Tracy Hager, Children & Young People's Librarian in Wiltshire, is responsible for recruiting and working with Summer Reading Challenge volunteers in Trowbridge and Chippenham libraries. She talked to us about the rewards and challenges of working with volunteers.
Sense of community
"I'm really enthusiastic about encouraging young people to get involved with our libraries and the Summer Reading Challenge is an ideal opportunity to do this. What really inspires me is the sense of community that comes out of volunteering. At the end of the Summer Reading Challenge we have a thank you session at each library with tea and cake and use it as an opportunity to share funny stories, anecdotes and problems. I am always struck to see how relationships have flourished across boundaries of age, race and experience. It is pretty incredible.
One of the biggest challenges I've faced is trying not to take on too many volunteers. Last summer, I managed over sixty volunteers in two different libraries and each library ran the Summer Reading Challenge in a completely different way. It was a total head spin!
Other challenges are dealing with volunteers who are unreliable, finding the time to thank everyone properly, giving constructive feedback and finding time to write an increasingly high number of references.
The support that volunteers give to staff is really valuable, however, I am always mindful that the volunteer role should not encroach on the important work that library staff already do."
Increasing confidence among young volunteers
"But it's worth it. One volunteer, a sixteen year old boy, was particularly good and many parents commented on how creative he was in drawing shy children out, and making them laugh. He was great with all of the children but there were also lots of comments from parents of boys who said that it was great for their sons to see an older boy so excited about books.
Jan, our thirteen year old volunteer was so sharp and organised, she single-handedly won over every member of staff who doubted that we should take on anyone that young.
And many of the parents say that volunteering for the Summer Reading Challenge has increased their teen's confidence enormously."
Tracy's tips for working with young volunteers
- Share your enthusiasm
- Make it fun
- Make sure the volunteers feel part of the library team
- Always offer them drinks and be on hand to answer questions
- Be organised
Tracy's tips for recruiting young volunteers
- Target young people during reading groups
- Tell 11 to 12 year olds who are sad that they are now too old to do the Summer Reading Challenge that they can volunteer when they are 13
- Approach parents
- Encourage existing volunteers to recruit friends (this makes it more fun for them)
- Target sixth form students who revise in the libraries during exam time and encourage them with references
- Offer it to young people enquiring about work experience for their Duke of Edinburgh award.
Read more about the benefits of involving volunteers at your library.
If you have any questions or need further help on Summer Reading Challenge volunteering, please contact Claire Styles.