Jane Mulder likes the library, but she loves books.
When they get too old or injured to do their job at Burbank’s libraries, the books are put under the care of Mulder, who is equal parts caretaker and book surgeon. Armed with tape and glue, the retired teacher fixes the bindless, the spineless, the tortured tomes yearning to be healed.
But “book whisperer” is just one of Mulder’s many titles. Over the last 30 years as a volunteer for the Burbank library system, she has served as volunteer coordinator for the library bookstore, as book sale organizer, and is a founding member of the Friends of the Burbank Library.
“It gets me out of the house — you can’t just sit around the house and play bridge,” she said.
For about five days a week, you can find her working one of her many jobs at the library. And usually, you’d find her running the show at the Friends’ biannual book sale, taking place until this Saturday at the central branch.
The model volunteer who counts 30 book sales under her belt is scaling back her involvement with the main fundraiser for the Friends, allowing Mickey Pierce to take over this week’s sale.
“There’s no one who works as hard or as many hours as Jane does,” Pierce said.
Last week, Pierce was as prepared as she could be, laughing as she shared an old truth with me: no matter what the plan is, it changes as soon as it goes live. She’s confident this sale will go off well — as is Mulder.
“I’m so happy to have Mickey take over the book sale,” she said. “I’m so glad she’s jumped in with both feet.”
Those feet are filling some pretty big shoes, said volunteer Dorie Beaumont, who has known Mulder since 1963 when they worked together at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary.
“She’s a person that rather than someone else do it, she does it,” she said of Mulder. “Mickey is very sharp; she’s caught on very well.”
Though she’s not originally from Burbank, Mulder moved here in 1947 to take a teaching job. After teaching thousands of students (in Beaumont’s estimation) over 38 years, she began volunteering at the library in 1981. One of her first tasks was to help switch all the library’s books to an electronic barcode system from the old Dewey Decimal system, earning her the moniker “Miss Barcode.”
Mulder’s legacy will continue in the libraries — in her ongoing work at the library and in the volunteer award that bears her name. The Jane Mulder Outstanding Volunteer Award is given to an outstanding volunteer who goes above and beyond — and it is only awarded when the Friends identify someone who has emulated Mulder’s dedication and work ethic.
It’s not the only legacy Mulder has created in Burbank’s libraries.
“I had some friends tell me at church yesterday they went to Glendale’s book sale and it can’t hold a candle to Burbank’s,” Beaumont said. “Better books and more of them.”
BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. When he’s not browsing the book carts, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter @818NewGuy.