My library has seen a surge of interest in volunteering lately, and we’re looking for ways to balance the number of people who’d like to volunteer with the energy and staff time it takes to manage a good volunteer program. We see lots of teens who have been assigned volunteer service as part of a probation agreement with the courts, and with the tight job market, some teens who can’t find work are searching for alternatives to gain experience that could land them a job in the future.

One of the challenges we face is giving teens tasks that are meaningful yet don’t involve an intensive amount of training from staff. What are your favorite volunteer tasks for teens? How do you handle training and orientation? For many teens, a volunteer job at the library is their first experience with a professional work environment. How can we help prepare teens for their first paid job?

3 Thoughts on “Teen volunteers at the library

  1. I have a basic application process that actually weeds out people who aren’t that committed or are trying to do it at the last minute, and I limit the number of hours a week a person can volunteer. I have my volunteers label and cover books, test-drive crafts for story time (and sometimes cut out/prepare materials), create book displays, shelf-read, check my shelflist against the collection, and make signage and posters for upcoming events. I have them sign in and sign out, including a note on what they did, both for my statistics and for the purposes of letters of recommendation and letter certifying that they completed their hours. I only do orientation for a special summer reading volunteer program.

  2. Here’s our list of tasks we have them do. Each teen is trained quickly on the task and often they will repeat stuff from week to week.
    1. Check in board books
    2. Check in new books
    3. Check in holds
    4. Clean computers & mice
    5. Color images for flannel boards
    6. Cut scrap paper
    7. Dust shelves
    8. Fill Book Easels & Displays
    9. Fill pencil cups and scrap paper holders
    10. Help out during children’s programs
    11. Pull books for Trace, Dusty Book Reports
    12. Put audio books in ABC order
    13. Put magazines in order
    14. Set up/Clean up Program Room
    15. Sharpen pencils
    16. Shelf read
    17. Straighten Graphic Novels
    18. Straighten materials in the lobby
    19. Straighten shelves
    20. Stuff SRP bags
    21. Weed books on Horizon/mark up/box up
    22. Windex countertops and crystals
    23. Make library cards

    Teens can volunteer 1x per week for a 2 hour time slot. Have a calendar all set up for them to sign up. If they can’t come, we expect them to call. If they don’t show repeatedly, we let them know it’s not working out. Also, I rotate them every quarter to give everyone a chance to volunteer.

  3. This is incredibly helpful, thank you so much for posting and to you two for commenting! Our library is seeing a lot of teens asking for hours and are seeing the need to have more structure to the program. Thanks again!

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