Lewisham Library and Information Service have been running the Summer Reading Challenge with young Reading Activists for four years, and will soon be starting their fifth year of the project. Service Development Manager Jo Moulton gave us an insight into her experiences of the scheme and the benefits that it has brought to children, volunteers and librarians.
Summer Reading Challenge Volunteering in Lewisham
Last year our library authority worked with 15 volunteers, but we worked with over 40 in 2010. There have been lots of benefits to the Service, the Volunteers and children taking part in the Challenge.
Benefits to the Service
- More people involved in the Challenge, so less pressure on staff to keep queues down at busy times
- More ideas and creativity - it's great to have young people involved in libraries to give fresh eyes as we look at services we provide and the way we present them
- Increases participation - the young volunteers get used to coming into libraries and invite their friends to come in, too
- Strengthens partnership working and raises our profile - we use recruiting volunteers as a way to work more closely with people inside and outside of the Council for example local Scouts, Young Mayor, Lewisham College. This year we plan to approach the Stephen Lawrence Centre.
Benefits for the Young People
- Quite a few of the young people who have applied are hoping to go on to further study - often working towards careers that involve teaching or looking after young people. This volunteering opportunity can make their CVs stand out a bit more - and gives them satisfying opportunities to really get to know and encourage younger children.
- Volunteering gives young people an opportunity to experience work. One of 2009's volunteers said that he had started to read for pleasure as a result of being a volunteer - he has gone on to be a Youth Worker.
Benefits for the Children
- Many parents and carers have said how important it has been for their children to have someone just a little older than them encourage their reading and listen to what they have to say.
- Having young volunteers in libraries provides younger children with reading role models and one to one time spent with the volunteers encourages children to finish the challenge and to really feel proud of their accomplishments.
Tips for libraries running Summer Reading Challenge volunteering
Advertise as widely as you can and use all available media. We have recruited many volunteers by working in partnership with The Reading Agency and using the vInspired website. It definitely helps to have a no-pressure information evening for anyone who is interested to find out more and then to offer training evenings and inductions in our libraries.
Supporting volunteers over the summer
It really helps for volunteers to have a named contact at the library where they'll be spending their time - and to have a tour of the library and meet other staff before their first session. In the past we've produced a short handbook for volunteers, but knowing who to speak to in branch and building a relationship with that person is more important.
Advice for library services thinking about working with volunteers for the first time
Do it! But do start planning for it early - contact as many local organisations as you can and ask them to help you find young volunteers, then train them well and make sure that they are comfortable with the library that they'll be helping at. Also celebrate their contribution, let them see that you value them.
Final words from Lewisham
The best thing about running Summer Reading Challenge volunteering in Lewisham is volunteers themselves - the energy and creativity that they bring.
You can read more about Lewisham Library and Information Service's work with Summer Reading Challenge Activists in the slideshow below.
We will soon have a full training session, handbook and templates available for libraries which will cover:
- Developing Volunteering
- Legal Requirements
- Volunteering Roles and Recruitment
- Induction, training and supervision
- Recognition and Progression
- Evaluation and review
Read more about the benefits of running Summer Reading Challenge volunteering in your library.