Thursday, June 7, 2012

Organizing Volunteers aka Shaping Adults

I adore my teen volunteers but organizing their schedules drives me bonkers. I'd love to compare notes with librarians. We can't be the only library to have summer helpers but I feel like I'm constantly reinventing the wheel.

When do you start recruiting?
Do you have a cutoff date?
Maximum number of participants?
Incentives for volunteering?
What tasks are they responsible for?
Age range?
How do you manage their summer schedules?
How do you manage the library volunteer schedule?

I had a father email me yesterday about his son's schedule. He was worried about the inconvenience of changing the schedule. It occurred to me as I was replying to him that this is the stage in their young lives for them to learn responsibility and managing time and schedules. And I do enjoy having the opportunity to help them learn this skill.

Some parents are very hands on. Sometimes I never hear from the volunteers but only their parents on the phone and in email. Sometimes I don't ever meet the parents. The kids show up when their scheduled and if I have questions I can email them directly and they respond. Ok, not always. But I'd rather speak directly to a teen volunteer and help them learn how to communicate with a supervisor then always go through their parents.

This is one area where I feel I'm constantly re-evaluating procedure.


Amy said...

I'm a lurker from across the river in MN, but here's what I do:

Teens (13-18) can apply to be a Volunteen from May 1-31st. They fill out an application (name, address, phone, birthday, contact information for an adult, etc. signed by teen and parent).

Attached to the application is a calendar with all the dates and times that I am looking for help. On the back are short descriptions of what teens would be helping with.

They circle anything they'd LOVE to do, and cross out anything they cannot volunteer for (out of town, schedule conflict, etc).

I take all their calendars and start filling in holes. I state on the calendars that circling a program does not guarantee they will be assigned that event, but I try to give them a few things they were really looking forward to.

One of the main things they do is help at the summer reading registration table. They sign families up, track their progress, and hand out prizes. When they are not assisting families, sometimes I give them small tasks if I have them, or they may read/do some quiet, non-electronic activity. (I don't want them sitting looking unwelcoming because they have headphones on and don't hear someone approach them). This year, I'm also going to have them make a couple fleece blankets to donate to Project Linus as a little service project.

Otherwise, they are assisting with programs, setting up, helping families, etc.

I don't have to cap my registration (as of yet), because I only get 10-15 teens interested each year, which means I only have to schedule each teen for about 2 hours of time a week throughout the summer.

Our county has a paid work program for kids who qualify, so we have one student each summer from there who we train to help primarily with shelving in the children's area since we get a big spike in circulation (and only have a part-time shelver year round), but if we did not have this program, I would use some of the volunteen time for this task.

We have all of our staff/building calendars online (we use Google Calendars), so I just have a separate calendar for Volunteens in there that all our staff can see.

I have had trouble with some teens sort of "fading" as the summer goes on. You probably know the type-- they show up pretty good the first couple times, but as the summer goes on they no show/no call more frequently. I haven't ever really followed up on those teens, calling the parent or anything, but I think having the parents more involved would probably help with retention.

Jennifer said...

Wow, you guys are really organized! I am the only ys librarian in my library and I have a 10 hour aide who shelves. In the summer I get another aide for 12 hours a week. She also shelves. Generally, I hire high school students. I get a couple teens volunteering over the summer, but it's pretty casual - they ask, I give them a day, they show up for an hour or two. They have to be 13. I do have a volunteer application, but I never really use it. My problem is that training, supervising, and finding jobs for the teen volunteers is basically a program in itself - one which, unfortunately, I don't have time to do. So, I don't really encourage teen volunteers although if they ask I take them on. Oh, and also our union rules don't let volunteers shelve - and we have no teen librarian so few to 0 teen programs. Teens are our underserved group *sigh*

Kristine said...

Since our library hires high school students as year round pages, we accept volunteers at much younger ages. For over fifteen years, we have invited kids going into fifth grade to be volunteers during the summer. We send a letter home through the fourth grade teachers which has specific time slots. Since the kids are so young, we only allow two kids per time.
It is a very popular program. Each kid gets the same two hour shift for three consecutive weeks. Our staff gets a break from all junior volunteers the week of July 4, which is some years a sanity saver.
Every child has to practice printing the application from our website and filling it out to drop off. Times are filled on a first come first served basis. There is a deadline for the youngest participants and after that date kids who have helped in the past may fill in any open slots.
Our letter may not be online much longer, but for now, here's the link:

Jenna said...

I'm a lurker from another state, but I put out signs advertising our Summer Reading volunteer program at spring break (end of March) and applications have to be turned in by mid-May, though I usually make a few exceptions.

They attend a mandatory volunteer orientation (2 dates to choose from) and most work one 3-hour shift a week (same schedule every week for June & July.) Their duties are mainly to sign kids up for summer reading, track levels, hand out prizes, and sometimes assist with programs.

This year, I emailed the schedule (complete with vacations and opportunities to sub) to all the kids/parents, which has really helped, and I encourage them to email me to keep in touch. I also keep a paper version of the schedule at the SRP table, so they can write in times that they can sub.

I have about 30 volunteers this year. I am considering instituting a 3 strikes you're out policy when it comes to no-shows. They do need to learn responsibility, and in real life, you don't get to keep a job that you don't bother showing up for. In that same vein, I had a couple of kids who turned in applications, registered for training, and didn't show up. I took them off the schedule and let them know that since they didn't let me know they couldn't attend training, I would not be able to let them volunteer this year. That was a hard decision to make, but I think it was the right one.