In a classic incident of the ripple effect on the pond of human life, a local man decided to turn his grief into gain for local library, giving it a facelift one book and one shelf at a time.
During a challenging time in his life, Richard Kizer turned to helping others and the Bishop branch of the Inyo County Free Library became the beneficiary of that philanthropic diversion, resulting in what library staff call a dramatically improved, reorganized, refurbished facility.
Kizer, twice-retired as a Caltrans civil engineer and as a Bishop Police Department reservist, has been putting in at least four days a week as “the most awesome volunteer we’ve ever had,” said Library Branch Manager Annie Kothman.
Kizer said that after a long and very intense period of caring for his ailing wife Joy, when she died in 2010 he was “really at a loss” as to what to do with himself. “Volunteering partially helps fill the void left by my wife (of 48 years). It gives you a chance to think about something else (and) the library looked like an interesting place” to do that.
Kizer started out by rearranging books and subject categories, “reshelving and creating more, much-needed space” for new books, videos and audio books, said Kothman. “We ran out of space a long time ago.”
“He’s handled every book in here at least once or twice,” added Library Specialist Reece Parker. Then, about a year ago, Kizer began to “single-handedly” replace old shelves with new ones and he has been “instrumental in redoing all our shelving,” said Kothman.
Kizer brokered a large donation of shelving from Cheryl Hilborn, who owns The Video Place, 251 N. Main St., and Bishop Twin Theatre, 237 N. Main St. “I have to give Cheryl all the credit; it wouldn’t have happened without her,” Kizer said of Hilborn. In fact, Hilborn donated so much shelving that some of it is also in use at the Big Pine branch of the county library.
Kizer explained that he, Kothman and Parker initially collaborated on the renovations. “Reece and Annie were pretty instrumental in helping me. Annie turned me loose after the first or second shelving unit.”
According to Parker, “We’ve gotten a lot of really positive comments from the public. The library looks more modern, neater and cleaner” with its first major renovation to its original 1952 appointments. Kizer added that the change “lightens the space, has opened it up … even though I only added about six inches of space in the hallway by replacing the old shelves, the aisles seem much wider.”
According to Kothman, Kizer has worked tirelessly and faithfully. “You can count on him … He is a very, very kind man, an asset to the community and to the library.” For his part, Kizer said volunteering is “giving me the satisfaction of, I think, improving the library and its storage space.” He also opened up the children’s section which was “just packed in tight.” And the for-sale section of books, magazines and videos, which “used to be in bins, like laundry baskets” are now on organized, easy-to-scan wire racks.
Not only does Kizer bring freely-given labor and dedication to his volunteer work, he is an astute problem-solver, Kothman explained. With 38 years of experience as an engineer under his tool belt, Kizer has the ability to “measure, fit, shape and work out any problem … If we don’t have it, he goes home and makes it. He’s been a godsend to us and an asset to the community at large,” doing many good deeds without wanting any acknowledgement.
As to the future, “there’s still more shelving to do, then, whatever Annie wants. There’s always moving and alphabetizing books,” Kizer said with a shrug and a grin. He hinted that he also has a few project ideas of his own in mind.
Kizer urged the public to “come on down and use the library. For a small library, they have an outstanding selection of books, DVDs and books on tape. A lot of donations are always coming in … and they can always use more volunteers.”