Friday, January 30, 2015

10 Meaningful Library Volunteer Roles

Library volunteers - we all get the requests, but what to do with them? There is just only so much dusting, weeding, children programming prep, and mending you can have them do. Below are some ideas that have been successful at other libraries, especially for teens and adults. Please keep in mind - some union contracts may not allow certain tasks to be performed by volunteers, so before you do anything, make sure you double check with your Director what you can and cannot have a volunteer do.

Window Artists

  If your volunteers are artistic, get them to work on your windows! All they need are brushes, tempera paint, and a dab of dish soap (just to make it easier to wash off afterwards). You could have them paint advertisements of upcoming events or you can do seasonal themes. Better yet – pick out a children’s picture book and ask them to paint an inspiration from it, then you can put the book on display.

Children's Room windows at the Marlborough Public Library. Teens painted their inspirations from The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 

Outreach Specialists

  Is there any library that does this enough? Find outgoing people who are willing to promote library services and resources at community events and festivals. They can even bring library card registration forms or a floating book collection, which we discussed a few months back.

Program Facilitators

   Tap into your volunteer’s passion. What kind of programs could they run at the library and you provide the advertising? Pikes Peak Library District has a manga artist run their anime meetings as well as teachers to run their ESL circles and teach foreign languages.  Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box! Alachua County Library District has local history aides staffed by volunteers.

Shelf Managers

   By far, this is the favorite position our teens enjoy at our library. We train them to be shelf readers and they spend half their time making sure their section is in order and the other half of the time shifting books. If you have any pages, see if you can match your shelf mangers to a page and have the page supervise their work. (If people are unable to pass the shelf reading test, have them only focus on shifting books. There's always plenty of work to be done there.)

Library Photographers

   Train a few photographers to come in and take pictures of your big events or final products. We include a photo release with our online registration so we can easily know ahead of time who we can photograph, but we also give the photographers permission forms to hand out if needed. Make sure they download their favorite pictures on your computer BEFORE they leave, or you may never get them. This program has been very beneficial for our social media networks and our website -- and all of our library photographers are teen volunteers. Note: Make sure you credit them for their work! They like to see their name attached to their pictures. Also, consider investing in a DSLR camera. The picture quality greatly increases, even if you just use the auto mode.

Photo Credit: MPL Photographer, Lauren Munday

Social Media Managers

   Social media can easily eat up a lot of anyone’s time, especially if you're trying to post on Facebook twice a day. There’s no reason why a librarian needs to manage these accounts 24/7. Volunteers can help post new information that may interest patrons (if you don’t want to link them directly to your account, you can have them email you links) and there are 3rd party apps for Instagram like Iconosquare which will let you repost content, so your volunteers will only need to tag you and you can reshare. Create a content guideline and find ways to divide up the work!

Collection Assistants

     Use volunteers to help you fine-tune your collection. Print out reports of missing books so they can double check they are not on the shelves and then you can delete them. Have them look up your series (fiction, manga, and graphic novels) and make a list of missing books for you to order. If you put stickers on your books (like Teen’s Top Ten), have them hunt them out and add them.

Technology Gurus

     Some libraries let volunteers work one-on-one with patrons. Other libraries tap into their skills to help keep up with their own computers like installing updates and reimaging laptops so all the junk is cleared off of them and they won't slow down. You know, the things that you know you should be doing, but never have time to do...

Library Marketers

    The more you market your programs, the more the community will know about them. A volunteer can easily post all of your events online like, your local newspapers, and most especially the local TV station. They could deliver fliers around the city/town. They can hand stacks of the library newsletters to local grocery stores and hair salons. They could write up press releases and news articles about programs past which you can send to the local newspapers. They could even help create ads for your website and social media, if you like their artistic style (Remember Canva? It can do wonders, if you have the time!).

Find Your Passion and Turn It Into a Volunteer Opportunity

     South Brunswick Public Library has a puppeteer program where they teach teens how to do a show and then the teens perform for children at the library. Marlborough Public Library had a 4D Movie presentation of Frozen where teens engaged all of the five senses during the movie. Louisville Public Library has a Reading Buddies program that connect struggling young readers with teens to practice reading each semester. None of these are quick volunteer opportunities, but they give volunteers a chance to learn a new skill, be very creative, and provide a program to local patrons. It could be very rewarding!

Summer Bonus

Is your library buzzing with patrons unable to find their school's required summer reading books? Consider doing what Shrewsbury Public Library did and create teen greeters. They sit at table near the door with school book lists in hand. They are trained to find the books on the shelves and, if they are all checked out, they can help patrons request the book from another library. Summer chaos avoided!

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