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I am not going to discuss the issue of volunteers in libraries in the Tory sense. Instead, I am just going to talk about the positives of volunteering in libraries whilst studying at Library school.

This time last year I was studying full-time on an MA course, my library experience was limited to a part-time student shelving job and 6 months volunteering in a library at a primary school. Compared to my counter-parts, I knew I was in a weak position when it came to applying for jobs; I lacked the experience of a graduate traineeship or library assistant post that many others on my course had gained.

When I received a place on the MA, I contacted every public library in Manchester, Tameside and Trafford asking for volunteer work. I got nowhere.  The key, in the end, was networking. I attended a Cilip event run by the UC&R group North West and got talking to someone who promised to ask around for me, this resulted in a one day shadowing placement. Then, I happened to stumble across an old forum post looking for MA students to help with a cataloguing project at a PCT library in Bolton.  Finally, I managed to gain a 16 day placement in an academic library by talking to my duty manager at the library where I shelved.

I gained some really useful experience for all of these positions.  I learnt how to:

  • Catalogue using DC23
  • Enhance my customer service skills
  • Stock edit using a DLA device (and the more traditional method….paper)
  • Use different management systems (Talis and Heritage)

Two of these volunteer placements have lead on to library assistant jobs; I know I am in a fortunate position to be able to say that. Whilst I was applying for jobs, I made sure to emphasis the skills I had gained and the projects I had assisted on.  I am under no illusion that volunteering equates to paid employment, but that does not make the experiences gained from volunteer work any less relevant or important when writing a job application.

My top tips are pretty simple (& obvious):

  • Network – attend events, use social media and forums to establish contacts. Personally, I’ve found it easier to gain volunteer work when I’ve already established a contact as opposed to cold calling.
  • Show willing – I genuinely appreciated the effort people would go to help me gain experience. The lack of payment was immaterial, it was the experience I was after. I wanted to help, to learn and to be of some use/value. I spent one afternoon shredding paper, I was genuinely happy to do this, for two reasons; I cannot stand being idle and you just never know when you might need that person to give you a reference. Even though I was the volunteer, I was aware that it was library staff that were doing me a favour, so no job was too small or insignificant.
  • Keep in contact – One of my managers will sometimes signpost me articles and job adverts that I might be interested in.

My enthusiasm for volunteering is also shared by Elmo & Usher….


3 comments on “Volunteering

  1. Pingback: NPD Ireland 2nd March 2013 by Daniel Duffy | ManchesterNLPN

  2. These are really fantastic ideas in on the topic of blogging.
    You have touched some fastidious points here. Any way keep up wrinting.

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This entry was posted on January 6, 2013 by in Discussions and tagged , , , .

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