Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Thing 22: "Volunteers... attenshun!"

The subject of volunteers is a tricky one. At one level, it is a fantastic way to improve your C.V. and do some networking at the same time. However, it is also a tool currently being used by councils to cut costs. I'll tackle the good side first:

I've been volunteering at a copyright deposit satellite library for about a year. I bumped into an ex-colleague at the lib@cam conference, who happened to be looking for assistance with a serials cataloguing backlog in her department, caused by several libraries merging some time ago. Although the material is on the catalogue, the records are short and occasionally incorrect. What I do is:

  1. Pull all appropriate boxes from the shelves
  2. Check the issues are in chronological order
  3. Compose a paper finding list (title, classmark, place of publication, bib and ISSN number, then a list of each volume and issue, with spaces for those that are missing). 
  4. Find and update catalogue record
  5. Re-box and label issues
  6. Reshelve. 
As I do not catalogue in my job, this has given me an insight and experience into something I do not know, and although I'm not entirely confident in my accuracy yet, that is building.

Here endeth the CDP23 part. This next bit is a rant.


Libraries cost money. But they are vital to our communities, the education of the nation and just generally A Good Thing. I know some people are against them (see here about that), and that cuts *apparently* need to be made. A solution is apparently making all qualified librarians redundant, and using volunteers instead. If the building hasn't been sold off for housing. I know some tasks can be done (and are done) effectively by volunteers, but the actual nitty-gritty needs to be done by a professional. The books don't just magically appear on a catalogue or on a shelf.

A sign of how important libraries are can be seen from Twitter during this year's National Libraries Day #NLD13.


  1. I am retired (but sometimes provide cover in Depts and collegees) and volunteer in the local public library as a Library at Home visitor (old doorstep). I would not want to take on a role which has been done by a paid employee but will be part of a pilot scheme reading in residential homes. I have resurrected an old blog to note how the pilot goes http://wildventure.blogspot.co.uk

  2. An excellent use of volunteer time! Good luck with the readings, I'll keep my eye on your blog.