Library Diva's Guide to Volunteering…

Aside from the advice that I was not “that powerful”, “changing my lightbulb” has been probably the most sound advice I have heard in years.

When I worked in education, I absorbed every problem and struggle of all the children and families I was involved with. When they didn’t  have shoes, I provided shoes, when they struggled with grades, I made every attempt to make sure they “got it” and as I moved up the education chain from elementary students to college students, I became concerned when the students weren’t attending classes. I actually created a “where’s waldo” game within our class  when one of the classmates stopped attending. I contacted our admissions and retention services, I contacted his dorm director, I just wanted to make sure he was ok. I eventually met with a colleague of mine who had taught classes way longer than I had and he told me over coffee >You are not that powerful<

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

>Changing my lightbulb< hit me like another ton of bricks. I need to become energy efficient I was a told. Stop burning so brightly all the time. Stop being “on” all the time. “set yourself to dimmer” once in a while.

Very interesting….


A friend and I were talking the other day about volunteering. I’m moving out of the management of volunteering and focusing on the coordination of volunteers. It’s a scary thing, because the management will now fall under someone else who may or may not know the delicate balance there has to be in the management of volunteers.

The first and most important thing is that volunteers don’t want to hear about the day-to-day drama. They want to come in, do good, and go home. My sister had told me of a time where she went to her local animal shelter to walk dogs and refill water bowls only to be met by a staff who put the pressure on the volunteers of that day that if money wasn’t raised than 8 pitt bull puppies would be put to death that night. She practically was given the choice of standing outside a store in a strip mall with a donation can or to cough up cash then and there.The staff’s job was stressful, they wanted the volunteers to know what they go through every day.

It wasn’t what she signed up for, she didn’t want the drama, didn’t need the pressure, she was so turned off she left and didn’t look back. When we volunteer, we want to do good, we want it easy, we want to make a difference in a positive way and feel good about it and share our happy stories. We don’t want the drama. If you are on the inside of volunteer management, remember that volunteers are seeing a side that “normal” people don’t usually see. Just because the dirty laundry is there doesn’t mean you have to flaunt it.

As in any management position, transition is hard, for the former manager, the future manager and all of those who are being managed. I shielded and protected the volunteers from a lot of the day-to-day drama that they can over hear and see when they are in the trenches with us. I just hope it continues.

Volunteering in any environment should be fun and enjoyable and worthy, even if  “working” in the same environment isn’t.

We all know my fascination with Abe Lincoln. Friday afternoon, I just needed a little break from my office so I went to our Children’s Department to look at the picture books. I could spend hours in there. I didn’t… but I could have. I sat on the floor looking for something artistic and fun and funny to get me through the afternoon. Better to read a quick book then to eat a Snickers bar  and there I saw it… a book about Lincoln.

It was called “The Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln”. I flipped through it, instantly knew I’d like it, grabbed it and took it up to the solitude and safety of my sanctum. my office. my consultation room.

There, in the privacy of my office, door closed..I giggled and smiled. It’s probably the funniest children’s book I’ve read in a long long time. Sometimes we need simple little things to give us a break from what we deal with in our lives. Life can be exhausting. Our energy is sucked out of us from our own stress and other people’s stress.

Go for a walk, get some fresh air, take a cat nap, read a children’s book. I wanted the Snickers, but I chose the book and I’m glad I did. Not too often after I eat a Snickers do I reflect and smile about it later after I’ve gobbled it down. With this little picture book I did think about it throughout the day. I checked it out and even took it home and looked at it and laughed.

Ahhh…it’s the little things…

{April 18, 2011}   worn out…by others!

Call it genetics or nature vs. nurture but my sister and I seemed to have the same week last week. My sister may live three states away, but we make sure we talk at least 2-4 times a week. I called and I told her I was done last Thursday, that I was closing up my borders like Arizona, that I had enough of the take, take, take and and the need, need, need. I thought I was going to get sympathy. I wasn’t expecting the “one-upping”.

For every time I was venting about the lack of respect and common courtesy I was receiving at work, she one-upped me on what she was getting at her work. For every time I was venting about the neediness of my clientele, she one-upped me on what she was getting from hers.  I thought I had her when I started in with my co-workers but I didn’t even get to launch my first grenade before she stopped me in mid sentence. She said one word and I was silent. “MILTON”

I had heard about her “Milton” for about 8 months now. He had not been feeling well and so staff put out a money jar for collections for him to cover expenses. Then staff had decided to collect gift cards for him. Then staff decided to donate vacation days to him. They had Pig Pickin’s and Pancake Breakfasts, and dinners and get together’s. My sister was up to her elbows in emails about Milton.

If more people put their efforts into their work as they do for Milton, work would be so much better, she’d say. People’s work and focus slacked, sucked by the energy of saving “Milton”. On Thursday, she had trumped my co-worker ace. I knew I was “had” when she said “Milton”.

Alright, you win, what’s up with Milton. My sister had informed me that she was in a meeting when her co-worker announced that she was giving one of her kidneys to Milton. My sister was shocked. Dumbfounded almost. Everyone was hugging the organ donor, telling her how blessed and gracious she was and my sister just sat there, in shock. It troubled her.

Now don’t get me wrong, my sister is a very caring, compassionate and sharing person, but enough is enough. At what point can 1 sacrifice affect the team. All my sister kept thinking about was all the meetings this co-worker had missed, had blown off, had “forgotten” about which had caused my sister more and more work. My sister had had it. She indeed was “done”. Stick a fork in her.

I told her she had to be strong and make sure before her co-worker went on medical leave for Milton, that she had tied up all loose ends on projects that connected her with my sister. I told her to send her an email and ask for some time to devote to finishing up projects, heck, she was only asking for time, it’s not like she was asking for a “kidney”.

I’m all for organ donations, but I’m pretty selective on who I’m sharing my organs with while I’m alive. She totally one upped me on that one. I may have some issues going on at work, but so far, no organ procurement party invitations have crossed my desk.

I can only hope this week is better…for both of us! 🙂

et cetera
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