Libraries need teen volunteers

MONROE – Could the Union County Public Library system function without a group of regular teen volunteers? According to Shelley Fearn, the reader’s services librarian at the Monroe Library, the answer most definitely is “no.”

That’s why both the Monroe and Union West Regional libraries are calling on teen volunteers to donate their time to help run an efficient institution.

“What they do is so essential,” Fearn said. “They attribute to the operation of the organization. Everything they do is valuable.”

The Monroe Library recently sent out a call for volunteers ages 14 to 18 via a Union County e-newsletter. Fearn said the main need is for people who can come in for a few hours at a time a couple times a month to shelve books.

“That’s mainly the thing we’re looking for right now,” she said.

Fearn requires all volunteers to submit an application, which can be picked up at the library or downloaded from the library’s website. After the application is turned in, she’ll call the applicant, set up a time to meet with them and go over the specific duties and tasks required of volunteers. If the person is interested, Fearn will train them and officially place their name on the volunteer list.

Fearn typically schedules teen volunteers to come in to the Monroe Library after school and, especially, Saturdays. Because library staff is on rotation, Fearn tries to create a volunteer schedule that parallels the employee schedule so volunteers work with the same employees each time they come in.

One of the biggest requirements for volunteers, Fearn said, is they be detail-oriented and stay on task.

“We want them to enjoy it, but at the same time they have to take it seriously,” she said. “Basically, they work for us. They’re just not paid, but it’s equally as important as if they were an employee.”

The Union West Regional Library recruits volunteers somewhat differently. The library recently posted a call for teen and adult volunteers on its website. Those interested in volunteering are required to pick up and fill out an application and return it to the library by Jan. 9.

Then, on Jan. 12, a Saturday, the library will host a volunteer orientation at 2:30 p.m. Reference and teen services librarian Marcy Scudder, who also is in charge of the volunteers at Union West Regional, said this is an easy way to get everyone trained and on the same page at once.

“What we do is hold an orientation and let people see what’s available,” Scudder said. “There might be certain nights teens can’t come in. Home-schooled teens sometimes can come in during the day and adults usually come in in the morning or afternoon. This helps us kind of sort that out.”

One of the reasons Union West Regional is calling for volunteers is because there’s often a shortage of people this time of year, Scudder said. She hosts quarterly volunteer orientations, but the winter session is especially important, she said.

“Recently, we have lost a few volunteers,” she said. “In the summer, we have a lot more that want to participate. This time of year, some stop attending for a while, but having an orientation fills in (empty) spots and brings (attendance) back up.”

Fearn said one of the biggest advantages of being a teen volunteer is learning how to function in a work environment. Many of the kids who volunteer, she said, have never held a job before, so working with the library teaches them to commit to getting to work at a specific time.

“It’s about getting used to working with adults outside of church or family,” she said. “They really benefit from it that way.”

Scudder and Fearn both said there are a number of other good reasons for teens to volunteer, such as a chance to earn volunteer hours for school clubs, build up resumés and add
something positive to their college transcript.

“It definitely is a great place to (do) volunteer work,” Scudder said. “It looks good to colleges, but it’s also good to just have experience doing the volunteer work because it helps them get ready for jobs and the work environment.”

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