How to Ruin Your Volunteer Program in One Well Intended (Opportunistic) Step

It happens to all of us.  We want to cut corners or add an intergenerational show of support for our newest idea.  So someone within your organization will offer up “Let’s get the teens to do it!”.  You either:

a) nod your head excitedly thinking to yourself that it will be great for your teens to help beyond just your department.

b) nod your head unsure of how to tell your higher ups that you think this might not work but resign yourself to try anyway.

DON’T DO IT.  This will kill your successful volunteer program faster than asking them to wear matching uniforms.  Faster than blasting the saxophone intro to Careless Whisper looped for 10 hours straight.  (I’ve done this with Justin, it’s not so bad…)

Teens are not free labor.  You should know this because of the amount of time you spend cultivating them and your program and because of the amount of money you spend on rewarding them.

To ask your teens to do things they have expressed no interest in doing is ludicrous.  Would you ask a random group of adults to do the same and expect overwhelmingly positive response?

Keep in mind their motivation for volunteering probably doesn’t have to do with increasing your programming revenue.  It probably doesn’t have to do with mass producing chotchkies to sell various fundraisers.  (Why is it these “opportunities” always revolve around making money?)

Don’t let outsiders tell your teens what to do.  Especially by using you as a mouthpiece.  You’ll lose all credibility in your teens’ eyes and you’ll be left to start from scratch again.  Well, you can start again once their tween siblings who heard all about it the dinner table age out and the next generation of kids who don’t know about your past crimes will give you a chance.

If you absolutely need their help with this kind of work make it well worth their while.  Give everyone an iTunes gift card.  Give them all tickets to the movies afterward.  And most importantly, do not TELL your regulars this is their next task.  This is exactly why Teen Advisory Boards are failing these days.  Advertise these volunteer opportunities separately along with their awesome prizes and pull in folks who know exactly what they’re signing up for.

 

michael scott

Raised by the Library…

I hear a lot about folks who claim they were “raised in the library”. This always seems super cool to me since I definitely was not raised in my library.

I have some VERY vivid memories about the libraries of my youth. I can smell the smells, remember the way the weight of the book(s!) felt in my little hands as I walked out the door and into the sunshine. There are even some cool residual details from after library trips that are burned in my brain, as if there was pixie dust from those buildings that permeated the space time continuum and an event’s mere proximity to a library visit also made it special.

On my first trip to a Public Library I checked out Roald Dahl’s The Witches from a library in New Jersey. I went home and climbed a cherry tree in full bloom in our front yard and read until I was scared I’d finish the book and have the story end.

When we moved to Maine I quietly stalked the shelves of our small Library and found a small blue tome, the kind that had it’s title written in gold on its spine. (The kind of book you can call a freakin’ tome and mean it!) Inside there were little poems about mermaids and shipwrecks, cresting waves and the lonely pitch of ships in the fog. I would sneak back to that shelf for “my book” many times. As an adult I’m putting off calling and being “that patron” who asks for “the small blue book in the 811’s with a nautical focus”. I shudder at both the reality that I must do this or I will simply die and the empathy I will feel for the person on the other end of that phone call. Especially when I’ll ask in vain if they know “what happened to it?” when it will surely be long removed from the collection…

A lot of us have stories like these and I love meeting other librarians and hearing their renditions of this story but I never got to say I was “raised by my library”. It’s silly to be envious of this claim but sometimes I am. Like I’m not core enough for my job because I didn’t have that immersion. Is it possible that this is on par with Jewish Guilt or Catholic Guilt? If so, I’m devoted to the art form…

However, right now I’m sitting in an airport on the way to my wedding. I’ve spent the day attending a training for women on leadership because of the generosity of our Friends. I was given gifts and hugs all day by staff and then driven to the airport by a patron. On the way here the most fabulous 12 year old ever told me I was the coolest person in the world when I described what my wedding would be like. Then he asked me to plan his wedding when the time comes.

I’ve been gifted with a handmade Christmas wreath from a Kindergarten class, a Robert Frost quote translated into gorgeous oil pastel art from a senator’s husband, a 5 pack (FIVE!) of custom made cd’s when I left VT from a teenager, the consideration, time, love and conversation from the entire staff of my first library after heartbreak, lessons in foreign languages from kids whose language was the only constant in their lives as fleeing refugees, the volunteer efforts from friends as I ventured into unchartered Library territory and made them stay up all night with dozens of teenagers, and now with the freedom to explore the boundaries of my profession to depths I never dreamed possible… and all while they ask for info on my wedding registry…

I may not have been raised by my library as a child but as a human and an adult I have been raised by my libraries. And I am so lucky.

Quiet Like Kittens.

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I get really busy and neglect this blog from time to time.  I have a good feeling when this happens because it means I’m working more than writing about working though…

Here’s a little found cuteness to make up for it!

 

OMG, There’s Gonna’ be a Book…

Today is such a mixed up kind of day. Recently I lost one of my favorite fathers from library world to a terrible motorcycle accident. Yesterday morning one of the kids (now 20) from my first library also passed away from a motorcycle accident. Geez…

There are some incredible things afoot in my world so I didn’t imagine writing this post would feel so bittersweet.

I’ve been waiting a really long time to announce that I’m writing a book with the amazing folks at ABC-CLIO Libraries Unlimited. I am STOKED. I am so incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to work with such a great group of people on a topic that is my absolute favorite thing to talk about ever- Progressive Programming for Tweens and Teens. It’s going to cover a lot of what folks have a tendency to ask me about: Lego Club, my Teen Volunteer Program, the 3D’s of 3D Printing and a LOT more. I’m writing it from the perspective of a “non-librarian” and my goal is to create something accessible for stay-at-home moms, kick ass nannies, teachers, and anyone working with kids who wants to try something new that’s grounded in experience.

I’ve been helping my incredible coworkers present at a variety of conferences lately and barreling down the road to the various conferences I’ve had a lot of time to think. (Well, in between laughing at how hilarious they all are…) Some of these really sad things are coming on the heels of these other great things (like I’m getting married in two weeks!) and it mirrors perfectly what I’m trying so hard to achieve in work right now – balance. Balance between the warm body work and the brain work I do, between addressing the inappropriate behavior of kids and rewarding their great antics, and between following my own message of staying inspiredand getting shit done.

 

 

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Library Rocks Yo!

Recently I set up what might be the easiest anti-program of all- a large sheet of blank paper with the word Doodle written across it in a bouncy, bubbly script. It was doodled upon for days and as I went over to clean it up when it was full I found this scrolled across one area. It’s great to see a simple program work but even better to find validation literally written across it at its conclusion. Yay!

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