Working at a library (or at least inside one) has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I started my library volunteering experiences when I was 12 and signed up for the “library assistant” class at my middle school. At the time, most of our job was sitting at the front desk, checking books out to patrons, and shelving returned books on perfectly alphabetized and aligned shelves. The great thing about being a library volunteer, however, is that this is only the beginning of what you can do and how this experience can help you.
So, what do library volunteers do?
A lot of things can fall into library volunteer duties. Some may be clerical or computer work, like entering information from new patrons into a database. Other duties may involve tidying a children's area periodically or working a help desk. There are also chances to volunteer that involve helping with events at the library.
The best way to learn what your local library offers as far as volunteering is to ask a librarian. There are a variety of tasks that sometimes are done by staff and sometimes done by volunteers. If you are willing to do what they need first, you may be able to get a chance to do whatever tasks you are most interested in.
Can I even volunteer?
The answer is probably yes! While many tasks will be for volunteers 18 and older, even younger volunteers can offer to be of assistance. Having free time during the day is often helpful. However, if you are enthusiastic, other weekend and night jobs might be possible. If you think something disqualifies you, talk to your librarians about it. Chances are good that they'd love the help.
So, why be a library volunteer?
Give Back to the Bookish Community
Libraries are really a feat: usually totally free, but yet accessible to all, they give people a chance to better themselves, enjoy themselves, and find resources for their entire families. The fact that books are being used to do this makes it all the better! Even if the main tasks that you are assigned to do as a volunteer seem far from glamorous, like scanning books as they return to the library or shelving books in the correct order, they are actually necessary parts of the experience and thus a vital part of a very important mission.
Another thing to think about is that time is money for a library. If they would have to pay someone else dollars per hour to do the tasks you are completing, you are basically giving that many dollars to the library every hour! You are a philanthropist. I like to think of my time volunteering in terms of the books being bought because I was able to take on some free work for them.
Run Programs Related to Your Expertise
Libraries these days offer programs from story time to career prep, from cookbook clubs to writing workshops. If you can have a book for it, there’s a way to make a library program out of it! This means that one great way to donate your time at your library is to volunteer to run a program. You get to teach people who are really grateful for the knowledge, and you keep the costs low so that the barrier to entry is small as well.
Get to Know the Latest Book News You Care About
Want a personal benefit of volunteering at the library? How about the chance to be at the library for a good reason and very frequently! You get to know the librarians and other library volunteers, who may have the scoop on new books that are coming out and, perhaps more importantly, the day they are available to patrons. You may not get “first dibs” on books just for being a library volunteer, but you definitely get to check out the shelves frequently, and that makes it more likely that you’ll catch your favorites when they are freshest.
Read the Best Books Through Great Staff Recs
Many libraries have either official or unofficial staff-recommended books. One way to expand your reading interests is to read the absolute best example of a particular genre. If you’ve always wanted to understand the appeal of mysteries, one of your library volunteer buddies or a librarian can definitely help you find the best possible mystery to try. The bookish conversation that goes on at the library while applying barcode stickers or laminating library cards can be the highlight of your week…if laminating things wasn’t already excitement enough!
Recommend Great Reads to Others
Immersing yourself in the library environment helps you. It also empowers you to help others at the same time. You can tell your friends at work or school about the latest and greatest books. There is something about being known as the "reader" in your friend group that is quite empowering. You can also physically bring friends a copy of the book, provided they turn it in on time!
Want to love on libraries a little more? Here are some ways to help your local library, and other Book Riot favorites on libraries. Libraries are one of the ways that readers keep their voracious book habits without breaking the bank. It is worthwhile to support a library with your time.