Sunday, December 31, 2006

Joining A Library Association

You can put your love of books to good use by volunteering your time at the local library. Most libraries are in dire need of funding and are desperate for volunteers as well. Some communities have well oiled library volunteer groups, but most of them are always ready for some extra help. The next time you visit your library, you should ask if there is some way that you can help out through a Friends of the Library or similar group. Chances are you will leave with the information in hand.

If you want to join a library volunteer group, your first step should be just to go to the meetings. Head to one with an open mind. Take a pen and pencil along with you so that you can make notes. One of the biggest mistakes that new volunteers can make is not knowing who is who before participating in the meetings. Instead you should make notes as people go around, even if you are just writing that Judy is wearing the red sweater. You will want to be able to refer to people by name as often as possible, and you can help your memory by writing the notes.

You also want to note what events the group discusses having planned. Some groups may be organized and know their calendars for the next year while other groups have thought out their plans less. Still other groups will not know what to do and may seem to be in need of suggestion. Get a feel for the political climate of the group before you begin to make suggestions.

Your next job will be to see where you can help. Now in groups that are well put together, you probably can find a place to volunteer without any effort. They will have sign up sheets for the next event and may even allow you to join a committee for planning a certain event. You should be able to just hop on board and start giving over your talents.

In other groups, however, things will be less organized. You will need to make it known what you would like to do for the library. Explain that you have noticed that the library could use new computers. Ask if you could be in charge of finding new ones at good deals if they can get the money together. Perhaps you work in public relations; explain how you think the library can promote itself with a good campaign if the library does not have many patrons. If your Friends group does not have at least one book sale every year, then you should volunteer to head one up. These sales are the biggest annual fundraisers that most libraries have, and you would be doing a great service to the community if you helped put one together.

If the others in the group seem reluctant to take part in your changes, do not despair. Some groups will be filled with people who are accustomed to the status quo. I once attended a meeting with three people. When I suggested events, they explained that they do the same events every year. Now to me they obviously were not successful if they only had three people at a meeting, but to these people, they were doing just fine. If you encounter a similar group (and they are everywhere in community organizing), then you probably will find yourself getting very frustrated with them. Just take it slowly. The people in the group will need to get to know you before they trust you to plan anything, and you should respect this need.

Always remember that you are at the library meeting because you love books and that you want to help the library. Do not let your feelings for members of the group get in the way of the cause, which is promoting an active concern for literacy in the community. Continue to remind yourself that you love books and that you want to do something related to bringing that joy to others. This group is just one of the ways you can accomplish that goal. Now get out there! Your library association needs your help today.

1 comment:

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