One of the more unusual challenges of my job as a librarian is managing my large group of volunteers.
Using volunteers in libraries is a relatively new innovation; many librarians and professionals are worried that their jobs could be eroded by unpaid staff. It has been a major issue in CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) recently, featuring heavily in their professional publications.
Despite this uncertainty, due to the current economic climate, volunteers in libraries are increasing but not always with an underlying volunteer policy or preparatory work on how to best link their skills and the organisational goals.
The Mining Institute has used volunteers in the library for over four years, starting with just a few trustees doing a bit of cataloguing, through to today with around 70 people doing a range of different tasks. To try and learn the best practice (a new necessity for librarians in training?) I am doing an NVQ level 5 in the Management of Volunteers and I have learnt a lot of useful ideas and how to formalise some of the things we were already doing to some extent informally.
I would be interested to know how many other libraries are using volunteers and how they are overcoming the challenges involved. If you have any experiences, please do post a comment or link.