Do Librarians Hate Volunteers?

I write this as I have been noticing an increase in accusations of hatred made against Librarians by Volunteer Library organisations recently, I have had this charge levelled against myself and several of my peers and friends have experienced this as well.

so in answer to the question Do Librarians Hate Volunteers?

The short answer: No!

The longer answer:

Volunteers have formed an essential part of the library ecosystem for years now, working alongside librarians and library workers, volunteers assist with programmes that would be difficult if not impossible to run without their involvement. Library staff appreciate the work done by volunteers in libraries and continue to do so.

Where librarians and activists have a problem is local authorities off-loading library provision on community volunteers as this is cheating the people they work for, as public libraries are a statutory service and are paid for through taxes – basically volunteers are forced into running for a service they have already paid for and while some volunteer libraries still fall under the aegis of the local authority and are able to give the library users access to online information provision and catalogue use, many others do not -effectively robbing the people in the library catchment area of a service they already pay for.

Volunteer libraries also create what amounts to a postcode lottery, depriving poorer communities of a library as many people are already making a choice between eating or the heating often cannot stretch themselves to volunteering.

We do not want to close any libraries but once a public library has been cut off from the local authority and handed over to volunteer organisations it is lost, as once austerity is done there is little chance that councils will have the will to reopen libraries or take back ones they have already given away.

It is important for areas that have community-groups that support libraries to resist governmental moves to close libraries as this sends the message that the amateurisation of the service is not a viable solution, a number of councils in the face of sustained campaigning have retained their libraries.

There is also concern about the long-term sustainability of volunteer-run libraries, this is not a criticism but rather a serious question as to what will happen after five or 10 years of constant fund-raising and soliciting donations which may lead to giving fatigue this also dovetails with my previous point about communities being double-charged for a service they have already paid for.

2 Thoughts on “Do Librarians Hate Volunteers?

  1. Andrea Cooke on January 17, 2018 at 10:34 am said:

    There is also the problem of budgets being controlled by volunteers, which does not seem like a great idea! Many librarians, like myself, are budget holders and are responsible for reasonably large amounts of money. Surely purchasing cannot be delegated to volunteers.

    • mattlibrarian on January 17, 2018 at 10:38 am said:

      It shouldn’t be – years ago when volunteers were first brought in to libraries where I worked there were strict guidelines about what volunteers could do – the first one being they could not do a job in place of a qualified member of staff

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