Folks, I’m going to ask you to do a thing you might not get to do very often: write about how great you are. Or, if you prefer, how great an experience you have had, specifically while volunteering. I know, anecdotally, that librarians and library workers volunteer a lot of our time. (I’m not talking about working late at our own libraries, though that’s a thing we do; nor am I talking about what we do as part of professional organizations. I really mean volunteering, out in our communities.) I used to do stage managing (aka “planning, organizing, and herding cats”) for a local theatre group—and will again, if one of Anchorage’s troupes will have me. I know librarians who go organize soup kitchens, who catalog books and plan events for local non-profits, who teach computer classes at senior centers, and the list goes on. We are definitely out there, making a difference, and I think that needs to be more visible.
Now I’m going to back up, explain what I’m going on about, and then make my request for your story.
Back in the day, ALA used to do big volunteer days at their annual conferences, called “Librarians Build Communities” (or sometimes “Libraries Build Communities,” but we have since settled on the former). The best-known of these was probably the one in New Orleans, when ALA was the first conference back after Hurricane Katrina. They were pretty great experiences, both for the volunteers involved and for the organizations they were helping out. (Most of those organizations were libraries; it wasn’t originally an advocacy kind of program. But I’m getting ahead of myself.) The ALA Chapter Relations Office felt that, while this was great and worth doing, it should really be expanded beyond just our national conference. They envisioned each state matching volunteers with organizations—both libraries and not—that needed them. Thus was born a multi-year Emerging Leaders project.
This year, we have focused on getting a webpage set up, with a primer that will help any ALA chapter, any state, or any city looking to start their own program. On the site, we explain the concept of skills-based volunteering, the idea of volunteerism-as-library-advocacy, the benefits to an individual who volunteers, the history of the program, and, of course, what the program might look like at the state level. To make it all doable within our project’s time frame—and to give states an easy place to start—we have focused on the one-day kind of events, a lot like ALA did. But we’ve changed the emphasis to be externally-focused (not volunteering in libraries, but rather in the rest of our communities) and created a blog, to better showcase individual librarian-volunteers, as well as successful state and local LBC programs.
I’d like you to write your volunteering story for the LBC Blog, please! (It can be fairly short; that’s OK.)
So I’m asking, if you’re a librarian (or library worker, or archivist, or museum worker) who has done any volunteering using your library (etc.) skills, would you please write about that experience and submit it to the LBC Blog? If you’ve got pictures, that’s even better! (You can follow that link and submit your blog post, or you can email the group of ELs at librariansbuildcommunities at googlegroups dot com.) Here’s a pretty fantastic post, to give you an idea of the kind of thing we’re looking for.
And if you’ve done volunteering that didn’t specifically use library skills—for instance, the local chapter of my library association is going to pick up trash for two hours on a Saturday—feel free to write that up, too. We might hold that post for a little bit, until we get more of the skills-based posts showing up, but I still think it would be a valuable contribution to the blog. (I’m going to write about our trash pick-up for sure! With photos!)