This month on the PLIF blog Volunteer Coordinator Grant Ross from Leisure and Culture Dundee talks about their Public Libraries Volunteer Accreditation Framework. The project received support from the Public Library Improvement Fund in 2018.
Through developing volunteer projects and roles within Dundee Library and Information Service, we realised volunteering was not only about what individuals could offer our library users but also a learning and development opportunity we could offer members of the public. Informal feedback from volunteers backed this up, with many commenting that their motivation was to gain experience to move into employment within libraries or other sectors. We realised being able to provide a framework which recognised this experience could be a useful tool for public library services to support volunteers’ progression.
It was acknowledged that well planned and supported volunteering opportunities were an essential component in order for this to be achieved. To help facilitate this, a toolkit was developed that could be used by public library services to build on their existing good practice in volunteering. The full version of the toolkit is in a digital format which means that links can be used to navigate to example documents and templates contained within it. Alongside this we also produced a printed summary that staff can use as a quick guide.
Flexibility was also key to creating a usable process. As new accreditation schemes take time to become widely recognised it was clear that in the initials stages the value in the framework would come from the process the volunteer undertook rather than from the certificate received for completion.
Research and goal setting were key tools in supporting volunteers to recognise their progression. Reflective practice was also incorporated into the framework to support individuals in developing knowledge and awareness on their skills.
It’s now hoped that this increased awareness will enable people to recognise examples of transferable skills and experiences which can be highlighted within job applications and discussed at interviews.
We now hope to integrate the framework into the volunteer roles we offer within the Dundee library service. We are currently piloting two different formats – one which allows volunteers to set their own goals and another where goals are directly linked to the volunteer training and indication we provide for IT volunteers.
As one of our volunteers said: “People struggle to properly identify their strengths and the journey they have been on. Through reflection and documentation, you can better understand and show what you've done and how you've grown and developed, better cementing it”. We have found this comment and others from volunteers to be very positive.
We are continuing to gather feedback on the framework and this is enabling us to adapt the way we use it to best meet the needs of the volunteers.
If you would like more information on the Public Libraries Volunteer Accreditation Framework you can get in touch with the Dundee library service team.