Life often comes full circle. Murphys resident Faye Morrison is proof.
As a child, Morrison’s first “job” was in a library. After a teaching career that lasted 25 years, Morrison returned to her roots as a library volunteer.
“My very first part-time job was when I was 9 years old and it was in the library. Not a paid job, but I volunteered there. It was a natural; I love to be around books. For me, a book is it. It’s been a part of me for a long time,” said the soft-spoken Morrison as she chatted in her living room. “Books matter. You can go into a new world and get lost in it, withdraw from this one for a while, read to learn or just for pleasure – all of the above are important.”
As a volunteer at the Arnold Branch Library, the 85-year-old bibliophile has shared her enthusiasm for knowledge and the printed word with co-workers and patrons too numerous to count over the past 25 years.
“I worked with Faye from 2007 to when she retired from volunteering at the library in 2016,” said Frances Devlin, the lead branch attendant in Arnold. “Many of us are still personally connected to Faye and see her often, but what we have missed since her library retirement is her enthusiasm for learning and her passion for our library and the services we provide.”
After retiring from teaching in 1989, Faye and her late husband Herb retired to Arnold. As newcomers, they sought ways to meet people and become part of their adopted community.
“When we came here, I knew I wanted to volunteer,” Morrison said. “We were figuring out how we wanted to get involved and the library was hosting an open house. We thought we’d go and get acquainted and see where we could fit in. Well, the night of the open house happened to be the night of the San Francisco earthquake. We got to the library and there was food and they were all prepared, but people were all in such a tizzy over the earthquake that we were one of the few who showed up. We had a wonderful evening and got acquainted with people.”
That pleasant evening turned into a quarter-century relationship with the Arnold Library.
“Faye was one of the first movers and shakers for our library as a volunteer and a member of the Friends of the Arnold Library Board of Directors,” said Devlin. “Both she and her late husband were generous benefactors.”
Usually volunteering twice a month, Morrison was responsible for a variety of tasks.
“I shelved books, sorted the stacks and reviewed the selections, and I helped people find what they needed,” she explained. “It was especially important to give Fran (Devlin) a semi-lunch hour, so she had at least a 20-minute break without people.”
Though Morrison’s love of books was an important ingredient to her longevity as a volunteer, the connections she has made with people over the years is of greater value.
“I like people, and I know a lot of the people who come in and out of the library. I just can’t imagine a better way to get acquainted in a new community than volunteering. I think it is very satisfying. You can volunteer one day and stay home the next and still feel a part of the community and feel like you’re contributing,” Morrison said of her commitment. “My husband died three years after we moved here. Had I not had the connections I made through volunteering and the church, it would have been even worse; they helped a great deal.”
According to Devlin, the connections Morrison developed were mutually beneficial.
“We had a working relationship and personal relationship,” Devlin said. “This is a small town, and when you work with someone so closely for any length of time, it’s hard to separate work and personal lives.”
Though Morrison has retired from her duties at the library, she remains active as a docent at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, where she provides insights and information to visitors.
“As a docent, I guess I am still teaching, but I also sell ice cream at the park,” she said, her light eyes smiling behind her glasses. “I’m a welcome sight when people come off the trail and they’re hot; they’re happy to see you!”
When she’s not volunteering, Morrison is an active member of the First Congregational Church in Murphys and is an avid cyclist who alternates courses between an 18-mile Angels Camp loop and a Murphys ride of 10-12 miles.
“I’m probably one of Calaveras County’s oldest cyclists,” Morrison said. “I have not toured for the last several years, but I try to ride two times a week. I ride with a friend and/or neighbors. It’s wonderful to get out and much better than mopping the floor. I’ve been riding since 1973, during the energy crisis. I didn’t want to sit in line for gas, so I decided to ride.”
Much has changed in society since she hopped on a bike in the 1970s, and in this technologically driven era, the way in which we acquire information has evolved, but Morrison says the library is as relevant as ever.
“The library is still an information hub,” she said. “I think that the library in Arnold has probably grown in attendance every year. It has a good, steady clientele. We have computers, tax information, and people who are looking for jobs come in to look for books on writing resumes. Of course, we still have lots of pleasure readers, and the librarians know the readers that come in all the time and what they might like. All of this draws people in, but it is the personalization of interaction that makes our small branch so special. The Arnold Library is a vibrant part of the community. There is no (other) place, no community center; it comes the closest to being a community center that we have. That personalization is the most important thing.”
Though she humbly insists that she’s “just one of a cadre of people who have been dedicated volunteers,” the vibrancy that the Arnold Branch Library enjoys is clearly due, in part, to Morrison’s contagious spirit and enduring dedication.
“It was a joy to work with Faye. She is well-traveled, intelligent, articulate, generous and has served our community well for many years,” concluded Devlin of her friend and colleague. “Even now that she is retired, we couldn’t have a more enthusiastic and inspiring advocate for our beloved library.”