Wendy Warren, a longtime Friend of the Beaches Branch Library and the 2017 Jacksonville Public Library Volunteer of the Year, can often be found in costume at the Beaches Branch Library. Whether it’s the Cat in the Hat event, a Harry Potter program or Comic Con, Wendy is sure to show up dressed for the occasion.
“I’ll do almost anything for a good cause,” Wendy said about her commitment to volunteering at the library.
Wendy was a natural choice for this year’s JPL Volunteer of the Year award. One of her biggest contributions in her career as a library advocate with JPL was starting the Cat in the Hat program at the Beaches library. This all-day carnival happens once a year at the Beaches library and attracts hundreds of local children and their families. Wendy wanted to bring her love of all things Dr. Seuss to the library and she accomplishes that with this huge event. This is also how her affinity for costumes all began.
“I bought the costume to wear for one of the first Cat in the Hat programs we did and have been wearing it for all 18 events since,” said Wendy. The kids love to get their picture with her and listen to her Dr. Seuss storytimes. From there, dressing up for the programs became a given for Wendy, and she added a superhero costume and Harry Potter robes to her wardrobe.
Not only has Wendy been a member of the Friends of the Beaches Branch Library for 19 years, but she helped form the Friends group in 1978 before the Beaches library was even built. The Friends group started to help raise money for the Beaches location by hosting book sales. They had an unofficial library in the Jacksonville Beach City Hall, which consisted of just a few shelves on one wall before the Beaches Library finally opened in 1986.
As a daughter of a teacher, Wendy said she can’t remember ever not being able to read. “I know there was a time I couldn’t read, just like there was a time I didn’t know how to ride a bike, but I can’t remember it.”
The library in her neighborhood didn’t open until she was 10 years old and when it did, she thought she had died and gone to heaven. “The library is just such a great place. I call them the great equalizer because they give people opportunities to experience something they never would otherwise.”
The Jacksonville Public Library has so many amazing volunteers and advocates, and we would not be able to operate without them. Thank you to all the Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library and tireless volunteers, and a special thank you to Wendy Warren, our 2017 JPL Volunteer of the Year. Wendy, without a doubt, helps make it possible to provide great programming and services for all.