I’ve never taken on a volunteering post in the library sector – I worked full time until my children were born, and now my days off are full of child-related things. I like the idea of volunteering at a public library or archive, but I don’t think the toddlers would be welcome! To say nothing of the ethical arguments.
The moral question of volunteers in libraries is one I find hard to pin down. On the one hand, I don’t want to see volunteers replacing trained librarians as a cost-cutting exercise. I think a library run solely by volunteers would spell disaster. I wouldn’t take a volunteer role if library posts had been scrapped there.
But I do think we need to be realistic about the current lack of funding for libraries. I would much rather a library continued to provide a service for a local community, staffed by volunteers, than be closed entirely. And it seems daft to ignore the experience and knowledge some volunteers could bring to a library.
I have friends who have gained experience in their chosen field between jobs, and their CVs are much the richer for it. I would certainly consider volunteering to bridge a gap, should the situation arise. I’ve volunteered as a reading assistant in the past, and found it incredibly rewarding.
When my children are older I’ll look into volunteering on weekends or in the evenings (when they have much more interesting things to do than hang out with me!). For now I’m going to see if I can get some experience with the archive team at work, and volunteer that way.