What’s it like to volunteer at the Library?

Last week Tea Tree Gully Library celebrated National Volunteer Week, and all of the good work they do. The Library simply could not function without the devotion and energy of our volunteers, who come from many different backgrounds and ages. One of our youngest volunteers is Sophie, who recently gave us some feedback on her experience helping with the Library’s Digital Hub. We would like to encourage anyone interested in volunteering at the Library, or another council-run facility, to visit the Volunteer Vacancies website

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you come to end up as a volunteer at the Tea Tree Gully Library?

Hi, I’m Sophie!  I spend my Tuesday afternoons volunteering at the Digital Hub in Tea Tree Gully library.  I’m originally from Canada but moved here from England where I lived for four years, after having lived in Upstate New York for 11 years!

While visiting the Tea Tree Gully website I saw an ad about volunteering at the Digital Hub, and after making a phone call, meeting up with some coordinators, and having an interview, I was in!

What kinds of things do you provide volunteer assistance with at the library?

I work at the Digital Hub, helping mostly seniors learn how to use technology more effectively on  iPads, laptops, computers, iPods, or phones.

You are one of our youngest volunteers at the library, and you work with some of our most elderly customers. Is the age gap an issue and are people shocked when they see how young you are? 

The age gap doesn’t seem to be a problem in the least!  I think the elderly people love seeing a young face.  Sometimes when someone arrives for a lesson, even though I am right there, they stand around and seem to be wondering where their teacher is!  I approach them with a smile and ask them, “Are you here for the Digital Hub?”  I sometimes receive a surprised look but they don’t seem to mind at all.

What is it about volunteering you enjoy – where do you get your moments of joy?

It is such a joy to be able to explain things and solve problems that have been such a pain to the customer.  I love seeing the excitement on their face when they understand how to navigate or use a certain product.  It is always fun to amaze them with handy new tricks like copy and pasting (my most popular one)! I love hearing positive reports from staff members about people who have really appreciated a session.

What are some of the challenges with volunteering?

I think the biggest challenge is thinking up solutions on the spot and figuring out how to explain them as clearly as I can.

You are so young and the world is your oyster. Why have you made the choice to volunteer at such a young age, rather than go out and party, enjoy your hobbies and friends?

I thought volunteering would be the perfect way to get a taste of what a job might be like.  And I am actually enjoying my hobbies at the hub by teaching and exploring technology!  I have even met some lovely new people whom I am getting to know. I enjoy my regular customers!

What would you say to someone who is interested in volunteering, but is slightly hesitant about giving it a go?

Don’t let an opportunity such as volunteering pass you by!  It is a perfect way to get some great experience and meet some lovely people along the way.  You will never regret doing something that is not just beneficial for yourself but also for the many people who you will be helping.  It doesn’t hurt to give volunteering a try but you will probably end up continuing once you’ve started!

Libraries in Art Galleries

Sometimes an art gallery’s library is just as interesting as the artwork.

Many contemporary art galleries often have a library on site, so visitors can sit and enjoy reading books about the artists and the permanent art collection in a particular gallery. An art gallery library also serves to provide a greater insight into featured artworks by hosting a strong collection of literature and relevant documentation.

On recent trip to Hobart one of our staff discovered a Library in the depths of the extraordinary MONA art museum; a collection of 5,000 books on art and ancient cultures housed in a quiet, beautiful modernist chamber. It wasn’t quite the lively hub that we have here at Tea Tree Gully, but goes to show that organisations everywhere still like to collect fascinating books for people to read.

MONA

Artworks at MONA in Hobart, Australia.

Across the world, many significant art galleries have amazing libraries as well. Naoshima Island, off the southern seaport of Oyama in Japan, is dotted with art galleries and their libraries. One of these galleries, Benesse House, features contemporary art works from artists like Andy Warhol and Yayoi Kusama, which dazzle in the mezzanine style layout that provides views of art and the surrounding seaside. In the middle of the gallery, right behind an unremarkable corner, is a library nook filled to the brim of Japanese and English books regarding artists’ work. It’s particularly helpful for those seeking a more detailed explanation of the art works they have seen, particularly when the captions are in a foreign language.

Naoshima

Benesse Museum on the Japanese island Naoshima

Benesse House

Benesse House – yes there is a library inside, which soaks up this amazing view.

History buffs can get lost in the books at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Library, which has items in its collection dating back to the 1300s. The Archive is also particularly rich in papers relating to art and artists in Scotland.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Library

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Library

The National Art Library in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is a major public reference library of fine and decorative arts of many countries and periods. It is a major source of reference for curators, journalists and artists worldwide.

National Art Gallery - Victoria and Albert Museum

Library in the National Art Gallery – Victoria and Albert Museum

Please see one of our staff if you would like to see our collection of art and craft books, which are located in the non-fiction 700s section in the Tea Tree Gully Library.

A tale of work experience at the Tea Tree Gully Library

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you can’t get a job without experience in the workplace and you can’t get experience in the workplace until someone gives you a job.

With this in mind, the clever people at UniSA insist that students of the Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Management undertake work placement in a library. I had previously volunteered for the Tea Tree Gully Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tagging volunteer program where I helped put new RFID tags into library items. This technology is what enables the easy scanning in the new self-checkout machines. I had enjoyed this volunteer program, so I used my volunteer contacts to organise my placement at Tea Tree Gully.

I was very excited. I showed up on my first day keen to do some serious library-ing, but I quickly discovered the other reason the clever people at UniSA want their students to get real word experience.

I didn’t know anything. At all.

And so began my journey.

Some tasks were simple once you knew the library layout and the codes for different sections. For example, the code for Adult Fiction is AF, Adult Non-Fiction is ANF and Adult Fiction Large Print is … AG. Completely logical.

Returns has recently become simpler by the introduction of RFID tags. Instead of precision-scanning each bar-code, the items simply have to be placed over the sensor pad just like the self-service borrowing machines.

Nevertheless, I met with challenges and overcame them with grace and dignity.

Other tasks might have taken time to learn, but my Gen Y status gave me an advantage.

The most difficult task was working on the Customer Service Desk (CSD). People would come up and ask me questions, but I didn’t know any of the answers yet. At first, I had to have help with every question, but before long  I could answer the more frequent questions on my own. By the end of my placement I only had to use my apologetic “I’m just a work experience student” disclaimer for one in three enquires, and usually I managed to answer those enquiries anyway.

But it was also the best task, because I liked talking with the customers. I tracked down books for people who only knew the name of the main character in them, not the title or the author. I helped photocopy university homework, information from books, and Australian citizenship applications. I registered new library patrons. I met people and talked to them about their pets, their degree, their families.

Everyone in the library was incredibly nice and welcoming and helped me out whenever I asked (which was often). I had a great time and learned a lot.