One for the books at library

Staffers in the Merrimack Library’s children’s department received a helping hand this summer from Hudson resident Liz Rufiange, a senior from Plymouth State University who spent her summer vacation as a library volunteer – an unpaid intern amid a world of books and other media.

Rufiange, 20, performed a multitude of tasks during her part-time service to the library, at 470 Daniel Webster Highway. The internship originated earlier this year in the university’s Global Education office where Ruth DeCotis, an adviser, launched nearly 200 e-mails, letters and phone calls seeking to match the talents of Rufiange, an English major, with the needs of a suitable workplace.

Yvette Couser, head of children’s services at the Merrimack Library, said that before the proposal from the university became a done deal, an inspection of the library by the college advisor was made. The site already had secured certification from the New Hampshire Department of Labor’s School-to-Work program, which helps ensure that a workplace is appropriate for student volunteers.

“When we met Liz, we quickly felt she would be a positive influence,” Couser said. “We did a background check and studied quite thoroughly the details provided by the candidate and by the university’s internship department. Everything worked out. She has been a great asset.”

Couser said internships are a valuable resource for college students who are seeking to solidify their sometimes nebulous ideas about career choices after graduation.

“Internships build job skills,” Couser said. “Practical, hands-on experience in a real-world workplace is something that can’t be found in a book.”

Rufiange soon will be returning to college and an on-campus apartment shared with three other female students. She will be graduating after her senior year with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She also plans on getting a certification for teaching.

Rufiange early on had some concerns about working in such a public arena with people she didn’t know. She credited her sister, Amy, 16, and her parents, John and Martha Rufiange, as steady sources of encouragement about the new undertaking.

“I didn’t really know what to expect at the library,” said Rufiange, a graduate of Lowell Catholic High School in Lowell, Mass. “I’m kind of a shy person, but pretty soon, I was interacting with a lot of people. Everyone here is wicked, wicked nice, so that’s helped me feel at ease.”

She said her duties at the library were so diverse that each day offered new challenges. While she was at Plymouth State during her junior year, her goal was to find an internship in publishing, particularly a post with an emphasis on children’s literature. None were found. Now, she is glad she landed at Merrimack Library, and is inclined to work at a library, someday.

“I did a little of everything at Merrimack’s library,” said Rufiange. “I replenished the shelves with returned books. I bound some books that needed repairs. I also registered people for programs and helped update the links on the library’s website. No two days were ever the same.”

She said one of her favorite activities was helping with the library’s Summer Reading Program, this year themed, “One World, Many Stories.” Some 4,082 hours of reading were logged by 487 youngsters in the reading club. The participants also accrued through their efforts a donation of $450 made by the library’s advocacy group – Friends of the Merrimack Library – to this year’s selected charity: The Humane Society of Greater Nashua.

“This library has so many tons of fun programs,” said Rufiange, who served mostly in the children’s department. “I really liked storytelling time, especially when we were talking about the Gingerbread Man. The session included acting out the story with a gloved puppet decorated to look like the main character. The kids loved it.”

Rufiange said she had an agreement with the university’s internship office to keep a journal of her volunteer activities. Before long, its pages held remembrances about assisting library patrons, helping to organizing youth programs, conducting children’s story-telling workshops, filing correspondence and restocking book shelves. She also helped with researching online resources and many other tasks.

“I always have enjoyed reading,” Rufiange said. “In high school, I played basketball and spent time with my friends and my family but I’ve always considered reading a great pastime. It’s a hobby that can be enjoyed just about anywhere.”

The Merrimack Library, she added, has books for every age and reading level. There also are downloadable books, book tapes, music CDs, how-to-do-it books, movies on video discs and frequent presentations from authors, musicians, historians and other special guests. In addition, more than a dozen computer terminals are available for public use.

Rufiange said the library also offers wireless Internet service for anyone bringing in their own laptop for homework, business tasks, browsing the Web or other pastimes.

“I think it’s a good possibility that when I graduate, I’ll be giving some serious thought to working at a library, maybe even here at Merrimack, if there are any openings,” said Rufiange. “I’ve learned a lot here. And a ‘real job’ would get me off my dad’s payroll, and onto my own.”

Information about the Merrimack Library, 470 Daniel Webster Highway, can be had online at www.merrimack.lib.nh.us. Summer hours are Mondays, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10-9, Wednesdays, 1-9, Fridays, 10-5 and Saturdays, 10-1 p.m. The library is closed on Sundays. Call 424-5021 for other details.