Blog post 2: Interview – running a successful parent volunteer program in a school library

 1. A detailed description of the activity undertaken

The librarian of the Singapore American School was interviewed on how to run a successful parent volunteer program. In answering all my questions and showing me the library she explained the process of recruiting and training volunteers, the type of tasks that volunteers do, potential problems and pitfalls and how to handle them and how to show your appreciation. We ended with a tour of the library.

Recruitment takes place early in the year at events that are likely to attract a lot of parents.  The initial training is 90 minutes long and focuses mainly on library organization and the shelving of books and expectations of the volunteers including etiquette and behaviour. It was interesting to hear the expectations regarding commitment and responsibility to the role, and this one area our library has struggled with in the past.
 New recruits are initially paired with more experienced volunteers. Depending on their volunteer role and interest, some volunteers also receive training in FollettDestiny (the library system) and are given restricted rights based on what they need to accomplish.

Volunteers are also involved in longer term projects such as the collection genrefication and with special events such as the Red Dot awards, Readers’ Cup and Battle of the Books.

We concluded with a discussion on the importance of showing appreciation and the ways in which this could be done.

2. Answers to the following questions:

What did you learn?

Recruiting and supporting parent volunteers is an important task in a school library that is short staffed. If volunteers are able to take over some of the shelving and book processing tasks, librarians are freed up to spend more time teaching, performing reader advisory tasks and helping with curriculum related tasks. There is an art and a skill to keeping volunteers engaged and committed to helping in the library.

How was the activity relevant to your professional practice?

We have had parent volunteers but we have not been systematic in our recruitment, training and appreciation of them. As a result the program was not as successful as it could have been. I now have a better appreciation of the process and can apply it to our school situation.  

Were any gaps in your knowledge revealed? How might you fill those gaps?

I had many questions as to why our program was not working well, and through the interview and visit was able to answer many of them. In addition, the librarian lent me the ALA book: “Managing Library Volunteers” (Driggers, 2011) so I could read further on the matter.

3. References:

Driggers, P. F. (2011). Managing library volunteers (2nd ed.). Chicago: American Library Association. 

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