Thursday, 13 June 2013

Thing 22: Volunteering

This post is the penultimate task of the CPD 23 Things for Professional Development course I started way back in June 2011 - it was supposed to have been completed in a year but personal factors took centre stage [twice] and this highly enjoyable course was put on the back burner. Anyway, more of that in the final task which involves a little reflection write-up on what I have gained from the course.
I’m afraid my personal experience at volunteering is somewhat limited so I will begin with a bit of literature from a recent purchase of ours, The Complete Volunteer Management Handbook  [published by the Directory of Social Change 2012]. This is a comprehensive guide to organisations seeking to involve volunteers strategically and effectively in its work. One of the first subjects it covers is to list the many commonly cited reasons for volunteering; the main ones being: I wanted to gain work experience and learn new skills; I like meeting new friends and being involved and I felt I could impress my employer and show leadership
The first one is certainly true of the majority of volunteers we have had in our Library and they have covered the full spectrum of ages; from comprehensive school children to our current volunteer who is a retired librarian herself! For school children and students, it is an opportunity to test the waters, to dip their toes into the heady waters of librarianship whereas for retired people is it a chance to stay active and in touch their career.

Our museum has a dedicated Volunteer Coordinator and the website currently states the following with regards to our volunteering programme:

Volunteers get involved in all sorts of projects across the museums of Amgueddfa Cymru. Some roles might require skilled assistance, but for many projects you only need enthusiasm and willingness to learn!

Types of volunteering opportunities:

Public Programmes – opportunities can include leading handling sessions or guided tours with our visitors in the galleries, helping out with workshops and activities for all ages or dressing up in historical costume!

‘Behind the Scenes’ – this is often the busiest area, where the collections are managed and maintained. You could be sorting and labeling specimens, helping with cataloguing and archives, packing items or undertaking research depending on your skills and knowledge.

Other – you may also find opportunities to get stuck in at the gardens at St Fagans, carry out visitor surveys or support our learning and visitor services teams.

What's in it for you?
  • Opportunities to develop skills and experience within the museum sector.
  • Enjoyment in doing something you like while meeting new, like-minded people.
  • Helping to support the work of Amgueddfa Cymru.
  • Work experience that can be an invaluable addition to your CV.

I recently volunteered to help at the CILIP Wales Conference 2013 and enjoyed every minute of it. I had the opportunity to meet up with other Librarians and was able to sit in on lectures and workshops that I wouldn’t normally have attended.

This seems to be the whole point about volunteering, you do it for the experience. For the career minded, you do it for the line in your CV that states you thought some thing was important enough to do in your own time and without getting paid; and furthermore it highlights you as that kind of conscientious person who wants to learn and experience new things.
On a slightly negative note, I take on board the worries that an eccess of volunteerships can go some way to devaluing a profession but I'm afraid it's just a case of getting the balance right. Volunteering opportunites are too valuable and care must be taken to ensure they are maintained.

Images courtesy of Volunteer Centres, Pancreatic Cancer Action, University West of England and Volunteer Weekly

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