I would have liked the opportunity to work in a library on a voluntary basis to get a feel for whether I liked the work and whether I was cut out for it, prior to embarking on a career in librarianship, but there weren’t any opportunities available to me. It surprised me how hard it is to actually find a voluntary position. (Now, I’ve experienced volunteering from the other side, I’ve seen how difficult and time-consuming it is to offer a meaningful voluntary placement. We have students coming into the library on work experience and I’ve found it very hard to support them fully and to give them an interesting introduction to library work. I would like to be able to offer more students the opportunity to gain work experience in the library but it would be a real challenge and I’m already spreading myself thinly at work as it is.)
Now, the idea of volunteering in the library field has a whole different range of issues attached to it, which I find really sad more than anything. I do voluntary work with young people in my spare time, and it’s a really rewarding experience. I get to do things I would never normally do and I get that pleasant feeling of having put my time to good use, and hopefully made a small but meaningful difference in another person’s life. I’ve also gained experiences along the way that I’ve been able to put to good use in my professional posts. Volunteering should be a positive thing, both for the person giving up their time and for the organisation they are contributing to.