Sunday, 16 October 2011

"Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, it's off to work we go"

I do agree that being a volunteer is a good way to gain experience, especially for young people who quite often cannot get a paid job because (what a vicious circle!) they do not have any experience. So if they want to get experience, that is the easiest way to do it (if they can survive financially). However, it is not always certain that employers are happy to take a volunteer on. It might be a security or safety problem, it might be some bad experience from the past. The question is how to treat a person who offers to do some work and not be paid for it. Is it realistic or is it an employer's dream only? How much can employers expect and how much may they demand from a volunteer? Can a volunteer be treated as a contracted employee or should the boss be grateful for whatever the volunteer offers? How reliable are they, if at all? I suppose those who are volunteering at whatever job, perhaps out of a sincere enthusiasm for a particular profession, could be a great help in any enterprise, including libraries. This may be especially useful for realising particular short term projects or jobs which otherwise would have to be postponed or not done at all. Sometimes however training a volunteer may take a long time and it might not be worth having one at all.

In my working life I have had rather positive experiences with volunteers. They were mostly enthusiastic, reliable, learning quickly and good at what they were expected to do. But I always was asking myself - how much should I expect and demand from them, after all they are only volunteers, they may say "no" and/or "good bye" at any time.
I have never been a volunteer myself, but I considered it as a real possibility when a few months ago I suddenly lost part of my full time post. I thought that there is nothing so bad that it cannot be turned to good. If I volunteer in this or another library, with all the experience I have already, I might be of help to someone and I may gain more experience myself. Perhaps getting a paid job would then be more realistic. I did not do it because I was fortunate to get a job offer which I have taken and at the moment have no more time to spare (a day is still only 24 hours long!) . But this may change again, who knows... And touch wood!

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