I’ve been doing some time volunteering at my local public library while I’m studying for my Diploma of Library Studies at TAFE. It’s been great for me to get into a library and get a feel for the day to day activities, get a bit of experience to fill in a thin resume, and to set a path for my future career. Lots of library students and prospective library students give time to the volunteer program for the same reasons, and lots of local community members join the program too. I came to hear about the volunteering program from a staff member who I met at the Unmeash Unconference last year. I received a lot of good advice at Unmeash 2012 and was able to turn some of it into action.
At the induction session I attended last year, reasons for joining the volunteer program ranged from improving English conversation skills, assisting with special community language programs within the library, meeting people after moving to a new area, and giving time to something meaningful in the community. The volunteers wear different coloured name tags if they have a particular expertise, such as computing skills, or if they speak a community language (or if they are library students).
I’ve learned many things in the program that perhaps should have been obvious. I quickly changed over to much more supportive shoes. I sought out clothes with pockets to carry small things with me. I realised that not everyone understood the differences between graphic novels and manga, and I can now predict which sections need the most frequent shelf tidying. In the time I’ve been there I have received training in assisting patrons with technical questions, such as downloading ebooks from the library catalogue, and have assisted staff to present the beginner computer classes which just happen to coincide with my regular shift. As I especially enjoy this, I am already thinking how I can use my time studying to gain more formal training in providing training.
But apart from all that, one of the main things I enjoy is working with the other volunteers. Hurstville City Council actively fosters volunteers in many areas, and the library is part of a library/museum/gallery group. They work hard to make sure that the volunteers are shown appreciation through morning teas and activities that give us the time to get to know each other and the staff. It’s pleasant to get to know the other volunteers that are there on the same day as me, and to meet up with others volunteering at different locations and hear about their experiences. Plus, I get to keep an eye on new releases and never have to make a special trip to return my books.
If you are a library student, or even thinking about studying in the future, perhaps there are volunteering opportunities near you. Seek them out, for fun and function.