Library Diva's Guide to Volunteering…

{November 24, 2009}   Giving Thanks, a Handshake or a Hug

I had 35 messages on my voicemail this morning. About a month ago, a former employee stopped in my office to see me. She told me how much she missed the library, how she loves the library and how she’d love to work at the library again. I handed her a volunteer application and said, when you’re ready…come see me. She came in the next day, application filled out.

In the past 3 weeks, I’ve been able to dig out because of her. She makes my phone calls, she helps schedule orientations and interviews, she mails, she makes badges, she’s AWESOME and so pleasant and positive.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed you just sat at your desk and wondered where to start? Did you move papers from one pile to another pile? Check your email, look at your desk and pile them again? This morning, I wrote out instructions on a piece of paper on how she can help me with my phone messages, it was only a matter of minutes before that paper was swallowed up by my piles! I couldn’t find it. We laughed as I wrote out the instructions again…and believe it or not, while she worked with my phone messages and I went through the piles of paper on my desk, I never did find it!

As I sorted and organized she took down all my phone messages and I was able to dig out. This pile needed faxed, this pile needed stapled, this piled needed mailed. These applications needed their handbooks agreements, these applications needed filed….on and on…

After 2 hours, I felt a huge burden had been lifted. The volunteer and I looked at each other smiling. Should I shake her hand? Was just a “Thanks” good enough? I didn’t care. I grabbed her and hugged her and said “Thank You Thank You Thank You!!! I’m so glad you were here to help me today!”

She said, “You’re welcome! You really needed me today! It was fun! I’ll see you next Tuesday and we’ll do it again!” 

Believe it or not, I bet next Tuesday may be more of the same! It was a good day for me today! I hope your days are just as good as this one was!


{November 19, 2009}   Knowing the Library

The Volunteer Manager of a library needs to know just about everything they can about the library, how it works, who does what and where to go to for the answers. The Volunteer Manager has their hand right on the pulse of the people and the staff and establishing good relationships with both is key to a successful volunteer program. We have quite a few volunteers who shelf for us, so you won’t be surprised to see me out there shelving away to better understand how to train, what it’s like on the front line and ways to improve how volunteers can help us. I won’t have a volunteer do anything I haven’t already tried. When we noticed a lot of gum on our sidewalks, I got a paint scraper from our facilities department and went out there and scraped it up. When I went to sell it as a volunteer opportunity, I told them it was the worse job in the world but it needed to be done! Before you know it, I had a couple teen guys out there scraping away with gloves and scrapers.

Our job as Volunteer Manager is to get help to support our staff. By doing this, we need to make sure we know what the needs are and how it can be accomplished. I want the volunteers to do a good job, THEY want to do a good job. By knowing the library and all that is involved, everyone will feel more comfortable with volunteers helping under your guidance.

We know that volunteers can help us with the day-to-day operations, special library events and fundraising,  but how can we use volunteer statistics in our budgets and hiring processes? I track hours and projects and project based hours monthly. Tracking helps document trends and busy times. Summer Reading Programs bring in huge numbers of volunteer hours. By accurately tracking and documenting hours, Administration can use these statistics  to determine if an increase in staff hours is a possibility.

One department that we have is our History and Genealogy Room. We consistently have volunteers who work 20-30 hours per week. When those volunteers began to drop off with vacation, illness, or other activities, we noticed a dramatic decrease in productivity in moving obituary cards to an online data base. We  realized how much we depended on those volunteers to do that task. In turn, we began to look at possibly hiring an additional staff member. According to the Independent Sector ( which tracks the worth of a volunteer hour, the 2008 worth of a volunteer is $20.25.You can take the task that the volunteer is doing, and multiply by the hourly rate of the comparable staff member. Statistics can be used to show savings or show need.

Tracking hours can be something as simple as a sign in sheet, an excel spreadsheet, or you can get a little more advanced with a subscription to Volgistics ( The important thing is to track them and document them.

The other reason to document volunteer hours is to use it for Recognition and we’ll talk more about that later! HANG IN THERE WITH ME! There’s a lot to cover!

{November 13, 2009}   Where do I even start?

start-buttonThe first thing you need to realize is that developing a successful library volunteer program just doesn’t happen overnight. There has to be a purpose. Why do you want to start one? Is there a need? Who do you want to benefit from the program. With any volunteer program 2 different sides are served. The agency and the volunteer. Creating an application process, a handbook, guidelines, and talking to the staff to determine needs are all great places to start. The key is communication with staff.  The more staff is included in the process, the more they will feel connected to the program and the less resistance you will get as a manager in placing volunteers. No one likes to feel left out or stepped on…we want volunteers to help us and they want to help us! Not Stress us out! They’ll be more ideas coming! Managing Library Volunteers is a great job! I’ll help you love it!

et cetera
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