[Libs-Or] Volunteer Opportunity

Marta Murvosh murvosh at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 12 13:36:49 PST 2011

This has been an interesting discussion and I wanted to chime in. 

I'm a student in Emporia State's Portland cohort. I'm working to build up my professional experiences in regards to librarianship. In November started working at a regional library system, where I live in Western Washington, as a public services assistant-tech. Previously, I was a daily newspaper reporter.  

I don't think it's unprofessional to have a discussion about library issues, provided it's 
respectful. Discussion inform us as to both sides of the issues. Even when we 
disagree, we can learn. 

I have really enjoyed this discussion and think it is an important one to have. I also appreciate the tone that everyone has been using.

Regarding volunteer opportunities and internships, a lot depends on the organization where the intern is working and the school or professor who is supervising the intern. It also depends on the volunteer's motivations. 

I personally have a problem with a business making a decent profit, claiming that they can't afford to pay interns. It's not about affordability, it's about choices in how money is spent. Obviously, finances are different for public libraries, many nonprofit organizations, and even for some special libraries within profitable businesses. 

I think for an internship or a volunteer opportunity to be successful for both the volunteer/college student and the organization, the organization needs to have a well-thought out program. 

Likewise, the college should have strict guidelines of what is acceptable for interns and similar positions. (Emporia State's and University of British Columbia's library science programs are among many good examples of this.) The best results occur when both the organization and the university are on the ball. The college also needs to communicate these requirements to students. 

Even if an organization doesn't have an internship or volunteer program, for a project of there should be at least a written agreement between the organization and the volunteer (or college and student) regarding what is expected, time commitment, how to resolve conflicts, etc. 

As someone who wants to build her skills and experiences, I welcome volunteer opportunities that will allow me to do that. I also seek them. However, I'm picky. I don't want to be thrown into the deep end of the pool to sink or swim, like the Providence Center volunteer job would do, I want to work on projects with people where I can develop my skills. For instance, assisting the person who is setting up the collection would be a better student job. 

To me, setting up a library seems to be more more appropriate for a contract employee, not a student intern. As another poster said, this will require a lot of professional expertise. I also think it may need a mini-community analysis to ensure that the organization's needs are met. 

That said, there are people in my cohort who have the experience to do this job because they were library or archival professionals prior to seeking their master's. 

I feel that internships opportunities at nonprofits and businesses need to follow federal and state labor laws. For instance, The Oregonian story cited at sixth-month, 520-hour internship at Seattle Magazine, which seems excessive. As a journalist and a library student, the internships I've seen range from around 120 to 240 hours. 

Here's some links that address internships and the labor laws; however, they are not specific to Oregon, Washington, or libraries, or nonprofits:

- NY Times story on the issue: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/03/business/03intern.html?_r=1

- U.S. Dept. of Labor site: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.pdf

- Blog post from a California law firm specializing in employment issues: http://laborlaw.typepad.com/labor_and_employment_law_/2007/11/unpaid-internsh.html


Marta Murvosh

--- On Wed, 1/12/11, D Cohen <dcohen at dcoheninfo.com> wrote:

From: D Cohen <dcohen at dcoheninfo.com>
Subject: Re: [Libs-Or] Volunteer Opportunity
To: "'KendraSchwindt'" <kendraschwindt at hotmail.com>, libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
Cc: satya.jaech at providence.org
Date: Wednesday, January 12, 2011, 11:15 AM

I think the discussion is useful, as well. No tomatoes! Discusssing 
the library profession is one thing within the confines of a conference or 
private meeting. But, we also have to put this issue "out 
I have three comments on what you have said:
1. From my experience many times non-professionals think that a "library" 
situation is very simple when it is more complex.  Unless someone with a 
professional eye has evaluated the situation I would not put complete faith in 
what the original poster assumes is needed.
2. It's one thing to volunteer for a small non-profit 
with no funds, quite another an organization such as this. Assuming their 
professionally designed website is a reflection of the institution, I would 
doubt that Providence must barter for what they are asking. 

3. Please see 
this article from the Oregonian last May:

"The insidious rise in unpaid 
internships can run afoul of federal guidelines"
Donna L. Cohen, MLIS, MEd, Information 
Management Consultant
D. L. Cohen Information Services
dcohen at dcoheninfo.com
your organization's information and knowledge. Information is power...if you can 
find it! 

  libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us 
  [mailto:libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us] On Behalf Of 
Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 10:24 
To: libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
  satya.jaech at providence.org
Subject: Re: [Libs-Or] Volunteer 

  Hmm, I actually pondered this for a while before 
  finally deciding to post here (deciding if indeed I might look good covered in 
  On the one hand, I *wished* for something 
  like this when I was starting out. College provided only the disjointed big 
  picture.  I desired the process, the detail.    As 
  someone who loves organization/organizing/creating, I continue to 
  give and volunteer of myself in these areas as my time permits. Volunteering 
  makes me feel good, I meet new people, gain valuable knowledge, and generally 
  have a good time as there is less pressure (no office politics, more flexible 
  schedule, no evaluations, etc). Volunteering allows us to shift from 
  "it's all about me" to recognizing everything and everyone else out there that 
  is struggling too, including businesses.
  Yet, I am painfully aware that the bottom line 
  drives everything in business....and a library *is* a business and as a 
  business we have to think of ways to continue to spend responsibly and within 
  our means.  Bartering has been and always will be an accepted 
  mechanism to get what we want. In spite of 
  the economy today, there are still folks that love to give of their time and 
  talents and there will continue to be businesses that desire those 
  I think this is a prime example of 
   "the glass is half full/half empty" syndrome and I see nothing wrong with their posting this 
  opportunity.   I also see nothing wrong with a little spirited 
  ...one moment while I take my position on the 
  stage....yes, okay, I'm ready for the lobbing of delicious, red ripe 
  fruit.   After all, red is a power color and I make one darn tasty 
  Kendra Schwindt
  1st Career: College Information Manager 
  2nd Career:  still figuring that out and 
  available for loan (contact paulw at wintersassoc.com  for more 
  information about "Executives on Loan")

  From: Alan Cordle, PCC Library 
  Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 9:35 AM
  To: Xan 
  Arch ; (libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us) 
  Cc: satya.jaech at providence.org ; D Cohen 
  Subject: Re: [Libs-Or] Volunteer Opportunity
Rather than preying on desperate library school students, 
  Providence should hire a librarian, experienced in starting a library from 
  scratch.  The paid librarian could then recruit an intern (preferably 
  paid and/or offered credit) to assist.

Since when is it "professional" 
  for a librarian not to have a public opinion on the de-professionalization of 

Also disappointed,

  On Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 9:15 AM, _____> wrote:

  Dear Alan and Donna,

  . . .  I'm very disappointed with your public 
    condemnation of this posting.
Without background knowledge of the center 
    and its funding, besides what you find on the web, it would be far more 
    professional for you to let well enough alone. I know many of the library 
    students in the area are interested in additional work experience on their 
    resume and this could be a great opportunity for them.

On 1/12/11 8:52 AM, Alan Cordle, PCC Library wrote:

    "The center houses an endowed chair in applied health 
      care ethics and two endowed lectureships: The Curtis R. Holzgang, M.D., 
      Visiting Scholar and the Goldman-Berland Lectureship in Palliative Care 
      Education."  Instead of dismissively asking for a "volunteer" 
      librarian, the Center should instead consider an Endowed Librarian -- 
      especially since the expectation is to set up a 


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