Episode 204: Library Friends and Volunteers

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Contents of this page:
  • Intro
  • Background
  • Friends
  • Volunteers
  • Guest Host
  • Books We are Reading
  • Conclusion
  • Additional Resources

I. Introduction

Hi, and welcome back to Linking Our Libraries! Usually, we talk about all the great things that libraries do to support our communities, but this week we are looking at some of the groups who work to support us. And this week we have Guest Host Judy Clare.

We are from Central Minnesota Libraries Exchange, and our mission is to support libraries. That means we are here to help libraries and library people to find information they need, to build skills, and to share ideas about all the things that make our profession great!

You can check out our website and hit the Subscribe to Us link to subscribe to everything we have, including this podcast, our online book groups, our social media, and more! We have tons of information available on our website, for any library to use; and we will be adding more webinars and training opportunities to help you.

Do you need to talk about things in your individual library – training, strategies for building programs, or anything else? We are here for you! Do you need us to come to your library to do a training session, to help you write an Employee Handbook or Disaster plan, or to work with you and your parent organization to make some plans for the future? We are available to you! Check out our website for more information, or email us at admin@cmle.org.


II. Background

This week we are talking about people who like libraries allllmooost as much as we do! Does your library have a Friends group? A PTA? A volunteer group? Something else? Any of these can be just great for you, and can really help to make your library life easier.

There a subtle shades of differences in these groups. Generally, a PTA group is focused on helping the school as a whole, but can be working on the library as an occasional or regular part of the work they already do. Volunteers are nice people who come do tasks for us, so library staff can be utilized in helping patrons more directly, or in carrying out tasks that only staff can do. Friends are usually and organized group working in conjunction with the library – ideally not being told what to do, or setting too many Byzantine rules on the library either. In all these relationships, patience and proceeding from a starting place of good intentions given and assumed will help make them work out!

It is so nice to have people around who want to help, so as library people we should make sure we use them effectively so they have a good experience. You can find all kinds of information about developing a Friends group in your library, no matter how big or small you are; and you can find some good training information to be sure your Friends feel confident in their roles.

III. Friends:

How do libraries benefit from Friends groups? They benefit by the expansion of their resources to serve the public. Friends extend a library’s capacity through dollar gifts, volunteer and program support, and through advocacy. Few libraries are in a position to turn away help from their supporters – in fact, even if a library were so well heeled that additional funding wasn’t needed, libraries without a well developed group of Friends will find the going tough when they need to bring in additional precious funds in an increasingly competitive environment, when they need a new building, or when they need to grow their collections and services. Additionally, any library that seeks grant funding will find themselves in a much more competitive position for those grants if they can show that they receive tangible support from the very people who use and benefit from the library.

Politically, Friends are very important and effective for libraries of all types. Friends are advocates by default! Friends wouldn’t be giving their time, energy and financial support to an entity they’re not willing to fight for – that entity is the library. When the case needs to be made for your library, the group most able to step up to the plate is the Friends of the Library. Every day across America, Friends are making a difference for the libraries they serve. Think about the most successful library you know and look behind the curtains. There you will almost inevitably find Friends working behind the scenes, at city hall, with the school or academic administration, and in the public at large making sure that their library is strong, relevant, and well funded!”

Here are a few fact sheets available from the ALA, on our site: There are so many topics you want to learn about, and to be sure your Friends learn about too!

On our site we  have info on starting a Friends group, and strategies for helping them to be successful. Remember that these are partnerships, so working out a good co-existence will make everyone happy, and will help to support the mission of the library!

Get ready to celebrate National Friends of the Library Week! Oct. 15-21, 2017“The celebration offers a two-fold opportunity to celebrate Friends. Use the time to creatively promote your group in the community, to raise awareness, and to promote membership. This is also an excellent opportunity for your library and Board of Trustees to recognize the Friends for their help and support of the library.”


IV. Volunteers

 Volunteers can be a lifesaver for busy, understaffed libraries! There are things that they definitely can do, and that you would expect they would find value doing – or at least the fun of hanging out in a library. The Five Minute Librarian has suggestions for good library volunteer projects:

  • Window Artists
  • Outreach Specialists
  • Program Facilitators
  • Shelf Managers
  • Library Photographers
  • Social Media Managers
  • Collection Assistants
  • Technology Gurus
  • Library Marketers
  • Summer Bonus
    • Is your library buzzing with patrons unable to find their school’s required summer reading books? Consider doing what Shrewsbury Public Library did and create teen greeters. They sit at table near the door with school book lists in hand. They are trained to find the books on the shelves and, if they are all checked out, they can help patrons request the book from another library. Summer chaos avoided!

You can Google this and find all kinds of established library volunteer programs, to help build your own program. {CMLE is here to help you if you want to get started!}

Volunteers should not be working at your Circ desk, or involved in patron records at all. Libraries have an important duty to preserve patron confidentiality; and while the lines on that may seem blurry sometimes, tasks that involve patron records or other confidential material should only ever be done by staff. Confidentiality is one of our hallmark ethical standards, and this is an important rule.

Other limitations on volunteers and Friends may be imposed inside the library, or by your City or school or other parent organization. If you have a union or other bargaining unit, there may be rules against Volunteers doing work that a paid staffer should be doing. In some libraries, that translates into barring volunteers from working at the Reference desk. (And this work can also raise some privacy issues; so if you library does allow this work to be done by volunteers, it is important to talk about library ethics too!)

From the ALA:

Volunteers can be a valuable resource for a library. But like any resource, good management is key. Some quick tips:

  • clarify status with regard to such things as compensation for work-related injuries, insurance coverage when operating a library vehicle and related benefits
  • establish procedures for reimbursing any work related expenses
  • be sure not to supplant or displace established staff positions
  • develop a recognition program
  • have regular training for their work

Volunteers and Friends can be great, but can also raise some issues in a library, so clarifying what you need and what they can do before you get started will save a lot of wasted time and hurt feelings down the road. We have a lot of resources on our website to get you started, or to help you run your programs effectively. You do not have to take volunteers if you do not have a place.

We have links on our website to state and national Friends groups, and you can find all kinds of information on volunteer programs from us or Googling!



V. Guest Host

And now, let’s hear from an actual library volunteer! Thanks, Judy, for talking with us today!



VI. Books We Read



People of the Book: A Novel, by Geraldine Brooks “Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity by an acclaimed and beloved author. Called “a tour de force”by the San Francisco Chronicle, this ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding-an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair-only begin to unlock its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics.”



Spells and Scones (A Magical Bakery Mystery), by Bailey Cates “When the bookshop next to the Honeybee Bakery hosts a signing for a Savannah radio celebrity’s new self-help book, magical baker Katie Lightfoot is happy to provide some delectable desserts. A big crowd has turned out for the event, curious about the book (and maybe to sample some goodies), but the final chapter comes too soon for the author when she is found dead at the event.

The prime suspect is Angie Kissel, a former witch whose familiar was once Katie’s own terrier, Mungo. Katie is at first hesitant to help, afraid of losing the little dog who has become so important to her. But after a little nudge from Mungo himself, Katie decides to try to conjure up the real killer—before Angie gets served…”




The American Spirit, by David McCullough “Over the course of his distinguished career, David McCullough has spoken before Congress, the White House, colleges and universities, historical societies, and other esteemed institutions. Now, at a time of self-reflection in America following a bitter election campaign that has left the country divided, McCullough has collected some of his most important speeches in a brief volume designed to identify important principles and characteristics that are particularly American. The American Spirit reminds us of core American values to which we all subscribe, regardless of which region we live in, which political party we identify with, or our ethnic background. This is a book about America for all Americans that reminds us who we are and helps to guide us as we find our way forward.”

Cure for the Common Breakup (Black Dog Bay series), by Beth Kendrick “Welcome to Black Dog Bay, a tiny seaside town in Delaware known as “the best place in America to bounce back from your breakup.” Home to the Better Off Bed-and-Breakfast, the Eat Your Heart Out bakery, and the Whinery bar, Black Dog Bay offers a haven for the suddenly single.

Flight attendant Summer Benson lives by two rules: Don’t stay with the same man for too long and never stay in one place. She’s about to break rule number one by considering accepting her boyfriend’s proposal—then disaster strikes and her world is shattered in an instant.

Summer heads to Black Dog Bay, where the locals welcome her. Even Hattie Huntington, the town’s oldest, richest, and meanest resident, likes her enough to give her a job. Then there’s Dutch Jansen, the rugged, stoic mayor, who’s the opposite of her type. She probably shouldn’t be kissing him. She definitely shouldn’t be falling in love.

After a lifetime of globe-trotting, Summer has finally found a home. But Hattie has old scores to settle and a hidden agenda for her newest employee. Summer finds herself faced with an impossible choice: Leave Black Dog Bay behind forever, or stay with the ones she loves and cost them everything….”



We know libraries are wonderful! And it can be so great to have health, active Friends and volunteers who agree with that! Nothing will ever be perfect in any professional relationship; but some thoughtful planning by everyone will help these groups to be wonderful assets in any library’s mission to serve their community!! Thank you, so much, to all Friends, volunteers, and library supporters: we really appreciate everything you do!


A Few Other Resources:



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