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Gwen Toops, Westover Volunteer

Filling Hold Lists and Finding Great Books to Read

Gwen ToopsGwen has been a volunteer at the Westover Branch Library since October 2012. She loved working in her school library during college and although her career has taken her in a different direction, she says, “I truly feel I have found “my people” in libraries, and I just enjoy spending time there, whether as a volunteer or as a patron.”

We asked her to tell us a little bit about herself, and why she enjoys spending her free time at the Library:

What’s your favorite thing about the library?

As a paging volunteer, my responsibilities take me through all the library sections: new books, fiction, non-fiction, audiovisual media…and each Saturday, I always end up with a pile of interesting materials I couldn’t resist picking up while in the stacks! Retrieving materials is a fantastic way to learn the true depths of a library’s collection. I’m impressed by the range of events hosted by the Arlington library system, especially films, theatre conversations, and technology workshops. I haven’t yet made it to one, but I especially love the idea of Shirlington’s monthly Book Dating event. What a fun, creative way to meet new people.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering?

I am an avid hiker, skier, and traveler, and to fund my adventures, I work for the federal government as a publications assistant/proofreader.

Are you a Metro DC native, or a transplant?

Although the DC area has long felt like home, I’m a “third-culture kid” transplant by way of St. Louis.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

In an imaginary world: mission support staff at a research base in Antarctica. In the real world: a publications manager for a travel or food magazine.

What is the best book you’ve read recently?

Fiction: Long May She Reign, Ellen Emerson White’s latest (2007) novel about the first female president’s daughter and the unique stresses her life presents. Also, the entire Maisie Dobbs series (Jacqueline Winspear): interwar England as seen through the eyes of a female private investigator.

Non-fiction: The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War (Peter Englund), which explores World War I from nontraditional perspectives, including an Australian female ambulance driver in Serbia, an American wife of a Polish aristocrat, and a Venezuelan officer in the Ottoman Army. Easily one of the best books I’ve read in years.

What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?

I’m not really much of a movie person (television shows are more my style), but I wish the movie industry would create a film version of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The novel is such an engrossing depiction of the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands, and I would love to see the book’s vibrant characters come to life on screen.


Interested in becoming a Library volunteer? Check out the Current Openings on our Volunteer Page.


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