New Library Directors Handbook

Volunteer Programs

  • Enlist full board and staff cooperation. In order for the program to be successful, both your board and staff must believe in its value. If they do not, volunteers will pick up on this and will not remain at the library.
  • Review with board and staff all library activities to see if a volunteer work program would be of help to the library in meeting goals and objectives. Sometimes you don't really need volunteers, while at other times (like during summer reading) volunteers are necessary. If you take the time to think about what your goals are, you can utilize volunteers more effectively.
  • Assess activities and specific tasks to see where volunteer assistance could most properly be utilized. Take the time to plan what areas volunteers will work in and what they can do. This will save you time and frustration.
  • Appoint a volunteer coordinator. If your library is small, you may be the coordinator. It is important that someone is responsible for working with the volunteers and making sure things are running smoothly.
  • Prepare job descriptions for volunteer tasks. Just like a paid employee, it is important that volunteers know what is expected of them. A job description can also help you pinpoint what you need.
  • Establish who will supervise each volunteer. In a small library this is pretty easy to do. Try to choose someone who is good at working with people and is comfortable with volunteers.
  • Establish evaluation measures for continual feedback on volunteer job performance. Volunteers also like to know how they're doing. This doesn't have to be a formal process, but you should have something in place. It's important for you to keep track of how well the volunteer program is working.
  • Prepare policy and procedure guidelines for volunteers. A well-written policy about volunteers and their use in the library will keep you focused.
  • Develop orientation and training programs. It is important for volunteers to receive some type of orientation. An orientation to the library will make them feel more comfortable. Training is necessary to make sure they perform their tasks correctly and it can also be a perk. Maybe the volunteer would like to learn more about searching the Internet and you are offering a class to your staff. By including the volunteer, you make them feel more a part of the library and reward them for their help.
  • Plan formal recognition programs. Volunteers need to be recognized and appreciated. A formal program is a great way of publicly acknowledging their contributions. It's also important to recognize them informally. A simple thank you can go a long way.
  • This one is optional, but can be an easy way to acknowledge the importance of your volunteers. Have your volunteers wear name tags. It adds a professional aspect to volunteering, and its helpful for customers.