"A library doesn't need windows. A library is a window." – Stewart Brand

Jul 27, 2012

I'm on Programming Librarian!

I was recently asked to write a post for the Programming Librarian blog about a cool program we do with the local art museum. It went up earlier this week - you can read it here, if you're interested.

Jul 19, 2012

PLA 2012 session notes: Get Involved: Powered by Your Library -- Successful Engagement of High Impact Volunteers

Following are my notes from the "Get Involved: Powered by Your Library -- Successful Engagement of High Impact Volunteers" session at PLA 2012, held on Saturday, March 17 at 8:30.


Statewide volunteerism campaign in CA: "Get Involved powered by your library"
- Aim = get high-impact volunteers and make them advocates
- Volunteer recruitment aimed at baby boomers, who are different from senior volunteers
- Goals: train public libraries in recruiting and engaging skilled high-impact volunteers, position libraries as centers for civic engagement, help people find opportunities that match their skills and interests

Baby boomers and volunteerism
Why should we care?
* Lots of them (77 million)
* Most educated and financially secure generation in history
* Volunteer at higher rates than past generations did at the same age
* Nearly 2/3 of Boomer non- volunteers want to get involved but don’t know how
* Have been in workforce & have professional skills they want to share to make high level of impact
Right now, ages 48-66 – not silver-haired
Different from senior volunteers
* More physical ability than previous generations; 4 of 5 expect to work past 65; "feel younger"
* View retirement very differently -- see second half of life as a source of social and individual renewal, not as a time to just rest and relax
* Think some of their most important contributions lie ahead
* Not simply extending the years of working and volunteering -- looking to add deeper meaning
* Different perception of aging -- don’t want to be called “Seniors,” “Retirees,” “Elderly” or “Older Adults”

Attracting baby boomers
Offer flexibility and a wide variety of options, including virtual volunteering
Engage their skills and expertise
Show them impact on mission -- how will their work make a difference?
Provide clear expectations of time, tasks and training
Go beyond volunteer management – look at engagement in meaningful ways

See Get Involved: Powered By Your Library website for resources (library.ca.gov/lds/getinvolved.html?)
Idaho is now coming in on this project
VolunteerMatch created search widget that gives back multiple results – library opportunities, then literacy opportunities, than general opportunities near your zip code
Last 2 or 3 years, 27% increase in volunteers in California

General insights/thoughts from putting this in practice
One library no longer collects applications for generic volunteers, only for specific positions
High impact volunteers have leadership roles, may train and supervise other volunteers
Putting volunteers in teams helps in case of turnover (volunteers often have unpredictable time commitments)
Interview volunteers extensively and basically treat them like job applicants
Volunteer management software exists

A good job description is key
- Make it very clear what skills and commitment you're looking for
For high impact volunteers, this is a real job
- Approach them personally to recruit them
- Professional level interviewing
- Look for a good fit, and give them a chance to say no
- Remain flexible
Communication is critical
- Trust your volunteers, keep them in the loop, facilitate networks, share successes and outcomes
- Feedback matters (from patrons and staff)

You can still  have volunteers doing more rote tasks – high impact volunteers don't exclude your having more traditional volunteer work

Make it fun, and include the volunteers in the process