California State Library volunteers busy at the 2006 Governor's Conference for Women

Staff from throughout the California State Library (CSL) were volunteers at the The California Governor and First Lady’s September 2006 Conference on Women at the Long Beach Convention Center. The CSL staff were escorts to conference speakers, an exhilarating and enlightening assignment for the Sacramento team.

Celebrating its 20th Anniversary, the 2006 Women’s Conference featured not just renowned celebrities such as Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, Anna Quindlen, Maureen Dowd, Tim Russert, Martha Stewart and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but also business leaders and women whom First Lady Maria Shriver calls “remarkable.”

More than 11,000 people attended the sold-out event that included speeches, workshops, panels and an information-packed Exhibition Hall.  Everyone involved  - the attendees, the speakers, and the presenters - needed to navigate the enormous Conference Center and to keep on schedule.  The CSL volunteers made sure that “their” people got where they had to be, on time and in good spirits.

The CSL boasted the largest volunteer group of any California agency despite the CSL’s relatively small size of 180 employees.   The CSL team included Janna Franks, Vera Nicholas, Mary Jane Kayes, Lisa Foster, Michael Martinez, Glen Smith, James Crudup, Susan Hanks, and Sabah Eltareb.

Learning from celebrities

CSL Senior Librarian Vera Nicholas had the “honor” of working with Immaculee Ilibagiza, a Rwanda genocide survivor and author of Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.  Ilibagiza joined Laci Petersen’s mother, Sharon Rocha, and Los Angeles Police Department Officer Kristina Ripatti on the panel, “Beyond Courage: Overcoming the Unimaginable.”

Nicholas says, "Spending the day with Immaculee…was inspiring. When Immaculee told me that her escape from certain death by hiding out with seven women in a tiny bathroom for three months had solidified her faith, I learned that beauty and kindness emerge even out of the worst of human tragedies.”

Mary Jane Kayes, a librarian in the CSL’s Braille and Talking Book Library, accompanied Loretta Claiborne.  Born partially blind and mildly retarded, Claiborne has devoted her life to people with special needs, and to inner-city kids.  Claiborne has crossed the finish line of 25 marathons, twice placing among the top 100 women in the Boston Marathon. She's carried the torch in the International Special Olympics, has won medals in dozens of Special Olympics events, and holds honorary doctorate degrees from Quinnipiac College and Villanova University .

Kayes learned that though Claiborne has traveled the world promoting the Special Olympics in the company of famous and powerful people, Claiborne is “down-to-earth,” “lives modestly,” and contributes her extra income to her causes.  Though Claiborne has been to several dinners at the White House, she has never bought a new dress for any of them, Kayes says.  

Escorting Sylvia Rhone, President of Motown Records and Executive Vice President of Universal Music Group, to Rhone’s panel on the secrets of successful businesswomen ["Women at the Top:  The Secrets of Her Success"] was California Research Bureau Senior Policy Analyst, Lisa Foster. 

Foster discovered even “VIPs like Sylvia Rhone stress over public speaking.  She spent much of the morning getting data from her New York office, preparing for not a speech but an informal panel presentation.”

Office Assistant James Crudup had “a great time” working with Gunnar Peterson,” a renowned personal trainer, and author of The Workout. “From the time we met at the Westin Hotel, until the end of the conference, Peterson willingly shared his experiences in personal training with me,” Crudup says.

Janna Franks, Executive Assistant to the State Librarian, escorted Alison Blackwell, Human Resources Director for Western Region for Target stores, to a panel discussion with Tyra Banks on boosting female self-esteem. First-time volunteer Franks says, “It was great to meet famous and high-powered people, but finding out that they are down-to-earth was even better.”

For more information about the Governor and First Lady’s annual Conference for Women, please visit




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