[Libs-Or] Volunteer opportunity discussion. Another point of view

Bob Jones Bob.Jones at milton-freewater-or.gov
Thu Jan 13 15:28:15 PST 2011

Apples and oranges, Kyle.  Changing a light bulb should not require an electrician, unless it's a very specialized and expensive light bulb.  But...

The initial creation of a tiny library is like planting a seed.  If it's done well, a great library can grow from the those 225 items.  If it's not done well, either (a) a poorly organized, perhaps unusable library will develop, or (b) someone who knows what he or she is doing will have to undo it and start all over again.  As the old saying goes,

If you don't have time (or staffing) to do it right, when will you have time (or staffing) to do it over?

-Bob Jones, MA, MSLS, CAS
Library Director
Milton-Freewater Public Library

You wrote:

I haven't given this much thought, but my gut reaction is that unless I'm really missing something, hiring a professional librarian to organize a collection of 225 books, a few periodicals, and a handful of videos is like calling the fire department to help plan a candlelight supper.

The overhead of even taking the first volunteer that walks through the door is likely to exceed the labor that should be expended on this project, though it could be a good way to get people more involved with the organization.

A librarian could physically arrange the materials according to some logical criteria, add consistent metadata, provide a good access mechanism, etc, but any user would have to be some kind of loon not to just walk to the collection and just browse it as that could be done in a few seconds even if everything is in random order. It's hard to imagine how it wouldn't take longer for users to deal with even a good organizational scheme than to simply go to the stuff.

I am somehow reminded of a place I lived in years ago where we would be fined if we got caught changing a lightbulb (required procedure was to fill out a work order so a union electrician could do the job). That kind of situation is bad for everyone. It's a total waste of skilled labor, and the schmucks who have to pay an arm and a leg to be forced to wait too long in the dark start wondering what the pros really have to contribute.

Happy Thursday to all, and as you've undoubtedly surmised, I'm representing only my own views ;)


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