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Dublin Library Offers Volunteer Opportunities for Middle and High School Students

July 12, 2017

DUBLIN, CA–Apart from being a wonderful community resource for all ages, the Dublin Public Library has numerous volunteer opportunities available for students entering grades 6-12. Through their participation in these volunteer programs, high school students can work towards fulfilling their community service requirements for graduation. Although middle school students cannot apply their volunteer hours earned at the library towards their high school diploma, these programs offer them a great opportunity to start giving back to the community, while developing leadership skills and building more confidence.

Having been a library volunteer myself since middle school, I have found it to be a truly rewarding experience. Each volunteer has the opportunity to utilize his or her unique skills while providing valuable services to the community. The friendly and dedicated library staff always welcome you with a smile, and are happy to guide you along the way.
I reached out to Mary Ayers-Hughes, the Teen Librarian at the Dublin Library, for more information about these volunteer opportunities for both middle and high school students.

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Neha Harpanhalli: First of all, how can a high school student sign up to become a volunteer at the library?

Mary Ayers-Hughes: “High school students must pick up an application at the Information Desk, complete it, and return it to the library in-person on the designated date. Incomplete applications will not be accepted. Candidates will then be asked to sign up for an interview time slot. Interviews will be done in groups, and should last approximately 30 minutes. All potential volunteers will be notified whether or not they have been accepted, no later than a week after the interviews.

“For the fall/winter of 2017, we will have applications available starting August 16th; these forms will be due by September 2nd. The interviews will likely take place during the week of Labor Day. Volunteers will start working in mid-late September.”

Harpanhalli: What qualities or traits do you look for when selecting student volunteers?

Ayers: “When selecting our teen volunteers, we always look for candidates that are responsible, energetic, friendly, and available to work mainly in the mornings and afternoons during the summer (and preferably more than once a week). Since they will be interacting with the public for most of the programs, we also look for teens who are social, creative, and have a good sense of humor.”

Harpanhalli: What volunteer opportunities are offered during the school year for high school students looking to fulfill their community service hour requirement for graduation?

Ayers: “Here are some of the volunteer opportunities that will be available this fall:

  • Teen Advisory Group (TAG) will be open to new members during the application period, and will be limited to 20 students.
  • A tutoring program for children that will require volunteer assistance. Details are still in the works.
  • A new ebook assistance program which will run weekly on Saturdays from 11 – 12 pm, where teen volunteers will assist library patrons with downloading apps/accessing ebooks from the library’s collection.
  • Virtual Volunteers will be accepting applicants. Students can earn one hour of community service for every approved book, movie, or local event review they submit to the Teen Librarian.

Harpanhalli: How can high school students volunteer at the library over the summer?

Ayers: “High school students can apply to participate in our summer Teen Advisory Group (TAG). Teens help out with programs geared toward younger students, such as arts, crafts, game nights, or themed events like our Harry Potter program for tweens. Volunteers are also occasionally tasked with various jobs around the library, such as sorting books and cleaning book jackets.

“High school students may also apply to be a part of Virtual Volunteers, in which they write reviews for books, movies, or local events, based on a given guidelines sheet. These students do not have to come in person to the library after the initial interview, and can earn up to one hour of community service for each accepted review. There is no limit to the number of hours one can earn in this program.”

Harpanhalli: What are some of the challenges associated with creating volunteer opportunities for teens, given the growth of the community in recent years?

Ayers: “The biggest challenge for the library, in terms of population growth, has really been on my end, with more and more requests for community service hours for teens. Many places that accept volunteers have age restrictions of 16 and up, which means we have high demand for volunteer hours at the library since I accept high school volunteers of any age. The Virtual Volunteer program was actually created as a response to the demand for volunteering, as I don’t have enough projects in the branch to accommodate all of the teen volunteer requests I receive.”

Harpanhalli: I understand that volunteer opportunities are also available for middle school students, only during the summer. Could you elaborate?

Ayers: “Middle school volunteers used to be part of Kid Power, which helped younger students spin and stamp their summer reading game boards; however, this year, our summer reading program is all online. As a result, we have had to revamp the program. It’s now called Middle School Mission Control, and we take 40 students in grades 6-8, instead of 90 like in previous years. They work one hour per week for a maximum of six weeks, assisting with a short activity which allows participants to earn a secret code for their summer reading game.”

Harpanhalli: What kinds of programs have you been organizing this year with teen volunteers? How do you come up with the ideas for these programs and plan for them?

Ayers: “Over the past year, we’ve had teen volunteers assist with our Homework Help Center; help prepare and lead children’s craft programs (such as Diwali and Valentine’s Day); prepare for our Star Wars “May the 4th Be With You” family event; write blog content in the form of book and movie reviews, and run board game nights for families.

I work closely with the children’s librarian(s) to plan out our family and youth programs. Currently, we have several staff vacancies, so we aren’t able to do as many programs as we did in the past. We usually have an idea about what programs we’d like to run for a specific timeframe; I always ask TAG for teen program ideas. We generally work on a fall/winter, winter/spring, and summer timetable for programs. We always plan on having at least 1-2 craft programs per session during the school year, and make sure to include holiday programs (i.e. Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc). There are also some specialty programs that require more planning, like the Star Wars event.

“Once we have the basic outline, we meet with our branch manager to figure out which programs are likely to need volunteers, and work out a timeline for when all components of the program need to be completed. Our family and children’s programs are usually quite well-attended, which is wonderful, especially since we put a lot of effort into our programs!”

Many of the children’s programs led by teen volunteers take place in the Bennett Room, which is a recent addition to the library. It is named after Virginia S. Bennett, Dublin’s “first children’s librarian, Library Manager, and a champion for library services from 1967 – 1979”.

The Dublin Library is surveying students regarding programs they’d like to see at the library. The survey is available here and can be printed, completed and returned to Ms. Ayers at the library.

Mary Ayers-Hughes joined at the Dublin Library in 2008, and became Teen Librarian in April 2012. Her responsibilities as Teen Librarian include planning teen programs, coordinating and monitoring teen volunteers throughout the year, assisting with tween/middle school programs, and maintaining the teen section of the library.

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Dublin Library Bennett Room

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