A network for new and aspiring library professionals
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:
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):
My enthusiasm for volunteering is also shared by Elmo & Usher….