No Staff, No Money, No Time: Making it Work

No Staff, No Money, No Time: Making it Work

Posted on Monday November 15, 2010 at 11:00AM

No Staff, No Money, No Time: Making it Work

About a week ago I was at a fabulous symposium, NEXT, put on by The Alberta Library. After hearing inspiring speakers, we spent a day in small, mixed group discussions trying to figure out the future of libraries. A lot of really great ideas came out of these sessions, but there always seemed to be a bit of a drawback: every change requires time, money and staff to make them happen.

While at conferences and workshops I try to keep in mind the member libraries of NLLS. A common scribble in my notes is: how can we adapt this for smaller libraries? A few of the member libraries in our system are open 35+ hours per week and have larger staffs. But some are open only two days a week, with only one staff member. Even some of the ideas I’ve provided in the past to make your life and workload easier may take time that you just don’t have in the day. What do you do?

Make friends and delegate. If you don’t already have a friends group, consider working with your board to form one. The NLLS website has links to various Friends of Libraries resources, from starting one up, information on registering as a charitable organization, to what Friends groups can do in your library ( I realize that initially it will take time to get a group like this started, but the payoff in the end can be tremendous!

Another option is to corral those people who like to hang out in the library to actually volunteer their time. Most volunteers I’ve talked to don’t mind the tedious tasks, like weeding, because they get a chance to see everything the library has in sections they don’t normally go to. You could also advertise for volunteers in seniors centres for people who need something to fill their time. Or, you could advertise in local high schools for students who need community service credits. Volunteer experience also gives students real work experience that they can put on a resume. Who knows, you may even inspire someone to become a librarian!

One of the great things about getting volunteers is the word of mouth advertising they can provide. Think about it: you talk about where you work and what you’re doing with your friends, right? So will they. There’s nothing better than word of mouth advertising because it’s free! It may also reach a demographic that you may not have been able to tap into before.

You don’t have to feel constrained by lack of time, money or staff. Library Managers and their boards can work together to lure volunteers into the library. They will need some training, initially, but once they know what they are doing, you will be able to let them get on with it, while you will have time to work on projects that have been put off for various reasons. You may be pleasantly surprised by what your volunteers and Friends groups can do. You may find that you now have someone gifted in children’s programming, teen liaison or marketing on your hands. You might be really lucky and find a techno wiz who will solve all your computing problems.

As with all new projects, getting and training volunteers and Friends groups will take some time. In the end, your library will be so much better for it. Please check out the Friends links from the NLLS website, or maybe one of the resources listed below. Good luck.

American Library Association. (1993). Volunteers in Libraries. Chicago: American Library

Driggers, Preston and Dumas, Eileen (2002). Managing Library Volunteers: A Practical Toolkit.
Chicago : American Library Association.

Law, Margaret (1991). Friends for Small Libraries. Ottawa: Canadian Library Association.

Tuccillo. .Diane, P. (2005). Library Teen Advisory Groups. Lanham, Md.: VOYA Books.

Author: Northern Lights Library System


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