Volunteer Suzanne Zinnkosko: giving books a long life

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Mon., Apr. 22, 2013
John Ferland and Suzanne Zinnkosko make plans for the Friends of the Woodstock Library beautification day. Photos by D. Coffey.
John Ferland and Suzanne Zinnkosko make plans for the Friends of the Woodstock Library beautification day. Photos by D. Coffey.

Suzanne Zinnkosko's voice gets animated when she talks about The Friends of the Killingly Public Library. The fast clip and her British accent can't hide her love for books or the mission of the Friends, who have chapters all over the country. She ought to know. She's lived in several places in the states since marrying her Coast Guard husband. And at every location, she has joined the local Friends group.

“Wherever we were stationed, I volunteered for the local library,” Zinnkosko said. “It got started  because of my love of books, but it evolved as I saw the need. The need motivated me.” She has volunteered at libraries in Guam, California, Michigan and Connecticut. Currently she's the president of the Killingly Public Library Friends group. “We're quite the small group but when I put out the call, it's all hands on deck,” she said.

There is almost no limit to the things she will do to salvage, preserve, or resell books. She's driven to out-of-state libraries to collect books. She's dressed up in Halloween garb and passed out children's books to trick-or-treaters. She's held plant sales, bake sales, and done just about anything to raise money to buy books or sponsor library programs.

The Friends help the library out in many ways. They hold beautification days to spruce up the grounds. They'll restock books, help with special events at the holidays or during the summer. They help fill the gaps in the library budget an any way they can. “That's our mission,” she said, “to support the library, cover financial costs and be the liaison between the library and it's patrons.”

For Zinnkosko, getting to know the people who go the library daily is part of the job. “We have people living at the shelter and they come to the library every day. We set up a puzzle table for them, which sounds rather weird, but it's fantastic. Every day there is a new puzzle for them. We do little things like that. It's a lot of effort for those who put their time into it, but for us it's very gratifying.”

Zinnkosko puts a lot of time and energy into her stewardship, but it has helped her through difficult times. When she lived in Michigan, she had to undergo radiation therapy for cancer. She'd stop at the library after her treatments. “I wasn't an employee. I was just a member of the Friends,” she said. “They'd let me do what I wanted. I'd go home at two o'clock and just crash, but I needed that. It took my mind off everything. It was fantastic. It was a 'thank you' for saving me, you know.”

On April 21 she and Woodstock Public Library Friends president John Ferland walked the grounds at the West Woodstock Library. Ferland is a member of the Killingly Friends, but was convinced to take on new duties in Woodstock. Zinnkosko helped organize the group that's grown to 25 members.

“There's quite a lot to it,” she said, “with bylaws and rules and how to set things up.” A beautification day is planned for April 27. Ferland and his crew will plant shrubs and flowers, clean up the grounds, repaint signs and stain ramps and railings. Woodstock Friends will have a book sale the following week. Proceeds will go to Woodstock's four libraries.

Zinnkosko has met wonderful people volunteering for the libraries. And she has run into people who don't understand why she does what she does. “It's quite astonishing to come across people who don't understand why you do this,” she said. “They cannot understand why people give their time for free. They don't get it. For me personally, I'm grateful for my life. I'm grateful to be here in America. I'm grateful for the things we have and that I am able to give back. That's my motivating reason for doing this.” 

For more information about a friends group near you, visit a public library.

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