MHLS Home Small Libraries Roundtable
March 2005

Topic: Managing Volunteers

Notes from the March 2005 Meeting


At the Small Libraries Round Table, participants discussed the challenges and solutions they've found for managing volunteers in their libraries. Below are tips and thoughts from the participants.

Carol Briggs, director of the Roeliff Jansen Community Library, shared the backbone of her volunteer program, a binder that combines all the tools she uses to manage her volunteers and help their time in the library go smoothly. The binder contains:
· Application form
· Volunteer Opportunities/Special Project List
· Monthly Schedule of volunteers
· Volunteer sign-in sheet
· Library Policies
· Millennium Instructions
· Information about MHLS (including a map with library locations marked)
· Forms: Activity form, Incident Report form, computer problem form
· Relevant parts of the library's Disaster Policy (ex: exit routes, who to call in an emergency)
· Opening and Closing procedures for the library building

· Form at desk with questionnaire
· Advertise "volunteer orientation" sessions
o Quarterly training
· Target senior citizen groups/young retirees/ AARP
· Target "honor society" high school students
· Create opportunities for families
· Men for jobs they don't need to share with ladies
· Girl Scouts looking for teen readers
· Homeschooled students
· Youth program/Junior volunteers
· "Work off" fines program

The group felt that one of the bigger challenges to managing volunteers was making sure there was work to give volunteers of differing skill and ability levels. Below is a list of "special projects" beyond the traditional volunteer tasks of shelf reading, re-shelving, and working the circulation desk that they came up with:
· Check the shelf for billed items using "Create Lists"
· Call patrons' with overdues from home (great for libraries out of space for staff!)
· Keeps track/orders replacements for audio tapes
· Scrap books of local history information
· Dusting
· Genealogical summary/access pages/filling requests (form letter with photocopy of info)
· Stuff "newcomer" bags
· Reclassification of expanding parts of collection
· Adult programs
· Annual fair
· Bake sales/baking
· Book discussion groups
· Book displays
· Homework mentor program
· Book sale preparation, sorting donations
· Computer instruction
· Decorate for holidays
· Delivery to homebound (Mary Anna Egan of the Red Hook Library has shared the forms her library uses to facilitate this program, contact for a copy)
· Gardening
· Sweep walk
· Lawn litter pickup
· Posters and poster distribution
· Refreshments
· Check links on web page
· Update events bulletin board
· Baby bundles
· Cover books
· Repair books

· Gift certificate to book store ($5)
· Gift certificate to pick out book in their name for library
· Annual breakfast/dinner/reception/concert
· Holiday ornament (silver angel with name)
· "Focus on" in newsletter
· Volunteer badge/nametag
· Date calendars
· Homemade cookies

· Retired/off-season teachers can be a good source
o Sunday school teachers
o Young parents
· Substitutes/alternates can help provide long-term continuity

Other tips:
· Consider having volunteers wear a pin or nametag that identifies them as a volunteer
· Get to know your volunteers, then it will be easier to match them up with tasks that are fulfilling for them and right for the library.
· Be sure to incorporate the importance of patron confidentiality into your volunteer training program.


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