It's clear that taking on volunteers during the Summer Reading Challenge helps support libraries at a very busy time of year. But how can libraries ensure that young volunteers have the best possible experience? We talked to libraries that have worked with Summer Reading Challenge volunteers for a number of years to find out.
Make them feel part of the team
One of the most important things is to integrate the volunteers and make them feel welcome. In Surrey, they organise group induction sessions so volunteers can get to know one another and the library staff. Once volunteers feel part of a team they will feel more confident about their role.
Explore their interests
It's also important to encourage branches to allow volunteers to explore their interests as part of their volunteer experience. In Cornwall, volunteers were writing articles for the local bulletin, helping children with the website and designing displays and posters. If volunteers are interested in what they are doing, they will be more committed.
Give them a say
Young volunteers respond well to being given the opportunity to make suggestions, and have a go at delivering their own ideas. For example, in many libraries, volunteers are encouraged to use their own recent knowledge of children's books to help younger children select new books to read. This allows them to bring something unique to the Summer Reading Challenge, and makes them feel valued.
Say thank you
Arguably, the most important thing is to say thank you. Libraries do this in different ways, some with a formal ceremony and others with an informal session with tea and cake. The point is to make sure volunteers know they are appreciated.
"I am so glad that I took the opportunity to work in the library. I have loved my time volunteering and feel that I have gained many skills throughout the few weeks. I have gained confidence from working with the public and have been able to express my creative skills when planning Creepy House... I am grateful that I was able to help out this summer and I would happily do it again next year!" - Natalie, young volunteer, North Yorkshire.
Read more about the benefits of involving volunteers in your library.
Download some of our resources for recruiting young volunteers.
If you have any experience of working with Summer Reading Challenge volunteers you would like to share with us, please contact Kathleen Ktorides.