Sunday, March 15, 2009

Walking the line with volunteers

We have a brand new library, with a lot to do, I am in the midst of organising the student volunteers, we have a core group of about 10 parents who come into the library to help every Thursday, and I have another lady who is not a parent who comes in for a few hours each week. I have just recently had another few people expressing their wish to be a part of the library volunteer group.

I have a dilemma with volunteers in that I want to make sure what they are doing is meaningful to them, that they feel they do not need me to show them what to do all the time, and that they are enjoying what they are doing and the time they spend with us is meeting their needs as well as ours.

The big group of Mum's who come work on covering books, and other mass jobs like label covering etc, they like to do this as it is a social time for them, they like to do things that are low thinking which allows them to chat and catch up.

The non parent lady who is coming in is working on subject headings for the picture books at the moment, and relabelling the picture books as we are about to restructure the organisation. This allows her to just come in when it suits her and just get on with the job.

The student volunteers will help with shelving, displays, cleaning up and circulation. They require training which will start this week.

My dilemma is that although volunteers reduce the workload, I do usually have to spend quite a bit of time planning for the time they are coming in, showing them what to do, and making sure they are doing it the way it needs to be done, and, I want to make sure that my own assistants are not put out of a job. We are at the moment at a crossroads - we have got past the catch up and frenzied organisational phase of setting up the library, and now are wallowing in the transition phase of looking forward and planning for the future.

I would like to hand over the volunteer co-ordination to one of my assistants, however, I am not sure their English is up to a standard which will allow them to do this is in a manner which would suit all concerned. I want each of the different volunteer groups to have specific projects to get on with, so they do not need to be instructed each time they come in. My dilemma is finding these projects that need to be done that do not require a knowledge of library cataloguing and other intricacies that need to be explained in detail.

If we do not have books to cover, or subject headings to input - what else can I get volunteers to do? What do you have your volunteers do?


Mrs. C. said...

Like you I have different groups with different skills. I have a couple of parents who drop in regularly to cover books, stick on labels, stamp etc. This tends to keep my cataloguing shelf full!

I then have a wonderful "Art" group who take responsibility for all my displays. I sometimes give them an idea of something I want to focus on and they "run with it" or, as is more often the case, take my idea and turn it into something amazing!! Being on my own, the display side really takes up a lot of time so this works perfectly for me. The number of art parents vary with the projects. If they need more help, they just call in a few friends.

I have a couple more parents who are willing to help with Chinese cataloguing when I have Mandarin books. I am guessing your assistants can cope with that.

The other area I am thinking about is training up someone to do book repair. A lot of our stock is old and starting to decay but could still be kept going for a bit longer. I am thinking about training one of my regular volunteers to do this as is it so time consuming.

The students help with shelving, tidying shelves and like to have a go on the counter.

Couldn't survive without the volunteers...they are often what keep me sane!

MarciaP said...

Dianne I always had parents who helped me in many ways in our Junior School Library. Apart from covering they took charge of assisting every morning on a roster system to man the circulation desk. They also shelved books before they left. This was an enormopus help to me. They also helped with shelf checking at the end of every term which was brilliant and I had a team of decoraters who transformed the library about 3 times a year. I miss them now I am in the secondary school.