When I first started working at the Library, we had a handful of volunteers who worked a disorganized ten hours per week. We had a few volunteers that had been coming in for years, they would come in when they wanted, do their task and leave. We also had short term volunteers, they would show up when they were available and we would scramble to find work. We had volunteers, but we didn’t have a volunteer program.
When I finally became a proper Reference Librarian, I immediately started conspiring to take over as the Volunteer Coordinator. I liked working events, I liked working circulation and I liked working with Teens, it just seemed like a good fit. It was not a difficult sell. Once I took over, I immediately started a schedule-based volunteer program, and by the end of the month was getting 40-50 hours per week of volunteer work.
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The very first thing I did for the volunteer program was design a schedule and sign-in sheet. I know this seems very basic and you probably already have a schedule and sign-in, or a volunteer tracking app, but we did not. This is such an easy thing to do and it has multiple benefits. This allowed us to plan work for the volunteers, without creating extra work for ourselves. It also allowed me to post the schedule for staff members, so that everyone could get the most out of our volunteers. If someone needed help with a special project, they just needed to check the schedule. This one simple thing really streamlined the entire program.
The next thing I did was sit down with staff members to determine the best tasks for volunteers. Most of the work came predictably, from Circulation. A few staff members had special tasks, like book repair, that I was able to assign to advanced volunteers. Ultimately, volunteers were responsible for shelving Easy, Easy Readers, Board Books, New Books, Large Print, Young Adult Fiction, Magazines and DVDs. They also helped prepare for Story Times and other events. We had a few Special volunteers that helped with Technical Processing, Inter-Library Loan, and running our local newspaper archives through OCR. All this work added up to about one full time equivalent position and took me, maybe one or two hours a week to manage.
We eventually moved to using the Volgistics Software and that works great, but if you don’t have that in your budget a simple excel calendar and sign-in sheet works fine. The above list of volunteer jobs works for our mid-sized library, but might not be a good fit for yours. Make sure you talk to your staff to find out what their needs are. This volunteer program works because it is simple, efficient and well communicated.
Let’s Collaborate! What tasks do volunteers perform at your library? Comment below: