cpd23: Thing 22 – Volunteering

Thing 22 is discussing working for free to gain experience. According to the blog post, benefits of volunteering are:

  • Demonstrate transferable skills and experience
  • Increase your confidence
  • Extend your professional network and broaden your knowledge of other sectors
  • Get a foot in the door

I have little experience of voluntary work in the library and information sector (excluding internships), as I have been fortunate to have worked full time throughout my career. I have volunteered to run an English for librarians workshop for colleagues in the Bremen public library and an internet literacy workshop for colleagues in Bremen libraries. I am actively involved in the Bremen librarians’ regular table (BreBiStaT). However, I have not yet volunteered conciously and target-oriented for acquiring new skills or experiences, i.e. in a different library sector. For me, volunteering is no option at the moment as I am working towards a master degree in a distance education program. However, the Freiwilligen-Agentur Bremen will definitely be a point to start for looking of volunteer work in two years. I will also keep volunteering in mind when planning the next steps in my professional career.

In Bremen, the university library as well as the public library are supported by friends of the library (Freundeskreis, Freunde der Stadtbibliothek). As far as I am aware there is no official volunteer work in both libraries.

Considering the latest developments in the UK, there has been a very lively discussion of the topic in cpd23 posts, i.e. the overview by Ed Osborne. Taking on volunteers is a balancing act: “I’m determined not to use the post to compensate for our vacant library assistant posts, but at the same time need to find something that will be useful to our users and rewarding to the volunteer” (Claire Charnley).
Volunteering has also been a focus of the German library association BIB. In its statement, presented to the public at the Bibliothekartag in Berlin in June 2011, the association welcomes volunteers as supporters for additional services: “Der Berufsverband Information Bibliothek e.V. (BIB) begrüßt das ehrenamtliche Engagement in Bibliotheken ausschließlich dann, wenn damit zusätzliche Angebote ermöglicht werden und die Stärkung der hauptamtlich und qualifiziert betriebenen Bibliothek Ziel und Anliegen ist” (Bibliotheken haben einen öffentlichen Auftrag: qualifizierte Bibliotheksarbeit erfordert qualifiziertes Personal – Leitlinien zur Freiwilligenarbeit in kommunalen Bibliotheken, 2011).

For me, volunteering should not be not only about the work, but first and foremost about meeting new people with the same interests, different backgrounds and experiences. From my point of view, volunteering is also a two-way process – volunteers receive training and provide support and time in return.

Further reading on volunteering in German libraries:


Photo: Maligne Lake, Canada, September 2011. (c) Sabine Rauchmann.

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