Volunteering at your Public Library
Most of us would have considered volunteering in our lives and if you haven’t then do think about it. It is the easiest way to give back to a community that provides a framework to your daily life in the area you live. Everybody wants to belong, it is human nature. When we live in a certain community or city for a longish period, you have a sense of belonging.
What are some of the aspects of a community that define it? Besides its people, it is its parks, its infrastructure, the sports facilities, the market area, movie place and its library.
How to go about it?
Public libraries are an important aspect of community living in the US. The local library takes a lot of pride in being the common thread that brings the people in its area together. Funded by the state, they play an important role in spreading awareness on education, literacy and fostering the reading habit.
Considering to do volunteer work at your local library could probably be one of the most meaningful ways of expressing your gratitude to the community you live in or grew up in.
Most public libraries have engaging and active websites and have a section marked out for volunteer work. There is always enough and more to do at a library and they are in constant need for enthusiastic people ready to help with an array of projects that the library is involved in. You can register at the website and offer your volunteer services or simply call the volunteer services helpline, they usually have a dedicated volunteer services coordinator who is responsible for driving awareness on the library and its need for volunteers as well as funds. Or you could simply walk into the library and offer your volunteer services!
The behind the scene machinery
So what are the kinds of tasks that you can expect to participate in at the public library?
Well, for the uninitiated you will be surprised to know the array of support activities and functions you can be involved in. As one librarian said “there is always help needed at the library”.
Depending on your age, experience and inclination to help out, you can be involved in simple tasks like sorting books to complex duties of helping out with an Adult Literacy Program.
Just like an office, a library functions with various departments functioning autonomously while being directed together by the Director and his/her staff. There is an administrative department, collections department, circulation department, procurement division, finance, IT etc . Sounds like just like a company, right? It is. It is not just about stacking books and helping out people find the information they are in need of. That being the primary aim, the various divisions in the library all work in making this a smooth and efficient process.
What to expect?
It does indeed go beyond books and literature, there are DVDs, eReaders, childrens sections, study classes, movie screenings, support for gay rights, fashion shows, gardening, book clubs etc. So as a volunteer one could help with any of these fun activities!
Volunteering at the library was an eye opener for me. The first two days I simply sorted, stamped and packed books that were being withdrawn from circulation due to age and bad condition. Later I helped in RFID tagging books and DVDs (putting in the RFID chip sticker and matching it with bar codes, so they can be ‘beeped’ in and out as patrons borrow or return library material), one day I simply helped in ‘checking out’ the returned material and this could get tricky when certain library material was ‘on hold’- meaning to be put aside for a patron either in the branch it was returned to or possibly another branch of the library in the county. This involved printing a ‘hold slip’ and stacking the book or DVD in a separate bin. Another day I filed a whole bunch of survey responses alphabetically and fed in the data onto the survey capturing website.
The wonderful aspect of volunteering at the library and especially at the main one , say in Downtown is that, there is always something exciting happening everyday! One of the days we had video shooting and another day was a Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon! The Luncheon was an elaborate affair and involved invites, RSVPs, catering, decor, organizing a small show, vote of thanks, return gifts – basically the works and all in a tight budget!
I was also involved in the Adult Literacy Program which provides an opportunity for adults who for various reasons couldn’t finish their schooling and are now looking to complete it or even better their education in hope of brighter job prospects. This was a comprehensive project that goes the year round and involves reaching out to volunteers who can be potential ‘tutors’ and matching them with ‘learners’. Prior to matching tutors and learners, all interested learners go through a preliminary exam to gauge their level of reading and writing skills as well. Thereafter is follow up of classes held, providing study material, capturing feedback and so on.
Have you ever volunteered at your public library?
By now, you would have got a fair idea of what all you can do when you consider volunteering at the library. It is an amazing experience and the library is a wonderful place to not only visit but also to interact with many fantastic people who are dedicated to make this community a better place for all of us!
Go on, do your bit.
The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others ~ Gandhi