Every Book I Touched I Wanted to Take Home
by Sarah Binns
Claudia Coughlin remembers the year she became a reader. “It was sixth grade. I had poor eyesight but I finally got glasses. My sixth grade teacher made me realize I could find any book in the library and take an adventure.” She has not stopped reading since.
As a five-year-strong volunteer at the Albina Library, Claudia says she's glad she works in the same place where she adventures. Twice a week she serves the community here as a branch assistant and “a Jack of all trades.” She pulls holds for patrons, processes crates of returned books, and shelf reads, the task of ensuring every book in a section is in exact call number order. This way, Claudia sees exactly what the library holds. “When I started volunteering, every book I touched I wanted to take home. But then I started a list,” she says with a smile.
Libraries have long shaped Claudia's experiences. From the age of 9 until she graduated from high school, she worked at her hometown Connecticut library as a page. “It was $.90 an hour, but I was paid,” she says. When she was a young woman, her family “wanted me to be a librarian,” but she went into nursing instead. In adulthood she moved to Maryland and became a Friend of the Library there, working with the last library in the state to be computerized. She says working with the old-fashioned card catalog system was fun but challenging; when she moved to Portland, volunteering at Albina “seemed like a natural progression.”
When not devouring fiction and nonfiction, Claudia gardens and works on jigsaw puzzles that “are never less than 1000 pieces.” She also volunteers for many of her community members as a compassionate caregiver for those in need of support. “There aren't enough hours in the day,” she says.
Over the years Claudia has noticed that the volume of crates and holds at Albina's small library have been getting smaller, but she doesn't plan on leaving her post. “I like libraries and I like coming and hanging out with the library staff. They're good people,” she says, smiling.