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Volunteers: + or - ? PDF Print E-mail

HOT BUTTON ISSUE: Volunteers and School LibrariesHot Button Issue

by Ann Perham

In January 2011, I posted a survey to the MSLA members on volunteerism. I know I hit a "hot button" based on the response on the Google Survey. In just a few days, I received over 50 responses and collected some very thoughtful ideas in the open answer section.

For this issue, I will report on the benefits and downsides of volunteers. In the April issue of the Forum, readers will learn about "best practices," and ways of thanking volunteers.The burning question, "Are volunteers replacing professionals" will be the focus of the final section.

QUESTION: What do you consider to be the benefit(s) of using volunteers? (below)

QUESTION: What do you consider to be the “down side” (if any) of using volunteers? (continued on next page )

Responses clustered in two main categories, with two other minor categories:

SUPPORT / ADVOCACY for my program


Members chose the option of supplying their names, or of commenting anonymously.

SUPPORT / ADVOCACY for my program

Barbara Boulay

I believe that the more parents/community members I have helping me in library, the more community support I will have in times of budget cuts.  Parents in our community are very supportive of our school and are very happy to be in the library helping out.  If I want the library to be considered a vital part of the school by the greater community, what better promotional tool could I have at my disposal than having parents working in the library and contributing to a part of their student's school day?

Sandy Kelly

My volunteers are my strongest supporters. They get to see what really happens when they are in and they appreciate the program and access to resources. Many even have their own library cards.


Volunteers act as liaisons to the PTO, who in return are receptive to the school library's needs.

 Rich Winnick They can also become library advocates, especially after they gain   an understanding of the amount of non-professional work that it takes to keep the library organized and functioning.

Creating relationships with parents is a benefit of them volunteering in the library. They are often helpful spreading the word about services offered in the library.


Getting to know parents is one of the best ways to "sell" the profession.  Make friends with those tax-payers!  Let them see you in action so that they appreciate the many tasks you perform.  One of my long-time weekly volunteers is the wife of a school committee member.  She sees what I do, and understands the necessity of the library and librarian.  I'm sure she shares that info with her husband.


Char Sidell

Shelving and circulation – with 600 students and an annual circulation of over 36,000, I count on my volunteers!

Susan Harari

They free us from everyday tasks so that we can concentrate on information literacy and strengthening the collection.  We are understaffed, so having them gives us a little extra time. 

Cindy Erle

When I have a parent volunteer, they can assist with all the processing of books.  This not only saves me time, but since I don't have to pay for processing it helps my budget and allows me to purchase more materials!

Marcia Bernard

As the sole employee in a busy school library, I really count on my volunteers to keep things running smoothly. The help they provide in shelving books alone is huge.


Mundane library tasks that should have been done by paraprofessionals can be performed minimally.

Kerry Butler

I love having volunteers help out shelving, organizing, do other small jobs I do not have time for during the day. Most of my parents come in when their child has library class with me. They become a big help in keeping order during library class since they begin to know my students because they know my students because of outside activities. I have two parents that are willing to help me out with the card catalog system which is a big plus since I do not have the time sometimes to keep up with it.

Susan Farr

Shelving takes me away from students and teachers and doesn't require a library degree to do. I am happy to get it done by a volunteer.

Laura Gardner

Using volunteers makes it possible for the library to be open for the entire school day to teachers and students for research, browsing and circulation. Without volunteers I'd go crazy! It also allows me to focus on professional duties like teaching students information literacy and makes it possible for me to occasionally prep for future instructional classes (although I do most of that at home or after school).


Our volunteers free us up from basic clerical tasks and allow us to use that time to work with and for students. 

Rich Winnick

They can do a lot of the paraprofessional work that I would otherwise have to do in order to keep the library organized and functioning


I can help students find the book they want while the volunteer is circulating books. I have more time to do what I need to do while they reshelve the books.


New materials are made accessible faster.
Books are re-shelved faster.
Copies made, magazines processed, searching done efficiently.

Doris Gallant

When I need to leave the room, the volunteers provide coverage.
The volunteers are able to do repetitive processes to help get the books on the shelves quicker. The volunteers help with administrative procedures that I wouldn't have time to do. One volunteer is able to help with weeding by category. Sometimes they can cover for a professional day.

Elaine Donoghue

Without them, the library couldn't function.  They do all the shelving.  Thus far, we have circulated over 15,000 books this year.  They would never have found their way back to the shelves without the volunteers.  They also help with circulation, processing and whatever task needs to be done. 


Great bulletin boards, in those years when we are lucky enough to have volunteers willing to do them (usually the volunteer adds a lot of creativity)


Books that never (or at least anytime soon) would have seen the shelves are getting processed and are circulating.


There is no way I could run a quality school library program at the elementary level if I didn't have volunteer support. Young children require assistance in the library and I can only multi-task so much!


Having another helping hand.  When a volunteer comes in on a regular basis and does a very thorough, careful job, it's like having another colleague.  Priceless. That doesn't happen often.

Alice Sajdera

They relieve the professional and para professional staff of the clerical tasks that can take a lot of our time.  It also frees staff to work with students rather than performing those tasks.



Volunteers are often very supportive of their own children's reading needs and provide information for me to use about reading trends.


Students benefit from volunteer assistance - less "wait" time

Cindy Erle

The 'lunch buddies' are the 8th grade student volunteers.  They help with shelving the books as well as decorating the library and doing bulletin boards.  The benefits are that they are more involved in the library and spread their enthusiasm with others.  Students in the 6th and 7th grade also see them in the library and ask how they can do it too.  Each year I get more and more students who want to help...I hope I can keep up!


They know the parent community, and provide valuable feedback when we consider instituting changes in fine structures, etc. Most important, volunteers have a wealth of experience to offer. Our volunteers have experience in business, libraries, the insurance industry.  It's all come in useful.


The parents learn about children's and young adult literature and they become champions for their children as readers.


Volunteers model service to the school.  We have had a dad and a grandmother as volunteers which was very cool.


Nancy Byrne

Benefit to volunteer - A senior member of our community who feels productive and is able to reduce his property taxes.




Last Updated ( Tuesday, 01 March 2011 )

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