Library volunteer is queen of the stacks
For 47 years, Barbara McCabe has been a true book heroine
By Jean Torkelson
Photo by Jean Torkelson/DCR
At age 87, library volunteer Barbara McCabe’s memories could, well, fill a book.
She especially recalls one seminarian in the 1970s by the name of Samuel Aquila, who was a student while she was volunteering at the St. Thomas Seminary, “on the other side,” as she calls it.
“He was such a pleasant young man, with black curly hair and so pleasant to everybody,” McCabe recalls. She smiles to think of it—“I never even thought of the fact that one of them would come back as archbishop!”
Today, McCabe is as busy as ever—though she did go to the “other side”—the library side. When St. Thomas Seminary closed in 1995, she was nowhere near ready to stop volunteering, which she had begun in the mid-1960s.
“I hated to give it up,” she said.
Instead, she asked if she could volunteer at the seminary library, which was renamed Archbishop Urban Vehr as part of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, which replaced St. Thomas Seminary. McCabe soldiered on through the tenure of two archbishops and a major name change in 2007, when the library became the Cardinal Stafford Theological Library.
Then, as now, the volunteer team performs all essential tasks.
“The library absolutely cannot function without its volunteers,” said library director Stephen Sweeney. “It could not survive.”
McCabe and her sister, Mary Arnold, who passed away last October at the age of 89, were among of about a dozen regulars who take on every task—from shelving and processing donations, to inventory control and general cleaning. In 2010, the two sisters won the Colorado Library Association Volunteers of the Year award.
Ask McCabe what task she loves most in the library, and she pauses a moment to consider, then answers simply: “I think it’s just being around the books,” she said. “It’s my favorite job.”
“She is a walking history of this place, which is invaluable,” said librarian Tamara Conley. “Besides, she’s so dedicated—she comes in twice a week, and works 10 hours a week. You couldn’t find younger people with a better work ethic.”
Jean Torkelson: 303-715-3122; www.twitter.com/DCRegister