This post is part of 23 Things for Professional Development.
This Thing is another potentially controversial topic: volunteering. Obviously, this is a rather thorny issue for public libraries at the moment! I don’t think I’m going to wade into the debate now, other than that I think that replacing professional services with volunteers is generally a Bad Idea – if you’re interested in the topic of using volunteers to keep public libraries open I’d recommend having a read through the insightful comments on Jo Anderson’s blog post on the subject.
I’m going to keep my head below the parapet for now, and just talk about the rather safer area of volunteering with professional bodies – this being the only volunteering experience I have, and thus am qualified to talk about!
I am currently only volunteering with one professional body: I am the web committee chair for SLA Europe. I have previously volunteered with BIALL and CLIG, but gave those up due to personal circumstances. The SLA Europe stuff keeps me busy enough to be honest! Although I quite enjoyed being on a few different committees, I find I’m able to commit more time and do a better job if I just stick to one. This is probably the most important lesson that this kind of volunteering has taught me: knowing when (and how) to say no!
I fully agree with all of the benefits of volunteering that Jo lists in the CPD23 post: volunteering helps you to demonstrate transferable skills and experience, increase your confidence, build a professional network, and make cross-sector contacts. I would also agree that it helps you “get a foot in the door” – I’m certain that I wouldn’t be in the job I have now without the skills and confidence gained from chairing one committee and vice-chairing another so early on in my career. Most of all though, I’m glad I volunteered on various committees because of the fantastic people it’s allowed me to meet and befriend.