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Volunteers have been the life-blood of libraries. They help us to reach our potential in the communities we serve.  We need to think about volunteers as employees. They represent the library. As the employer, we need to make sure we have the right volunteer in the right job. To achieve this we need to write job descriptions for our volunteers.  Do you need a web designer? Do you need help with Summer Reading? Do you need help at the circulation desk? Each requires different skills, a different set of responsibilities, and a different time commitment.  Write your job descriptions to reflect the need.  It is important to interview the potential volunteer and review the needed skills and time commitment and to see if the person will work well with the library team.  We also need to give the volunteer the time to say “No” if they feel they do not fit with the job needed.  What have been your experiences with volunteer? 

volunteers at Decatur

Finding and keeping good volunteers can be difficult. Currently we don't have many young people who are regular volunteers, however we do get a lot of interest expressed from time to time. The biggest contribution we get in volunteers at Decatur is during our book sales. We have a very dedicated group of regulars who manage the organization of materials and run the book sales during library hours. They are certainly an asset to us. Within the last six months we have also recruited a group of folks to sort and box book donations for us. This is a pretty big task since we get copious amounts of donated material. I used to handle sorting and boxing myself and I'm now thankful that it isn't just a one person job as it can be difficult to find time on top of other tasks. I understand that volunteers in other libraries commonly handle book donations. Despite the great assistance we get, all the folks involved in our sales and donations fall into an older age demographic. In times past we've had a dedicated teen advisory board that could be considered volunteers, but that generation moved on and it has been a task to revive the TAB.

Decatur currently has an application for volunteers and our director interviews applicants. Applicants also must go through a short background check. We don't take community service any longer. Right now we don't have a process for recruiting for very specific tasks. However it would be great to have more options in that area.

As far as keeping good volunteers, a little can go a long way. Make sure that volunteers have enough to work on. If a volunteer doesn't feel useful then they have little incentive to stay. Also, provide enough recognition to volunteers for what they do. Thank you cards and inexpensive gifts for recognition can go a long way. We also have a volunteer recognition week in April. Making sure there is work and providing enough appreciation is pivotal. Despite highs and lows in volunteerism, our library certainly wouldn't be the same without them.



We are about to celebrate our volunteers with a luncheon next week.  The volunteers at Comfort Public Library are our life blood, the reason we can keep our doors open and the spokesmen for our community.  Often times we have people come in just to "see"  the Library and to touch base with someone who knows about the community.  They are met at the door with a smile and welcoming personality.  Over 1,575 hours of donated time at circulation alone!  I don't know what we would do without our volunteers!


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When I first became Director 7 years ago, I was all for using volunteers for anything I could, but then I realized they really didn’t want to do the things I needed them to do, like dust. They wanted to be “more helpful”. However, this meant having to use staff to train them which then sort of defeated the idea of volunteers. There were also legal issues that needed to be addressed so I just decided it wasn’t worth it. This said we have volunteers who do read at our weekly storyhour. This has worked out great! It lets the kids met people from their community. This is one place I’ve found to be very popular & a great asset for volunteers.

Jennifer Johnson-Spence

Student Volunteers

A lot of a volunteers have been students with the National Honors Society who need to complete Community Hours. We have tried to provided them with activites other than dusting or cleaning up the yards. These students have helped with Summer Reading by leading various groups in crafts and outdoor activites. They also help supervise the Free Lunch program that is provided during Summer Reading. These students are also vital in helping us put on our haunted library and fall festival for the community. They also help with the Friends of the Library Book Sales.

For our program we had them help design and run a Teen (12-16) Winter Reading Program. This is one of the hardest groups to get to come into the library and continue using the library.

My experience has been, that they will volunteer at the library long enough to earn their Community Hours credit.

Student volunteers

We also use student volunteers. We have two that are really great, and dependable and cannot get enough hours to suit them. However, more often than not, all most volunteers want to do is to complete their community service hours and then they are gone. And finding adult volunteers is nearly impossible.