Summer Volunteers: Maintaining Momentum

I love mistakes. They might not be fun to make, but I sure do learn a lot from them. Take the structure of the volunteer program I am overseeing this summer as an example. I ran it how it has been run for years: like a summer employment opportunity. This meant having interviews and orientations at the very beginning of the summer, the goal being to assemble our “staff,” then have them volunteer on a regular basis for the next two and a half months. So far, it has been successful overall, but not nearly as successful as it could be. I have, however, started to notice a marked decline in overall volunteer availability and general work ethic.

As you can see, the total number of volunteer hours per week is steadily declining. Relatedly, we have experienced about a 28% rate of attrition (of 21 volunteers, 6 are no longer able to volunteer). This causes us to ask more of other volunteers or to go without volunteers.

So, what did we do wrong this year? We expected too much, and we didn’t anticipate attrition. Fortunately, we are still receiving plenty of volunteer applications, so finding new volunteers isn’t an issue. However, I believe tweaking the structure of the volunteer program to make it more agile could naturally preclude such issues. Here’s what we will be doing next year:

Segmenting the summer

Next year, we will experiment with hosting two volunteer sessions: May through June and July through August. We are currently treating the entire summer as a single commitment. By doing this, we are asking teens to make a large and vague commitment. Ideally, this wouldn’t be an issue, since they would have a clear understanding of their summer plans, a reliable means of transportation, and an unquenchable desire to donate their free time to the library. But life is messy and things come up.

Another approach is to break the summer down into sets of smaller commitments. For instance, teens can much more reasonably commit to volunteering for 30 hours in June than to an indeterminate number of hours throughout the entire summer. This also gives parents and guardians a clearer idea of what the commitment will be. We’re hoping that by giving teens a concrete commitment within a set period of time will make the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Having a natural stopping point built into the summer will allow teens to exit the program smoothly — or to decide actively to continue volunteering. Hopefully, this will help weed out those who think they want to volunteer more than they actually do while retaining those who enjoy the realities of volunteering.

Offering multiple orientations throughout the summer

This year, we offered two separate orientations before the summer began. We were hoping that teens would be able to attend one or the other depending on their schedule. For the most part, we were correct, and having orientations just at the beginning of the summer would be fine so long as no new volunteers are added throughout the summer.

Even though we didn’t segment the summer this year, we will be offering a mid-summer orientation. This will let us formally introduce new volunteers to the program. At each orientation we talk about organizational values, discuss Summer Reading, do plenty of icebreakers, eat snacks, and get to know each other. This is an important step in building a volunteer program into a volunteer community. We will be changing our approach to orientations as well, but that is a topic for a longer post.

Hosting more events for volunteers

We have traditionally thrown a volunteer appreciation party at the end of each summer as a way to celebrate our volunteers and express our gratitude. We will be changed things up this year and threw the party in the middle of the summer. Our reasoning behind this is that the party boosts morale, engenders good will, and helps the teens bond. These are benefits we believe would help combat burnout and maintain positive momentum. It also gave us an opportunity to check with the volunteers in an informal setting.

At the end of the summer, we will host a resume and interview development course specifically for summer volunteers. However, it may be more effective to host events like this throughout the summer. The closer a non-entertainment based event is to the beginning of school, the less likely it is that teens will attend them.

There are, of course, many other ways of keeping volunteers engaged with you, the library, and each other besides parties and life skills events. For instance, one cost effective solution would be to host a book club for volunteers. Another would be to schedule a time for the volunteers to meet as a group with a high level library administrator to ask him or her questions and learn about the organization’s leadership.

 

Summer Youth Leaders @ Pearl Bailey Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

Thanks to the generosity of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and YALSA, this year Pearl Bailey Library has three summer Youth Leaders: Sari, Na’quan, and Alysse. These three will learn valuable workforce skills while helping us successfully pull off all of our Summer Reading activities and summer outreach events, as well as organizing the youth during programs and activities, and keeping the library organized as well. While in our Youth Leaders Program across the Wickham Avenue Alliance, they also receive career research training, learn teamwork skills and conflict resolution, all based on the Career Investigations Curriculum. The Youth Leaders also receive customer service training taught by experts from Starbucks, and they take money management workshops from Bayport Credit Union. 

Without further ado, let’s introduce you to the 2018 Youth Leaders at Pearl Bailey Library:

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ALA 2018 Annual Recap from a First-Time Attendee

Image courtesy of ALA 2018 Annual

Last month, I went to my first ALA Annual Convention. As a MMLIS graduate student at the University of Southern California, attending ALA Annual in New Orleans was an opportunity to meet fellow students, network with current librarians and library staff, and to learn more about how I can participate as a new member of ALA in the various divisions, roundtables, and chapters.

The ALA Annual Convention is a wonderful experience where you meet people with the same interest and same enthusiasm for books, advocacy, learning, and desire to help. The conference ran from June 21, 2018 through June 26, 2018, with the official opening general session on Friday, June 22nd.  The Opening General Session speaker was Former First Lady Michelle Obama! The line to be able to attend Mrs. Obama’s talk, led by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, started at 7:30am that morning though Mrs. Obama would not speak until 4:00pm that afternoon.  As a first-time attendee, I will admit to being daunted by the impressive line that formed, but ALA had it all under control. They had more than enough room to accommodate everyone.  What a way to kick off the convention!  Listening to Michelle Obama and Carla Hayden in conversation was a memorable experience. Not to mention listening to Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews perform with talented students from the Trombone Shorty Foundation beforehand.
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Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff Webinar: Learning Experiences

cover of the teen services competencies for library staffEach month, through December, YALSA is sponsoring free webinars (for members and non-members) on topics related to the Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff.

The June webinar (the full video recording is available after the break), facilitated by Megan Emery from the Chattanooga Public Library, covered the topic of Learning Experiences. In her discussion Megan talked about the difference between formal and informal learning and how to overlap one onto the other, how to supporting teen volunteering as a learning experience, and integrating design thinking into the teen learning experience.
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Preparing for Teen Volunteers: Promotions and Applications

At this point, most of you who are planning on having teen volunteers help you out with Summer Learning Program have probably already started working with your volunteers. It’s never too late or too early to start planning for next year. In this post, I’ll go through how we promoted our Summer Learning Program volunteer positions and how we handle applications.

Promotions

We were hoping to attract 20 volunteers this summer. So far we have had about 40 applicants, and we are still fielding applications. It’s always hard to pinpoint causes of success when it comes to dealing with the public, so I can’t say that we received more applicants than we hoped for because of how we marketed the positions. Our marketing approach, however, doesn’t seem to have failed. The two approaches used were personal contact and flyer distribution.

Word of mouth is an effective way to promote any event. Quite a few of the teen volunteers we have this year are individuals whom I or other staff members personally recruited. These were teens who showed some of the traits we look for in volunteers (work ethic, passion for reading, interest in the library, looking for things to do), and seemed to be a good fit. We also reached out to teens who volunteered in previous years. We keep contact information for all of our volunteers on file. Then, when an event like Summer Reading is on the horizon, we reach out and invite them to return. This has the added benefit of padding a volunteer roster with experienced volunteers.
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Cultivating Teen Programming at the Library

When someone wants to start their own garden, there are a lot of things they have to think about–location, climate, soil, and maintenance to name a few. It is important to know what kind of soil you are dealing with before you start cultivating the ground. Determining the quality of your soil allows you to utilize the ground to produce the best crop possible.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”  -Audrey Hepburn

What does this have to do with having a teen presence and programming at the library? I have found the same principles and practices used in having a successful garden can be applied to cultivating a teen presence at your library.

I am the director of Bolivar-Hardeman County Library in Bolivar, Tennessee. We are a small and rural public library serving a diverse community. When I started nearly two years ago our teen attendance at our programs were at an all-time low—basically zero at our library. The demographic of our patrons is increasingly getting older. It was and is my passion to revitalize the library into a place where teens want to come. Shortly after I started, I became of a member of YALSA (Young Adult Library Service Association) and ARSL (Association for Rural and Small Libraries). You can become a member by going here for YALSA and here for ARSL. I was starting from ground zero on developing any type of teen programming at the library. YALSA and ARSL has and continues to provide invaluable information and resources regarding teens and young adults with little to no budgets. One example is the Future Ready with the Library grant I received to be a member of the second of cohort. Future Ready with the Library provides support for small, rural, and tribal library staff to build college and career readiness services for middle school youth. I highly encourage you to read more about Future Ready with the Library. The past several months I have been very busy with gathering information about my community, schools, and youth for the Future Ready with the Library project. Because of my recent research and community engagement it has given me a fresh perspective on Bolivar. One thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was the lack of teen involvement in the library.

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Future Ready with the Library: The Power of Index Cards

This blog post is adapted from a Future Ready with the Library Community of Practice reflection by Amanda (Mandy) Bundy, Kaibab Paiute Tribal Library; Fredonia, AZ, Mandy is a member of the second cohort of the YALSA Future Ready with the Library project. Future Ready with the Library provides support for small, rural, and tribal library staff to build college and career readiness services for middle school youth. You can read more posts by current and previous project cohort members on this blog.

Mandy’s post is available in three parts
* Part 1 – Introduction
* Part 2 – Weeks 1 to 3
* Part 3 – Weeks 4 to 6
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Book Buzz at ALA Annual 2018

Join us for Book Buzz before this year’s annual conference!

What: Book Buzz at the New Orleans Public Library

Where: Main Library, 219 Loyola Avenue

When: Thursday, June 21, 8:00 am-4:30 pm

Schedule:

8:00-9:00 Registration/Networking

9:00 – 12:30 Children’s Presentations

12:30 – 1:30 Lunch provided by Publishers

1:30 – 4:30 Adult Presentations

Why?: Find out about new and forthcoming titles for your library, and get advanced reader copies and marketing materials from more than 30 publishers!

The New Orleans Public Library will host Book Buzz as part of this year’s pre-conference festivities. More than 30 publishers will present new and forthcoming titles for you to add to your reader’s advisory toolkits. The morning session will include children’s and young adult presentations, while the afternoon session will focus on adult materials. The publishers will provide lunch.

This event is free and open to librarians. You do not need to be registered for ALA to attend Book Buzz. Because space is limited, registration for Book Buzz is required. Please register through Eventbrite at this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/book-buzz-tickets-45734784973.

For more information about the New Orleans Public Library, visit www.nolalibrary.org.

  

Future Ready with the Library: Still Time to Apply for Cohort 3

There are still two weeks to apply for cohort 3 of Future Ready with the Library project that supports library staff in designing and implementing services that support college career readiness services for middle school youth, families, and community. You can learn more about the project and the cohort 3 application process by watching the recording of the informational session.

Cohort 3 applications are due May 15. Learn more and apply.

This project is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and is a collaboration between YALSA and the Association of Rural and Small Libraries.

If you have questions about the project contact Linda W. Braun the project manager, lbraun@leonline.com.

Future Ready with the Library: When a Snowball is More Than a Snowball

This is adapted from a Future Ready with the Library Community of Practice reflection by Allison Shimek, Fayette Public Library in La Grange, TX. Allison is a member of the second cohort of the YALSA Future Ready with the Library project. Future Ready with the Library provides support for small, rural, and tribal library staff to build college and career readiness services for middle school youth. Read more about Future Ready with the Library and apply for cohort 3.

image of teens reading snowball ideasLike everyone in the Future Ready with the Library cohort, over the past several months I have been busy with meetings and gathering information. Through this work I learned a tremendous amount about my community. So far I met with the middle school principal, middle school librarian, school district assistant superintendent, members of the community theater, parents, a local camp, teens, and the local Rotary Club. It seems that the majority of the community agrees that middle schoolers need social skills that will help them prepare for the workforce. At the same time, those I talk with note that there is little for middle school youth to do in the town during out of school time. Except for band and sports, all after school activities end at 6th grade. There is nowhere for teens to go and hang out or a place that they can feel is just for them. The entire community and the teens recognize this as a huge topic of concern. As a part of the Future Ready with the Library work, I plan to continue to meet with more community groups and businesses in the local area to learn how to and plan for ways to better support teens.
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