The variety of voluntary roles at libraries

We have received these two great stories from Norfolk Libraries in celebration of the ongoing Volunteers’ Week. They show not only how fulfilling voluntary roles at libraries can be, but also how varied such roles can be, proving that there indeed is a role for everyone.

Exploring rare books

Norfolk Heritage Centre has hosted a volunteer from UEA for a number of years, and since 2021 they have worked with Georgina, a third-year Literature student. Georgina is helping to catalogue a collection of rare books and also writes for the Centre’s blog and social media.

‘She is a huge asset to the Heritage Centre – her enthusiasm for Renaissance-era books really comes through in her blog posts and the knowledge she has gained through her degree course is invaluable in creating comprehensive catalogue records.’ says Rachel Ridealgh, the Community Librarian. ‘The work she has done has greatly increased accessibility to this area of the collection and introduced it to whole new audiences.’

Georgina really values her time with the Heritage Centre. As she says, ‘I’ve gained a wide range of practical skills – I was taught how to catalogue, and how to use archive software for this. It has been hugely satisfying cataloguing a previously uncatalogued section, as it means that these texts are now on the data base and can be accessed. Volunteering allows you to broaden your skills and to meet a fantastic group of people and I’ve had an absolutely wonderful time at the Norfolk Heritage Centre.’

No one can doubt that Georgina’s work is making a great impact. In May Georgina gave g a “Heritage Hour” talk discussing her discovery of a fascinating medieval manuscript leaf within one of Norfolk Heritage Centre’s historic printed books. ‘Without Georgina’s time and dedication this manuscript leaf would have remained undiscovered,’ said Rachel Ridealgh.

Creating unique experiences for children and parents

At the end of 2021 Cecilia was looking for new ways to put her experience as a complex needs / early years / nurture teacher into use in the community. She therefore decided to approach Norfolk Libraries about becoming a Bounce & Rhyme volunteer. As she says, ‘We have all been locked down and unable to socialise in the usual ways. I was extremely concerned that babies, young children, their parents and carers had not been getting those vital experiences of meeting together having fun, chatting, singing and dancing. These kinds of fun events can help children and their families develop positive ways of talking and living together.’

Indeed, the Mile Cross Library was at the time without a regular volunteer and no member of the team had the confidence to deliver what is seen as the flagship event of every library. ‘Her experience looked very impressive, so we jumped at the chance,  says Nick Hobbs, the Library Manager.

As Nick says, Cecilia immediately made a great impression: ‘Wow, how pleased were we when Cecilia turned up to do her first session, accompanied by one of the best staff members responsible for this type of event. The staff member returned to the office after 2 minutes, exclaiming that Cecilia needs no help, she’s amazing.’ While there was only a small group of children and parents at the first session, the word of mouth kicked in and with a few weeks the group was almost at capacity.

Cecilia’s contribution is vital to the current success of the groups. She creates a climate where children are involved and engaged, the parents relax and join in. As Nick explains, ‘Where the basic model of Bounce & Rhyme is great and offers a community feel with action rhymes, Cecilia introduces models representing the weather, characters to start the songs off and every child is included and gets the chance to shine. It is regularly described as a unique experience and people always bring new people to join the event.’

Start looking for the right voluntary roles at libraries for you on our website.