With more than two decades of service and love for the library, Susan Maxwell will be celebrated as the 2020 Crowell Public Library Volunteer of the Year during the library’s open house on Saturday at noon.
Upon learning she would be this year’s recipient, Maxwell told the Tribune, “I was shocked at that, shocked I tell you. I can’t imagine but I’m thrilled and honored about it. I appreciate it very much and thank the powers that be that made it so.”
A resident of San Marino for 43 years with her husband Tom, Maxwell has served in a variety of roles including an appointed Library Trustee, a Friend of the Crowell Public Library and a member of the San Marino Library Foundation.
“Being part of the machinery that makes it all go is fun,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell is no stranger to the magnetic pull of a library’s varied tomes organized by countless loving hands. While growing up in Altadena and Pasadena, Maxwell’s first library memories were formed in the Hill Avenue Branch of the Pasadena Public Library, across from Pasadena City College.
“It’s still there and hasn’t changed a bit,” said Maxwell. “I remember going there as a little girl and I’ve been in libraries ever since, in one way or another.”
Maxwell began volunteering with the Crowell Public Library around 20 years ago after she’d retired from teaching Spanish and biology at Foothills Junior High in Arcadia. She was encouraged to do so by the late City Librarian Carolyn Crain (the library’s Crain Art Gallery is named in her honor).
Looking to take on a relaxing activity while being able to give back, Maxwell started with the slow and methodical process of shelf reading, her “favorite thing in the world.”
“I just go along and make sure the books are in order,” said Maxwell. “Some people might think that that’s not much of a job but it’s so soothing. It’s wonderful.”
Maxwell soon expanded her volunteering scope to the Friends of the Crowell Public Library, eventually serving on the board, and then on to the Library Trustees.
“That was great fun,” Maxwell said of her time with the trustees. “We took field trips to other libraries to pick their brains for good ideas.”
From there, she went on to serve several terms on the San Marino Library Foundation. Throughout her time as a volunteer, Maxwell said that the people within the library have continually inspired her and made it a joy to be there.
“The people who work here are just fabulous,” said Maxwell. “The people that the public never sees, the women who are buying the books and getting the books ready to put them out, and the people who work at the desk who are the face of the library. [City Librarian] Irene [McDermott], of course, is great fun.”
Maxwell said she appreciates how the library has developed into a true “community resource” in San Marino with its diverse materials and programming, and it “really is the heart of the city.”
“The library is such a fun place because there are books of people you don’t even know about, things to learn,” she said. “It’s a wonderful experience.”