Mentoring, Volunteering, Oh My!

In my last post I left off with the teaser that I would talk about initiative. In second thought, I wanted to discuss the positive aspects of having volunteers or interns. There might never be a good moment to have a volunteer or intern. It requires a lot of time and energy that staff might not have or be willing to give. Despite this, I would contend that the time and effort are totally worth accepting a volunteer or intern.

A volunteer or intern provides an outside perspective to your everyday work routines. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a volunteer or intern. Because the person is external to the politics and inner working of the department, this person can see things that either you take for granted or chose to ignore. Sometimes, the volunteer and/or intern can bring a fresh perspective and perhaps their own work experience. From this exchange, routines can be updated, refreshed, and/or revised.

Volunteers and interns also bring a lot of positive energy. This is especially in the case of library school students or recent grads. Most of them are just so excited to be entering this profession. I think it helps those of us who have become jaded by politics or social dynamics in the workplace.

Last but not least, having a volunteer or intern is a great opportunity to give someone a chance to see what library work is. With the right mentor, a volunteer and/or intern an become a vital member of the department.

That leads me to being a mentor. It’s not easy. It’s not leaving the volunteer or intern with some project typically left for work studies. It’s also not leaving the volunteer to their own devices because you’re just too busy to help them out. With the right framework and a clear understanding of what is expected and required of both volunteers/interns and their mentees, the experience can be success. And more importantly, any problems can be avoided or dealt with in a professional, clear, and timely manner.



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