Mike Sylvan of Montclair volunteers about nine hours a week at the Montclair Public Library branches. He picks requests and returns books to their proper place.


Mike Sylvan, 72, of Montclair volunteers about nine hours a week at the Montclair Public Library branches. He can be found on Mondays at the Upper Montclair Bellevue Avenue branch and at the main location on South Fullerton Avenue when they need him Tuesdays through Thursdays. He has been a volunteer with the library for four years. Sylvan grew up in Chicago, IL. and lived and worked in Denver, CO. and now in his retirement years calls Montclair home.

In this series, we highlight a hometown person who has given freely of their time and effort to help people, animals or the environment. To suggest a person or an organization for this series, email and

Mike Sylvan

What inspires you to volunteer?
I retired seven years ago in Denver. I wanted to do something to keep busy and stay active. The healthiest thing to do is to be around people. Volunteering gets you involved with other people and at the same time you are able to give back. Even if you are working, it’s good to volunteer. It’s a great thing for any age.

What are some of your volunteering duties?
I do ”Picks.” I pick the books, CDs, DVDs people order. I pull them from the shelf. I also put them away. I help people when they can’t find something, or if they have a question.

What have you learned while volunteering?
I learned that the library is a wonderful community meeting place for Montclair residents of all ages. The library offers so many options—books, DVDS, books on tape, newspapers, magazines, computers and the internet. They have exercise classes, senior space and dialogue every Wednesday, movies and lectures, as well as discussion and study areas.

What’s your favorite part of volunteering?
I find a great camaraderie here at the library. The whole atmosphere is terrific. I’ve always been out-going. My last boss called me a “social butterfly. I also enjoy seeing how much the kids like it. They are just very happy and delighted and always fascinated. They will be interested later in life.

How do you feel at the end of a day after you volunteered?
Every day that I volunteer, I feel energized and proud to have participated in delivering this wonderful service to the friendly residents.

How does your family feel about your volunteering service?
My family happily encourages it and they are proud I do it.

What do you do on your free time outside of volunteering?
Swimming. Swimming is my passion. I swim at the YMCA and at the Mountainside pool with my wife, Judy. Singing is fun too. I’d like to do karaoke some day. I cannot live without swimming or music. I love baseball and I’m still a Cubs fan. Also my wife and I spend the winters in Saratoga, FL. I’m a political activist. I send emails and make phone calls every day giving my opinion especially with what’s going on politically in America lately. I also belong to Toastmasters Speech Club and Socrates, a group that votes on a topic and discusses it once a week on Thursday evenings.

Do you do other voluntarism work?
I belong to Temple Ner Tamid and we help out one Sunday a month to serve food to those in need at a church in Bloomfield. Before volunteering at the library, I helped out at Toni’s Kitchen and the Human Needs food pantry. I’m also the unpaid volunteer driver for my five grandkids. They range from age 2 to 13. Thats not a complaint, we go to Panera or the yogurt store… I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have all these grandkids. We are a close family, I feel so fortunate to have such a close family.
See related story of volunteerism at Toni’s Kitchen.

What was your occupation before your retirement?
I worked for 40 years for HUD—Housing Urban Development for the government in Denver from 1971 to 2011. I was an auditor, then I worked in the accounting division. When I retired, I worked in the grant evaluation specialist office of Native American programs.