PaperBackSwap Blog

In Celebration of our Wonderful PBS Volunteers – Why I Volunteer

By James L (JimiJam)

In the nearly three and a half years since I became a Tour Guide, I honestly can’t recall having been asked this question. With the question having finally been raised in light of Volunteer Appreciation Week, my initial response was “Why wouldn’t I?” Later that day, the response had, after some reflection, changed to “Come to think of it, why do I?”


The truth is, I felt like a volunteer for quite some time, well before taking the steps to become a Tour Guide. Much as I enjoyed the discussion forums in general, as I neared my first Swappiversary I realized I had slowly but surely gravitated toward the Questions forum, nearly to the exclusion of the others. I suppose it was a natural progression; my life had already been revolving around the Swap for months. My days were largely spent perusing the database, adding books to my Reminder and Wish Lists, acquiring new books to read, and, of course, reading those already acquired. I had come to learn a great deal about the Swap in those months, and found I enjoyed helping others to elevate their own experiences as members.


I can’t recall what it was, exactly, that triggered the decision. Perhaps I noticed that my answers were on par with those of the existing Tour Guides, or that, since I was already spending so much time in the Help Center, it would have been a shame not to put it to better use. Whatever the reason, I asked how one became a Tour Guide, and after several grueling weeks of rigorous training, testing, hazing, and branding (which they so cleverly refer to as “the Book Mark”), I finally earned my TG icon.


Much like my membership, I’ve never given becoming a Tour Guide a second thought. It’s just a fact of life: up is up, down is down, my name is James, and I’m a PBS Tour Guide. So now, with the question squarely in front of me, I find myself thinking: Why exactly do I volunteer? Is it because I love learning, and the Help Center is somehow just this side of limitless? Because I like to help people? Or maybe because I’m just a natural-born sucker for rules, policies, and protocols? These all play a big role in my predisposition to volunteering, but they’re not the true underlying cause. Ultimately, it’s pretty simple: I love PBS.


In all the wide webby world, the Swap, from its quality community to the service it provides, is truly incomparable. At least I’ve never found anything quite like it. My life has changed at least a dozen times over, and every single transformation owed a serious debt to the Swap. Whether it was the books I had gotten or the friends I had made, the quality of my life has consistently increased manifold. At some point, I was bound to experience a compulsion to give something back. And, despite my time as a Tour Guide, and eventually member of the Book Data and Book Image teams, I don’t think I’ll ever feel as if I’ve given enough. That’s because with every successfully answered Live Help question, with each additional cover image or thoroughly detailed listing, I get just a little bit more out of the experience. I help make the Swap a better place, for myself as much as anyone. I help all sorts of members to improve their experience with the site. I like to think, at the end of the day, that I’m playing a small part in the larger overall effort to exchange books, stories, and ideas, so that every one of us can continue to enjoy the wonderful effects of the Swap on our lives. Considering how much I continue to get out of it, I know my contribution is small in comparison to the benefits of being a member. I came to grips with it a long time ago, that there’s just no keeping up with how amazing the Swap can be. And I’m ok with that. I may not ever repay those debts, but I sure can try. And that’s why I volunteer at PaperBackSwap.




7 Responses to “In Celebration of our Wonderful PBS Volunteers – Why I Volunteer”

  1. Diane G. (icesk8tr) , says:

    Awesome James!! We are truly blessed to have you as a Tour Guide!!

  2. Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty) says:

    You write so beautifully James well done!

  3. Lori B. says:

    James, you are always very thoughtful, kind, and helpful, with a touch of whimsical humour at the proper time. Thanks for the glimpse into the inner JimiJam! You are indeed a pillar of the PaperBackSwap community and a great guy.

  4. Lee E. CougarRed Charlotte, NC says:

    James thanks. I love this place too especially the chat forum with its handful of regulars and semi-regulars. PBS is a fun place, well run, and entertaining and you are one big reason why it is this way. Have a great 2012 and good luck, now and always.


  5. Mary G. says:

    Thanks for a chance to win this great book!

  6. Mary G. says:

    So sorry, James…. can you tell I am a new-by? Left my “comment” on the wrong spot. Thanks for all the fine work you do as Tour Guide. I cannot tell you how many times one of PBS’ fine volunteers has saved the day for me. This is a wonderful site and I only wish I had discovered it long before I did. From one of many many book lovers… thanks for all the time you take to make PBS the wonderful place it is!

  7. Maria (SassenachD) says:

    You Rock Jimi!

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