Library Volunteers

volunteerAlmost every library depends on volunteer help at some time or another. Some libraries in North Dakota are run entirely by volunteers year-round! Summer, however, means summer reading programming. As one of the most time and labor intensive programs that most libraries offer, summer reading is one time nearly all libraries rely on volunteers for extra help. Finding and retaining reliable volunteers can be as challenging as planning a whole summer’s worth of programming, so here are some resources that may help.

The National Summer Learning Association has a tip sheet to help you recruit and select seasonal staff. It helps you identify potential sources for recruiting summer help, and it also provides tips for interviewing.

A two part blog post on Realized Worth offers the following advice: “Want good volunteers? Forget the altruistic, find the self-interested.” The article acknowledges that while this might seem like an oxymoron, it’s really not due to the fact that you want volunteers who are personally invested and intrinsically motivated because extrinsic motivation is hard to maintain. For more on motivation, watch this video (11 min.) summarizing research from Dan Pink’s books Drive.

Energize Inc offers an article featuring “Ten Time-Tested Volunteer Recruitment Tips that Still Work.” There are several good tips for smoothing the volunteer recruitment process; however, I think the most important tip is “Make sure it sounds as if someone would want to do this in their limited free time.” This goes back to previous article about finding volunteers with sustainable motivations.

Another article at Realized Worth covers “3 Reasons Why You’re Finding It Hard to Find And Keep Volunteers – And What To Do About It.” This article discusses three paradigm shifts that your library needs to keep in mind when recruiting volunteers. If you don’t time to read the whole article, think about how these three main points may be playing a role in your volunteer recruitment efforts:

  • “Today’s expectation is for direct connections with outcomes and with people.”
  • “Very few people can or want to make long-term commitments.”
  • “Volunteering needs to be an “experience first” event.”

Scroll to the “Shifting Gears” section at the end of the article for four tips on adjusting to the new paradigms.

Other resources on volunteer management include:

What are your best tips for recruiting volunteers for library programming? Share your suggestions in the comments!


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