By Carla Lehn
Library Programs Consultant, California State Library
Get Involved: Powered By Your Library is a California statewide initiative designed to expand the visibility and contributions of skilled volunteers in public libraries. With tens of thousands of Americans – baby boomers and the generations that follow — seeking new ways to use their skills and experience to make a difference in their communities, public libraries can engage their talents to get great work done and to develop new library supporters.
Through a partnership with VolunteerMatch.org, every public library branch in the state is provided with a free upgraded VolunteerMatch account. VolunteerMatch has also developed a branded hub site and widget for the project. Once posted on the library’s website, the Get Involved widget drives potential volunteers to the hub where they get an immediate display of library volunteer opportunities within a 20-mile radius of their ZIP code.
Libraries have been successful recruiting for a multitude of skilled volunteer positions, from event planner to photographer; from literacy tutor to graphic designer; from lego club leader to homework club coordinator, and more! Volunteer position descriptions for these and many other opportunities are being stored and made available in the Get Involved “Clearinghouse” – a searchable database that also includes sample volunteer policies, handbooks, training materials, and more. Find it at the “Resource & Training Center” tab on the Get Involved website.
The California State Library’s partnership with VolunteerMatch is yielding terrific results. With 85 percent of California public libraries currently participating in the project, at any given time there are 700 or more library volunteer opportunities posted on volunteermatch.org. Members of public can refer themselves for library volunteer positions from the website. Statewide we get an average of 750 referrals per month. In the first two full years of data since the launch we’ve seen a 27 percent increase in volunteers serving in libraries and a 14 percent increase in volunteer tutors in library literacy programs.
We’ve also seen success with the goal of developing new library supporters. In a recent survey of volunteers who found their California library volunteer opportunity on our VolunteerMatch hub, 67 percent said they told friends about what the library has to offer, and 44 percent introduced friends to volunteer opportunities at the library. Eleven percent gave money to support the library, seven percent attended a rally or other meeting in support of the library, and nine percent individually spoke to one or more local decision makers on behalf of the library. And remember, these folks weren’t recruited to be advocates, but once engaged in meaningful volunteer work as part of the library family, they initiated their own actions on the library’s behalf.
This year we welcomed the Idaho State Library on board the Get Involved Initiative, the first state to join us on this project. We would love to see other states get involved. California makes all its materials and resources available to Idaho folks, and would for other states too.
For more information about the project, including how to get your state involved, contact Carla Lehn at the California State Library: firstname.lastname@example.org
The California State Library – www.library.ca.gov — is the central reference and research library for state government and the Legislature, and provides non-partisan research to the Legislature and the Governor. It collects, preserves, generates and disseminates information ranging from California’s priceless historical items to today’s online texts. In addition, the state library advises, consults with, and provides technical assistance to California’s public libraries, and directs state and federal funds to support local public libraries and statewide library programs and services.
Carla Lehn began her career as a VISTA Volunteer. Her Masters Degree in Community Development is from the University of California, Davis. As library programs consultant for the California State Library, Carla staffs the volunteer-based California Library Literacy Service and assists libraries with volunteer, board, and community development issues. She authored several published articles on volunteerism, as well as the California State Library’s book: Volunteer Involvement in California Libraries: Best Practices.