We need to do better training for the 70,000 area library volunteers

How many volunteers do community libraries mobilize? One of the merits of the report on “The Status and Role of Volunteers in Local Libraries” directed by Philippe Marcerou, Inspector General of Education, Sport and Research (IGÉSR) is to propose an estimate based on the annual survey of the Ministry for the Observatory for public reading: 70,000 people, to which we can add 20,000 volunteers from the Lire et faire lire network and 10,000 others in various associations, ie a maximum workforce of 100,000 people working in 16,500 libraries and reading points. “Volunteers therefore play an essential role in the organization of libraries in France and are the first actors nearby, especially in rural areas,” says the Inspector General.

Sample contract for voluntary work in the library

After twenty pages of legal analysis on the opportunities and risks of the volunteer-library relationship, “the Mission believes there is no litigation,” the report states.

Nonetheless, the author recommends that a standard convention for library volunteer engagement better frame this relationship. The report provides a standard copy and invites departmental libraries to distribute it.

“This text seeks to reconcile two contradictory principles: the desire of volunteers to organize their time freely and the need for regularity and presence required by the principle of continuity in the public service”, specifies Philippe Marcerou, who is committed to the Volunteers are aware of reluctance to find themselves contractually enrolled.

Heterogeneity of volunteer training

The report finds that departmental library training is more likely to be attended in the mixed staff/volunteer teams. Although volunteers make up 60% of library staff, departmental libraries provide two-thirds of staff and one-third of volunteers.

The duration of the basic training in librarianship – the most popular training in the use of media library management software – varies depending on the field, from two days in the Pyrénées-Orientales to thirteen days in the Dordogne. Some departments also offer specific training to integrate volunteers and agents into teams (Landes, Mayenne, Loir-et-Cher, Hautes-Alpes, Deux-Sèvres, Isère).

Acculturation of volunteers for library professions

Three of the report’s recommendations relate to the training provided by departmental libraries. The goal is that the training and the formalization of relationships will contribute “to being part of a professionalization of volunteering, by specifying the skills and tasks of each” and to a “gradual acculturation of volunteers to library professions”.

Following the example of Aisne, Pyrénées-Orientales, Gard, Lot-et-Garonne or Nièvre, the first step is to make the allocation of departmental grants to communes dependent on the professionalization of staff and volunteers. The offer of practical advice and the vocabulary questions adapted to the engagement of new volunteers (search, call, recruitment) show the essential role of these public service workers.

The report also recommends systematizing the training of trainers in the departmental library and encouraging the widest possible training of volunteers, particularly through basic online training.

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