Volunteering to gain experience is something I have done a lot of in my time and something I can’t recommend enough!
Before I entered teaching I did countless hours of voluntary work in schools and even earned the 100 hour millennium volunteer certificate (now rebranded as vinspired) by volunteering at a centre that supported the education of students who struggled with behaviour or attendance in mainstream settings. I learned a lot from my experiences, gained some great insights and ideas to try out, met some fantastic people, grew in confidence and developed skills in a wide range of areas. Then, when I became a teacher – I paid it back and took on volunteers of my own. It really is a rewarding process!
So, when I wanted to find out more about librarianship, my first thought was voluntary work. I volunteered at Sunderland University Library for four months and in that time cemented my commitment to perusing a career in libraries. My experience at the library was exceptional – my supervisor planned out a wide range of activities that allowed me to visit and experience every aspect of the job while also taking into account my own interests and giving me purposeful tasks related to the library’s marketing project to promote e-books. I even got to use a Mac to design QR Coded shelf labels and an e-books promotional poster! Before that, I’d had no idea I could be involved with creative projects like that as a librarian!
My eBook promotional poster
[Photograph taken by @laurajwilkinson ]
My volunteer experiences have really worked for me, partly because I was focused and knew what I wanted to get out of and what I could give to the experience but also because the people who gave me the opportunity did so with the intention, or at least the willingness, to ensure that my experience not only benefited their cause but was also relevant to me and positively developed my skills and understanding too.
One thing I found quite surprising was how difficult it was to actually get a volunteer position – but it did remind me that taking on a volunteer – if it’s done properly, does involve a lot of work – the person might be working for free but there is a somewhat hidden cost in the time and preparation it takes to ensure the volunteer and the organisation get the most from the experience. Being a volunteer and taking on volunteers demands a certain level of commitment from both sides. Volunteering for me, is not something that devalues our profession but rather adds value to it – by giving people the opportunity to continue to develop professionally, to learn from each other and offer support to meet the growing demands of the profession.