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Roberts man has a history of volunteering at the library

Peter Close is one of the Hazel Mackin Community Library's outstanding volunteers.

After years of planning and months of construction, the Hazel Mackin Library found a new home at 311 West Warren St., in Roberts, with the help of generous donations and dedicated volunteers.

Library Director Brenda Hackman said National Volunteer Week, commemorated April 19-25, is about "Celebrating people in action." Hackman said the theme captures the meaning behind this signature week -- "honoring the individuals who dedicate themselves to taking action such as Peter Close does and solving problems in their communities. We just want to say thank you Peter for not only being an exceptional volunteer but a 'Good Neighbor' that Roberts should be proud of."

While the library has many wonderful volunteers, Roberts resident Peter Close, 51, has quite a volunteer history at the library.

Close said he works from home doing several things including being a local historian.

"Besides researching and writing about Roberts/Warren history; I play trumpet in several community bands; plus design, build and throw boomerangs," he said.

The Close family moved to Roberts in 1960, when Peter was about four months old.

"I have been here ever since," he said.

The entire Close family has a history of volunteering at the library.

"My father volunteered my brothers and I to move store shelves from the hardware section of Ensigns grocery (which had closed) to be used as bookshelves for the new library in 1975. Dad was on the original library board," said Close.

Close said although he started volunteering in 1975, he did not do a lot of volunteering until recently.

"Although my brothers and I taught basic computer programming in the mid-1980s one summer. I started researching local history in 2006, which took me to the library to use their computers to access online history websites. I got to know the staff and they were very helpful. When Brenda (Hackman) took over the reigns three years ago, she approached me about helping with the history/archives section of the library. That is when I became a more active volunteer," he said.

Close said he checks in once a week to do an odd job or two and once a month he spends time in the history room.

"My main focus is the history room where I handle accessing (in-take of new items), digitizing (photographing or scanning), cataloging (we keep a spreadsheet of all items in the collection) and shelving/storing," Close said.

Close had a close connection with the library construction last year.

"I live next door, so during construction I did several small things to help out. I let the construction crews use my driveway and drive across my lawn to access the east side of the build site, I unplugged heaters for the block crew, I allowed the excavator to dig up part of my yard so they could meet safety codes for working on the basement, let them use electricity from my garage one week, helped the landscaper move mulch around and did a few other little things," he said.

Close was one of the volunteers who handled the packaging of the library's historical and archive items. He stored many of the old pictures in his home until the history room was properly prepared to display them.

In addition to storing items at his house, Close helped "load stuff at the old library and unload at the new, along with many other people."

Why Close


"Our parents always had us doing things for the communities in which we were a part. It is being a 'good neighbor.' Hopefully my small contributions, when combined with those of so many others, make Roberts a better place. There is nothing like the feeling of having accomplished your good deed for the day," Close said.

Close's volunteerism doesn't stop at the library.

"I have helped with the local bloodmobile on-and-off since I was a teenager. Our folks always had us doing stuff for various groups, which are too numerous to mention even if I could remember them," he said.

Close has helped form and run the St. Croix Valley Youth Court in 2005-2008 and is currently on the board of the St. Croix Valley Community Band.

Close says he's happy to be part of the Hazel Mackin Library community.

"The library is a very special place. It is a portal to wonders far beyond our town. It has and continues to serve those in our community, young and old alike. Brenda, Cathy (Schweizer) and the entire staff do such an amazing job making a trip to the library a joyous event. What better way to start the young down the road to learning and assist their elders on the path to knowledge and entertainment," said Close.

So, how does Close feel knowing he is considered an exceptional volunteer at the library?

"Ah, I am not sure why I was chosen. There are many more that put in more time and energy than I do. Maybe it was the lights?" joked Close.

Close urges other to volunteer in their community.

"Is it a community if no one helps others? We make our town what it is by what we do for each other. Roberts/Warren is the 'Community of Good Neighbors' because of those people that watch out, help out and do their share. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else," he said.

When asked if he had a memorable experience while volunteering at the library, Close said, "If only I had an awe inspiring story of humor and self sacrifice. Instead what is memorable is all the people carrying boxes of books, like a long trail of worker ants, from the old library to the vehicles and then from the vehicles into the new library. Being a small cog of that unspectacular, at times boring, machine that got the job done is what I will remember."


Library thankful for all its volunteers

Hackman says the characteristics of an outstanding volunteer are dedication, a positive attitude, someone who takes direction well, is dependable and reliable. She said the library's outstanding volunteers allow library staff to focus on the operation of the library so they can provide better customer service to patrons.

"This has been an exceptional year for the library and we could not have accomplished what we have without our volunteers and staff. Our library board members (also volunteers) spent many hours fundraising, planning and helping not only build the new library but also have spent many, many hours over the years each month helping to keep the old and new library operating.

"Thank you to many of you in the community that helped for a few hours, days or weeks to move and get the new library ready, including my family."

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(715) 426-1048