What Volunteers Need

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
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
“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
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
Bridging the Troubled
“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
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!!!