New Library Directors Handbook

Managing and Keeping Volunteers

  • Clear communication is important. Volunteers and staff must work together and listen and learn from each other.
  • Be sensitive to what the volunteer brings to the library. Each person has certain expectations, skills, and talents.
  • Recognize volunteers and find ways to involve volunteers in supporting, stimulating, and recognizing each other.
  • Work with volunteers to plan training and support. Volunteers can give you a good indication of where they need support and training.
  • Be sensitive to the types of trainings or experiences the individual will best respond to and be selective and focused when providing that training. We all learn differently and respecting those differences can make the experience positive for both the library and the volunteer.
  • Be alert for opportunities within a volunteer's assignment for offering experiences for growth and challenge. Volunteers like new challenges. They get tired of only filing or shelving books. If you sense a volunteer is becoming bored, try to find ways to make his/her job more interesting.
  • Enable your volunteer to grow. Like staff, volunteers want to feel appreciated and that they have gained something from a position.
  • In planning with a volunteer, allow for a loss of learning and momentum in part-time work. Volunteers have busy lives and other projects, so sometimes they may forget something or lose their drive.
  • Insure that volunteers understand library jargon and traditions. This is where orientation is important. You make volunteers feel like a part of the organization and they may find it easier to understand why you do something the way you do.
  • Encourage initiative and experimentation. Volunteers bring new eyes to the library. If they think of a better way to do something or want to try a new project, listen carefully. The volunteer may be on to something that will improve the library. If they are, let them take the initiative in seeing something through.
  • Make your volunteer feel welcome and as if they are a part of the library. You can do this by having a place for volunteers to store items, by offering a cup of coffee or tea when giving an orientation, and by talking to the volunteer about the role of the library.