Today’s Library Volunteer: A Force to Be Reckoned With (Part 2) Presenter: Andrew Sanderbeck Waynesville, NC Building Support for Volunteers from Staff You know the drill: Employees don’t want volunteers around. Volunteers know they’re not wanted and go elsewhere. It’s a neverending cycle. But you can change those negative outlooks and break the patterns of dysfunction and distrust through careful planning and diplomacy. Important Advice Before you can effectively bring volunteers on board, staff and management must be fully supportive of a volunteer program. After all, if employees can’t work well with new volunteers, how can volunteers be expected to work for your organization? Getting Staff Commitment to the Volunteer Program “While the library says they want volunteers, the staff regards most volunteers as ‘in the way.’ There is very little guidance, and even less delegation of duties. Perhaps due to insufficient training and unfriendly staff, most volunteers do not stay around very long.” This is a common scenario in libraries where the volunteer programs have been developed without input and buy-in from the staff. Us vs. Them Behaviors and Attitudes “It’s easier to do it myself” is a death sentence for the volunteer program, when pronounced by staff who sincerely believe it. Volunteers may have misconceptions as well. They may think that because a staff member receives a paycheck, he or she doesn’t care as much as the dedicated volunteer. Building “Understanding” Education and mutual respect is the key to understanding. The volunteers need to be educated about the work that goes on in the library. They need to understand the difficulties staff face, and they need to be supportive and respectful. It’s critical to avoid an “us” against “them” environment. Building Relationships To help facilitate a good relationship, make sure you provide balanced praise: Rather than praising only the work of volunteers, praise the combined team efforts of staff and volunteers. Not only will that motivate staff and volunteers; it will also help strengthen the relationship between them. $20.85 = ? Bridging the Troubled Waters “We’ve tried the volunteer route, and it’s never paid off. Volunteers just don’t know what they’re doing and staff complains that although these volunteers mean well, they just get in the way. My branch manager doesn’t have time to deal with them. Plus, they create problems by mixing up the items in our collection and give patrons the wrong information. And they don’t seem to stick around very long. It just doesn’t seem like the time we’re spending on this program is worth it.” Bridging the Troubled Waters “Our volunteers have been a blessing to our library. They’ve been involved in almost every aspect of what we do, and have helped our paid staff tremendously. The staff seems to really enjoy the volunteers’ company and assistance. The program our volunteer coordinator has set up is top-notch, and the people she brings in seem to really enjoy their work. I think it gives them a strong sense of accomplishment. Our volunteers have helped us expand our programs. I don’t know what we’d do without them.” Suggested Components In A Volunteer Program Policy Read and Comment Steps to Developing Stronger Staff-Volunteer Relations 1. Conduct a strategic planning process with the entire staff—and a few volunteer representatives if you have them 2. Discuss how volunteers can improve existing services and allow for new ones 3. Encourage employees to share their concerns 4. Define policies that address concerns of both staff and volunteers 5. Provide staff with a “safety zone” away from volunteers Gaining Commitment for OnGoing Volunteer Development Satisfy Staff First!! How can we expect staff to carve out meaningful roles for volunteers when staff doesn't even adequately understand their own role? Can Volunteers Replace Paid Staff? Why Staff Should Have Nothing to Fear! Volunteers in Union Environments Thanks for Attending!!!