Jack for all his efforts and dedication.
2010 – Joyce Grubb
“I like to finish the task at hand, and I try to leave the collection in better shape than I found it. It may take longer, but it all looks better. I admire straightened edges.” – Joyce Grubb, Winner of the DCLS Dottie & Henry Swartz Volunteer Excellence Award – 2010.
A community volunteer for most of her life, Joyce began volunteering with Dauphin County Library System at the library in Hummelstown in 2006. Her first opportunity was re-shelving books when she returned her borrowed items in the evening. She had volunteered for three different Library Managers and always enjoys helping new staff become familiar with the collection. Joyce can be found at the new William H. and Marion C. Alexander Family Library two or three days every week.
Joyce learned that value of volunteering from her father, a professional banker who volunteered at church and the Salvation Army, and stressed that “you give back to the community!” She inherited her love of reading from her mother, a teacher, and avid reader who would suggest books she read based on “good vocabulary.” Joyce remembers walking a mile home from the local library with books tucked under her chin and stacked as high as her arms were long.
Ellen Miller, Youth Services Librarian, who nominated Joyce for the award, wrote “Joyce’s dedication and dependability are rare in this day and age. Joyce had the ability to see at a glance what needs to be done first and to tackle it immediately. Library management was aware of her volunteerism during the move to the new location in July 2010. “Joyce is a wonderful choice! She was instrumental in the successful opening of the new library” said Lew Maurer, Public Services Administrator.
“I can tell when I have not been here in a while.” States Joyce humbly. “Things get scrambled. I like to finish the task at hand, and I try to leave the collection in better shape that I found it. Sometimes we are tempted to address just the one small part we came to do, but I think the big picture is important. It may take longer, but it all looks better. I admire straightened edges.”
2009 – Cheryl A. Peters
Cheryl patronized the Harrisburg Uptown Branch of the Dauphin County Library System because it was the closest to where she worked. After retirement, her extensive reading mad her decide it was “time to give back” and she began volunteering. That was about eleven years ago. “I have always been a reader. My mother would bring home books from The Library. I would finish one in a day. When I was old enough, I would ride the bus to town to visit The Library myself. It was there I was introduced to classical music – which was not available on the local radio stations.”
As a volunteer at the Harrisburg Uptown Branch Library, Peters helped organize Friends group activities, creating signage for book sales. When the manger took photographs during construction of the new library on North Third Street, she pulled together a memory book and slide show that was featured at the Grand Opening.
At the new Madeline L. Olewine Memorial Library she has been able to devote her energies to many little things including repainting the children’s table to extend its life and use, construction a carboard Gingerbread House last year for the children’s area, and trying to keep things organized in the closets, cupboards, and drawers, so materials are readily accessible. Peters says that the best part of volunteering at The Library is that the staff is so appreciative of even the smallest things she does.
2008 – Jean Houseal
“I was looking for something to do and I found it. I guess I’ve done about everything there is to do at Kline at some time or another.” Jean Houseal, a twenty-three year volunteer of Kline Library and DCLS Volunteer of the Year – 2008.
Jean first volunteered for Dauphin County Library System in 1986 at Kline (Village) Library. She stopped by one day while walking in the neighborhood. “I was looking for something to do on Monday and Fridays and I found it,” she says. Jean usually volunteers nine or more hours a week, on Monday, Thursday, and Friday. In 2008, she gave The Library approximately 380 hours of her time. Jean saw computers come into use at The Library. At that time, she said to her supervisor, “I guess you won’t need me anymore!” Instead she learned that computer training was in store for her. Today she is a proficient as the other staff in computer usage. She helps with the book drop and the pull list, along with other projects as she has time. Jean says that the variety in her long list of tasks is wonderful. “I guess I’ve done about everything there is to do at Kline at some time or another.” She will complete her 23rd year at Kline Library in August and calls her years at Kline a “labor of love.” She also serves on the Friends of Kline Library board and just finishing up her third consecutive year as the secretary for that group. Jean Houseal is truly a treasure – and a dedicated volunteer. The Library couldn’t do what we do without her.
2007 – Laurell Tarka
Laurell Tarka started her volunteer job by helping Dauphin County Library System’s Born To Read Coordinator, Maureen Farley, pack and move from Administration to the Madeline L. Olewine Memorial Library. Since then, she’s helped initiate a new Born To Read program “Books for Babies,” at that library, upgraded tired flannel story pieces for library programs and added enhancements – window and wall decorations – to the program room so it looks beautiful and child-inviting! With her help The Library has been able to do monthly and bimonthly outreach programs on a regular basis. During these programs, The Library gives out quality story extensions that Laurell has made. During the holidays, The Library distributed felt stockings had made by Laurell to Harrisburg Hospital, Lourdes House, Grantville Food Pantry, Neighborhood Center, and Interfaith Shelter. This has made Born To Read much more visible in Harrisburg. Laurell is extremely generous in time, talent and resources and is very dedicated to library services in the community.