Volunteer Management 101

08/11/2013 § 8 Comments

Hello Hack Library School readers! I’m excited to introduce myself with a topic very near and dear to my heart: managing volunteers.

In 2011, after finishing my MA, I found myself at a bit of a crossroads and needed to do something different and interesting while I figured out what was next. So I started a year-long AmeriCorps placement with an arts education nonprofit, helping administer three volunteer programs. I did everything from the nitty-gritty of event RSVPs and answering questions about the application process to big-picture reevaluations of the entire volunteer recruitment and screening system. Although none of these skills are taught in my MLIS program, I can already tell that they’ll be among the most valuable skills in my professional toolkit.

Much of the recent debate about unpaid internships can also be applied to volunteering; it can provide valuable experience for volunteers and build capacity for organizations. Plus, it often just feels really good. But when volunteering becomes an expectation or prerequisite for moving ahead in a field, or when administrators use volunteers to replace professional staff, thorny ethical issues arise. Despite these concerns, though, volunteering remains an important part of our civic and cultural landscape, and my guess is that it’s here to stay.

So I’m not here to tell you that volunteering is inherently good or bad for the profession, or to tell you that you should or should not volunteer as an MLIS student. I am absolutely here to tell you that you will need to manage volunteers at some point in your career, and that your MLIS program most likely will not equip you to do so. Volunteers are a long-term investment for your organization, and without some forethought and infrastructure, neither you nor your volunteers will be satisfied. So here are some basics you’ll want to keep in mind as you get started:

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Tech Tools for LIS Students {Starter Kit}

27/09/2012 § 13 Comments

My MLIS program has a strong commitment to encouraging students to use various online and computer-based presentation/communication tools in class projects. We use a number of different programs in addition to the course management system on campus (Desire2Learn, which is like Blackboard and Moodle). This immersion in the wide range of tech tools allows us to build our toolkits for future use and to familiarize us with the constant learning necessary for keeping up-to-date on technology. While sometimes suggest particular programs to use, a lot of the time, students share with each other the various tools they’ve found. As a result, I’ve been fortunate to hear about a lot of free, online programs to use for various reasons. I’d like to share these tools and encourage others to post in the comments about other cool tools they’ve used or heard about! I’d also love to hear how you’ve used more familiar tools in interesting ways for class projects or library-related tasks.

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Am I Ready for Library School? [Starter Kit]

05/09/2012 § 5 Comments

Thoughts On Being A Younger Library School Student

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Julia Feerrar

Just three months ago I walked across a stage in south-central Pennsylvania to receive my undergraduate degree. I thought of the hard work completed, the friendships forged, and I wished fervently that my next steps forward would be sure-footed. I mean that both literally and figuratively: I hoped to navigate the stairs without tripping and I hoped that I was ready for library school in the fall.

Student looking at Info Board

“Information!” by clemsonunivlibrary under CC license via Flickr.

Two weeks into my master’s program, I’m thinking back to that moment and reflecting on my preparation. Honestly, I’ve felt like quite a novice in the past few weeks. Although I interned in libraries and archives, and tutored extensively in college, I have nowhere near as much as experience as some of my older classmates. I’ve never taught in a classroom, I wouldn’t know where to begin in HTML or CSS, and my understanding of metadata is rather vague. Self-doubt has been creeping in. Am I ready to do this? Should I have taken a year (or more) to try and get more job experience? Is there a place for me in this profession? How do I figure out what that is? These and similar questions have been running through my head and I’d like to share the answers I’ve been developing.

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Pursuing a Specialty in Library Services for Children [Starter Kit]

31/08/2012 § 4 Comments

Photo of sign that reads, "Children's Library."

Photo by Michael Sauers

As library science students begin classes again, school is also beginning for the children we serve as School Media Specialists and Children’s Librarians. In that spirit, Ashley and I co-wrote a starter kit for anyone interested in librarianship related to children. I am currently pursing my School Media Studies degree, while also teaching first grade. Ashley is a certified librarian and works as a Children’s Librarian at a public library. Below are some thoughts on our programs and experiences. Ashley is in bold.

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Tips for New Students Looking for Library School Jobs [Starter Kit]

29/08/2012 § 31 Comments

As a second-year SLIS student, I’ve talked to quite a few new students in my program who are anxious about securing library jobs. I can understand how they feel; after all, one year ago I was a freshly minted SLIS student. I had never gotten paid to work in a library. I came to library school with the sage advice of my mentor, a very recent library school grad, ringing in my ears. She had conveyed to me in no uncertain terms that I should work as much as I could while going to school to build my resume. Because of her, I came to library school knowing I needed to jump right in—-but that didn’t make the process any easier.

By now I’ve held several jobs and it has led me to realize that my real education happens when I go to work every day. I view my coursework as something to get through; if my classes are enjoyable it’s a plus. I have taken enthralling classes, practical classes, boring classes, and enragingly irrelevant classes. They’ve fallen all over the spectrum. So while I attempt to do well in them, my main priority is working as much as is feasible.  I firmly believe that library jobs should always trump coursework because if you do not work, you will not get a job in a library upon graduating. We could squabble about the particulars (maybe you could get a paraprofessional position without experience) but I don’t think it’s contestable. The library job market is intensely competitive and the more library experience you have, the better off you will be.

With that said, the following are a few tips I have for new students looking to work while in library school.

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