Volunteers are the backbone of your rural library. Not only do they provide you with a free set of helping hands , but they bring in new people, come up with new ideas and boost your library community. So how do you find these volunteers and keep them around long-term? Here are three ways you can attract (and keep) a steady volunteer group of volunteers at your rural library with a solid volunteer program.
Offer School Credit
Offering school credit is one of the fastest ways to attract new volunteers to your library. Many area high schools and colleges have started to build their curriculum around the principle of “outside learning”—applying in-class lessons to the world around them. According to our wise sages at the American Library Association, students are much more likely to be engaged in their normal academia (and language learning!) when the library is integrated in the student learning experience. Why not take it one step further and promote outside learning through student volunteerism?
Volunteering at the library not only complements student’s regular workload, but it also allows students to engage in responsibility well before it’s time for them to work in the real world. Through library volunteerism, students can grow their work ethic while they gain access to the world of knowledge you’ve got in the library stacks. But starting a volunteer program for students can benefit you as well by introducing the library to the student peer group. Who knows? Maybe your student volunteer will inadvertently attract a whole new crop of patrons from their friends who just couldn’t stop talking about their local library.
Cater to Older Volunteers
Retired adults are some of our favorite patrons at the library: they’re faithful members of the community who engage in everything from the casual checking-out of books to leading your Sunday night mystery novel reading group.
Try chatting with your existing patron-base of older adults to see if they would be interested in offering their services to your library. Many will be only too happy to devote a few hours a week to the library. By asking their families to get involved as well, volunteering at the library can become a whole family affair.
Bridging Together Smaller Towns
Your library is likely the only game in town for avid readers, burgeoning tech entrepreneurs and everyone in between. If your library is situated between a few smaller towns, it may be time to do some larger outreach and promote your library as a place where everyone can come together. Reach out to schools and businesses from neighboring towns to see if any of them would be interested in volunteering at the library a few days a week. This will allow volunteers to regularly expand their social circles to include people from other towns they may not have had contact with otherwise.
Promoting your library as a center for involvement is also a great way to attract new patron converts who may one day volunteer at your library. By spreading the word of your services across town lines, you can expand your patronbase and welcome new devout library-goers that may one day choose to volunteer at your library.
Volunteers are truly what makes the books go ‘round at your rural library. For more information on promoting your library and expanding your patronbase, check out our whitepaper: Branding Your Library: Insights from Today’s Top Librarians.