Friday, February 8, 2019

Unique Volunteering Opportunities in the Library

Libraries love volunteers! Unfortunately, sometimes we are overrun by the offers of lovely people, and have to turn them away -- particularly teenagers who only need a few hours. Luckily, there are other things that volunteers can do in addition to shelving and shelf-reading. Like what? Well...

Domestic Duties

There are lots of smaller daily activities that need to be taken care of in a library setting. Volunteers can:
  • Dust the shelves
  • Clean and sanitize toys
  • Make sure games and puzzles have all the pieces
  • Organize toy bins and puzzles
  • Test markers and glue sticks to make sure they're still good, and get rid of the old
  • Clean and sanitize tables
  • Vacuum or sweep high-traffic areas, such as the toy section or craft room
  • Wipe down board books/picture books
They're not the most fun activities in the world, but they can be extremely useful!

Online Volunteering

Zooniverse is an the world's largest platform for "people-powered research." Volunteers don't need any special training or equipment to help out - they simply need a computer and Internet access. 

Volunteers can help in many projects! They could:
  • count the orangutans in their nests
  • enter data from old census reports
  • count stars and help discover a supernova
  • transcribe documents from the time of Shakespeare
  • and lots more!
What can the library do? Some locations have laptops dedicated to working on these projects, and volunteers can sign in to work on them for hour-long blocks. They're being helpful and fulfilling their volunteering requirements at the same time! This is particularly useful for teens who need only a few hours. 

Outreach Volunteering

My library currently has a monthly program for children called the Helping Hands Club. The club has a different project every month. At one meeting, they wrote thank you notes to local police officers and firefighters; at another, they made bookmarks to leave at the senior center. There are lots of things that kids can do!
  • Make catnip mice or dog toys for the local animal shelter
  • Participate in the Kindness Rocks program
  • Write letters to active service members
  • Assemble small bags for people at the homeless shelter (socks, handy wipes, granola bars, and a handwritten note telling the recipient that somebody cares)
  • Write get-well cards to patients in the hospital
  • Make "seed bombs" to help spread wildflowers
This idea could easily be adapted for other age groups, who could also do more advanced projects. 
  • Knitting or crocheting hats and scarves for a local homeless shelter or food bank
  • Crochet octopuses for premature babies, as seen on the Martha Stewart Website
  • Create no-sew blankets or pillows for animal shelters

What kinds of unique volunteering opportunities does your library offer? Tell us here in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!

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