February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Fresh Paint: We Have Arrived

Gum Spring LibraryAs this article goes live, we are three—count ’em!— three days away from opening the new Gum Spring Library. I’ve been here since mid-January, and I’m just beginning to realize that the expectations I had in my head were way off base. Between preparing volunteers, planning opening day activities, and training pages, few things have gone exactly as planned. Yet despite the many changes we’ve made in our schedule, our confidence grows as we learn what must be done now and what can wait.

When I first wrote about volunteers, I mentioned that they needed to be trained before we opened, so they’d be ready to serve on day one. As it turns out, we won’t need them on day one—or day two, three, and four. In fact, we won’t need them for the first nine days. Our teen volunteers will eventually be shelving materials, reading to children, helping with kids’ crafts and programs, and more. But there won’t be much for them to do until a week or two after we open. Postponing their training for a while has given our volunteer coordinators a huge sense of relief, and it allows us to concentrate on opening day.

Coordinating volunteers for opening day has been overwhelmingly rewarding. Thanks to an enthusiastic school librarian at the nearby John Champe High School, we’ll have more than 30 teens from its Interact Club working various shifts, wearing mascot costumes, assisting at the children’s gaming computer, and passing out giveaways. We’ve visited local schools and teamed up with middle schools, and as a result, we’ve received dozens of emails from people who are interested in volunteering for opening day. In fact, we’ve had so much interest that we’ve had to pull down our SurveyMonkey interest form because we couldn’t accept any more help. What a great problem to have!

We’ve responded to everyone who has contacted us, thanking them for their support and describing various ways in which they can volunteer in the future. We’re also looking into the possibility of hosting groups of volunteers, since many clubs and groups have asked us how they can help the library, and it would be a shame to turn down such enthusiastic teens.

The training session for our opening day volunteers will take place in the evening: they’ll each receive an exclusive tour of the library and a T-shirt, and then we’ll break into small groups to assign specific duties. The volunteer staging area for the big day will be the circulation workroom, a behind-the-scenes space with plenty of room for the bi-hourly shift changes, changing costumes, and snack consumption (or as I like to call it, filling the gas tank). Having all of these logistical details set so far in advance has been helpful. A smooth volunteer operation means that we’ll have fewer details to worry about, and we can focus on welcoming our new patrons and telling them about the library’s services.

I’ve taken a similar approach with my ten pages. All of them are new to the library (though they’re not all new to shelving, thank goodness!) so my co-supervisor and I are training them in shifts on the days leading up to the opening. Unfortunately, they won’t have a “typical day” until well into March, but a solid orientation and training session will prepare them for the “other duties as assigned” that they’ll soon encounter, such as picking up orphaned materials, straightening shelves, and shifting the collection. Once the library is in normal working order, the pages will be able to see when these side tasks need to be taken care of, and they’ll feel confident in their abilities to carry them out.

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April Layne Shroeder About April Layne Shroeder

April Layne Shroeder is a Teen Services Librarian in a Northern Virginia public library system, and loves it! One of her favorite job duties is reading/being knowledgeable about YA literature, and discussing/recommending it to young people (and open-minded adults).

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