Libraries of all sizes rely on volunteers to keep operations afloat. Whether they are organizing bookshelves or helping with local fundraising efforts, unpaid workers are responsible for a lot of the work behind a functioning library.
To successfully fulfill your library’s mission, managers should understand the best practices for managing volunteers as well as paid employees. From the recruiting process to organizing schedules, there is a lot to consider. Luckily, there are tricks for making management easier and more effective. The following are eight tips for how to manage library volunteers.
1. Evaluate Your Library’s Needs
Before bringing on new library volunteers, it is beneficial to take inventory of your current team. Identify the areas where your organization could use additional help and look for volunteers with skill sets to benefit your library’s mission.
Evaluating your organization and its needs will help you answer the following questions:
- How many volunteers do you want to bring onto your team?
- When do you need more volunteers?
- What role do volunteers play in your library?
You can successfully manage your team only when you have assessed your library and where unpaid workers fit into your operations. With VicNet from Volgistics, you have access to an online volunteer portal with information about your volunteers’ schedules and past services, making this process simpler.
2. Set Clear Expectations
Being crystal clear with your expectations is one of the most valuable tips for volunteer management. Offering as much information as you can helps volunteers understand their role in the library and how they should behave.
Having guidelines that map out the volunteer role provides them with a sense of confidence and understanding. Managers should provide guidance on areas such as:
- Library policies
- Volunteer scheduling
- Preferred communication mediums
- Library volunteer tasks and responsibilities
It’s beneficial to share specific duties with each volunteer as you would a paid employee role. Make sure paid and unpaid workers understand how their jobs differ from each other, as it offers clarity on how everyone can contribute to the library’s mission in their own role. Creating a manual for volunteers is also a good way of keeping everyone on the same page. You can include important contact information, emergency protocols, and general library information so each volunteer has what they need to succeed.
3. Communicate Openly
When managing library volunteers, it is important to have open lines of communication. Because these individuals are offering their time for free, other commitments sometimes take priority and schedules change unexpectedly. All unpaid helpers should know who to reach out to and where to contact them in the event they cannot make their shift.
Managers should easily be able to reach volunteers to share important updates, schedule changes, or cancellations. Frequent communication is important because it keeps operations organized and shows that managers value their volunteer’s time.
Volgistics offers email and text software designed specifically for volunteers and management. You can send messages to your team to reach:
- All volunteers at once
- Specific groups
4. Have Paid Employees Do the Essential Work
While some unpaid helpers will be consistent in their help with the library, it is important to remember that they are giving their time voluntarily. It’s best not to rely on volunteer workers for essential tasks like bookkeeping or locking up at the end of the day.
Give unpaid helpers simple tasks that paid employees could cover if a volunteer cannot make it. This allows your library to keep running smoothly even when additional help is not available.
5. Consider Young Volunteers
When deciding on your library’s volunteer age requirement, consider including teens. Many high schools have programs that encourage or, in some cases, require students to volunteer in their local community. Libraries will benefit from incorporating young people into their volunteer programming.
As volunteers, teens bring high energy and creativity to your library. Plus, it’s never too early — or too late — to introduce kids to the benefits of volunteerism and the magic of libraries.
High school students also have evenings, weekends, and summers off from class, giving them plenty of free time to help out in their local library. Building relationships with young people may also inspire them to pursue a career in library studies.
6. Offer Volunteer Perks
Part of a manager’s job is to boost morale amongst their organization and create a positive environment for part-time workers, full-time employees, and volunteers alike. Everyone can benefit from incentives, and small rewards or perks make workers feel appreciated. Consider providing one or more of the following volunteer perks at your library:
- Free library cards
- Advance notice of new titles
- Priority placement on waiting lists
- First picks on book sales
Maintaining a happy and uplifting environment improves volunteer retention and the number of interested library volunteers.
7. Match Skillsets With Tasks
A typical library volunteer may help out with one or more of the following tasks:
- Sorting book donations
- Setting up displays
- Arranging collections
- Assisting on events
- Helping out in the gift shop
One of the best ways to manage unpaid helpers is to assign tasks to the people best suited for the job — yet another reason to get to know your volunteers and their specific skill sets. Pairing helpers with projects they’re good at boosts the library’s overall productivity.
If a volunteer has an especially keen eye for design, asking them to set up a new display will allow them to showcase their abilities. Pairing skills with suitable projects will benefit the library and the volunteers putting their talents to work.
8. Give and Accept Feedback
Feedback is a very powerful tool. From improving your managerial style to helping your team get things done more effectively, feedback offers people guidance for becoming better.
When managing volunteers in libraries, it is important to recognize their contributions and let them know you value their participation. With Volgistics, you can set up service hour awards and automatically track eligibility, making it easier to recognize especially helpful volunteers.
The goal of feedback is to improve performance, never negatively impact staff members or make them feel bad about their work. Giving and receiving feedback allows your library to benefit from mutual accountability between leaders and helpers.
Better Manage Library Volunteers With Volgistics
Libraries depend on individuals who volunteer their time and energy to keep operations running smoothly. Managing these unpaid helpers is an additional responsibility for already understaffed facilities. Luckily, there are solutions for making management more effective and simple. With these tips for managing volunteers and management technology, library leaders can streamline their volunteer management practices.
Volgistics provides software specifically designed for managers and volunteers to improve coordination and communication. Enjoy the benefits of scheduling, tracking, reporting, and more all on one interface. Volgistics offers a customizable solution that saves time and has free support. Volunteer logistics has never been easier for libraries and other organizations with unpaid helpers.