Metta Lieb may very well be in her natural environment when she is volunteering at the Newton Public Library. Admittedly, she's always had a passion for books.
"I've been a reader all my life. I think I was born knowing how to read," Lieb said with a laugh.
For two-plus decades now, Lieb has volunteered a couple hours of her time each Thursday afternoon to help however she can at the library. Namely, Lieb has taken on two particular responsibilities — shelf reading and watering the plants.
"That's the first thing I do when I get here, water all the plants," Lieb said. "A lot of times, they're closed on Thursdays for workshops of some kind, so then I come in a day early and water the plants."
Watering was a role Lieb took over when another volunteer was getting ready to leave the library. She has been doing that for a few years now, but her assistance with shelf reading has been going on much longer.
Avid a reader as Lieb is, she would make routine trips to the library once she moved to Newton in 1983. Once she started to notice some books being placed on the shelves out of order, she approached the front desk to see if there was anything she could do to help out. Sure enough, they informed her there was a role suited to address the exact issue she had brought forward — and she's been shelf reading at the library once a week since 1995.
"I just loved to read and then as I'd be looking for a book I'd hit the Ks and find an M or a Z; that would be frustrating to me," Lieb said. "I guess I'm the kind of person who likes things in order."
On top of looking over each book in the fiction section to make sure it is in proper alphabetical order, Lieb noted a few years ago she also started searching for book series and taking those to library staff so they could be labeled (and easily identified on the shelves).
Part of the reason Lieb admitted she continues to volunteer at the library is because the staff are so friendly, welcoming and happy to have her assistance.
"The people here are very appreciative and supportive," Lieb said.
Additionally, staff have come to know Lieb's reading preferences — and will often reserve any cozy mystery books they come across with a dog or a cat on the cover.
Lieb wears her volunteer tag like a badge of honor, too. While she will sometimes get mistaken for needing help herself (usually while she is sitting on the floor and looking over the bottom shelves), she takes great pride when she is asked for assistance like any other staff member would be.
"Every now and then, a patron will ask for my help and that's very satisfying," Lieb said. "I help if I can and if I can't I tell them to just go up to the desk. I think maybe they don't want to bother the people up there and so they ask me."
Being part of such a genial environment has kept Lieb going, but volunteering has always been a part of her life. Once she moved to Newton, she noted she used to play dominoes with a group at Kidron Bethel. She has also been heavily involved in her church, though that has tapered off over the years— currently consisting of helping with the prayer network.
No matter the venue— whether at the library or cleaning up litter on her morning walks along Sand Creek — Lieb is happy to give of her time, an act that is almost as natural as breathing for her at this point.
"I like giving, volunteering," Lieb said. "I suppose it's just part of my nature."