COLUMBUS — Melodee Pedersen's been busy over the past 14 years.
Since moving to Columbus in 2003, she has volunteered consistently for Columbus Public Library and served on the board of directors there, including two terms as president.
That dedication earned her two Citizen Volunteer Awards from the city and most recently the Meritorious Service Award from the Nebraska Library Association.
In 2006, Pedersen helped found the Friends of the Columbus Public Library and focused most of her attention on the annual book sales.
“The library staff was in charge of the sale until the Friends of the Library took over,” Pedersen said. “The staff understandably had a minimal amount of time to organize the sale, so that is what the Friends of the Library does. We have time to organize the sale so people can come in and find what they are looking for.”
The change helped raise the average yearly proceeds of the sales from around $2,500 to about $6,500.
“All of the books in the sale are donated to us,” Pedersen said. “I don’t know what the volume of donations were before I got here, but lately there have been lots of donations. A couple of years ago we even had to open up a second room to store all the books. So now there are two sales per year because we have so many books.”
This sizable increase in revenue and donations obviously garnered some attention.
A suggestion was made to Jeanette Jackson, a member of the Friends of the Library, to nominate Pedersen for yet another award. Jackson got together with Columbus Public Library Foundation board member Mimi Ernst to submit a formal nomination for Pedersen to be selected for the Meritorious Service Award.
“Melodee has just put so much time, energy, heart and soul into this library,” Jackson said. “She has had such a positive impact and has been so supportive of the boards and foundations she’s run on.”
Pedersen said the duo who nominated her deserve more credit than she does.
“They made a whole packet of information on me,” Pedersen said. “I think it got up to seven different people writing letters about me. That was pretty impressive.”
Two of those nominations came from heartwarming sources.
“Her kids even wrote letters of recommendation for her,” Jackson said. “It was so cute. Her kids saw the energy their mother always gives to the library and how important it is to her. That sure stood out.”
The Nebraska Library Association's Meritorious Service Award is given annually to a person who has contributed to the improvement of library services in their community.
It was presented last fall during the group's state convention in Kearney, but Pedersen wasn’t there to accept her honor. She was far too busy in Columbus.
A fellow volunteer asked Pedersen what prevented her from attending. She rattled off several items, four of which were library-related.
Karen Connell, the library's interim director, said Pedersen’s endless work is much-appreciated.
“She is still heavily involved,” Connell said. “It is such an asset to the community to have someone so dedicated to the library services. She spends a lot of time making sure things run smoothly.”
Pedersen calls the library a hidden treasure, a place where she's willing to help wherever she's needed.
“There is a wide gamut of what the library has to offer," she said. "What drives me to do this is how great the organization is and how it benefits all the citizens of Columbus. I personally believe the library can really impact people from all walks of life."