Jon’s story

In January 2010 Herefordshire Library Service opened a new library for 10 hours per week in the bellringing chamber at the Anglican church in the Golden Valley community of Peterchurch. The development was part of a wider refurbishment and development of the church both as a place of worship and focus for the community as it now encompasses a Surestart Children’s centre for 21 hours a week and a community café on a Wednesday.

A further innovation came through the fact that the Library service in Peterchurch is delivered at the front line by volunteers, albeit with considerable library service support. Earlier this year the library service carried out a review of the project to see what it could learn about how the development had gone and how it would inform future policy. One of the main outcomes of the review was to recommend the setting up of a staff group to develop a volunteer offer for the library service to make clear where and in what roles the service feels that volunteers can give added value.

It has become clear to the service that while volunteers do have an important role to play in public services, the idea that services can simply be handed over to them to run is simplistic and, particularly where libraries are concerned, there is a large amount of practical support that would need to be provided by professional staff to facilitate any volunteer run service.

2 thoughts on “Jon’s story

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    If we talk about adding value to our lives, some joy, then while some things do take financial investment, some things do not take finance and can be done with our own resources otherwise (time, skills, a computer, etc.). Hence people volunteer I think. It would be nice to see the libraries enable as many people as want to volunteer, however as Herefordshire have found it does take resources to manage.

    As to the notion that volunteers can run a library, this probably stems from administrators with the view that libraries are no more than a warehouse operation for a public repository of books (something it could be argued librarians have brought upon themselves?).

    On a brighter note, how about libraries putting peoples’ talents to good use with things like maintaining the library’s wiki and forum pages, or research projects for the community? Libraries could jump on the opensource bandwagon and organise projects for library software that would be of use to the community. And so on :) Anything that is of value and that would add to the library offer.

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