Volunteering, Job Duties .. and an apology

OK – first for the apology. Some of you have told me I was dismissive in my last three post, especially when I used phrases like “up in your grill.”

I apologize for that. I really didn’t mean to sound dismissive – it was an attempt at humor while talking about a difficult subject. Honestly, it usually works – but it’s also not usually about such a sensitive issue. In this case, I failed miserably, and for that, I definitely apologize.

Now on to the next part of the post – While my views on names and pics on websites haven’t really changed, it does bring up an interesting issue I’m seeing. With the name/pic thing, some of you have asked for what you would see as a more reasonable “opt in” approach. Here’s where I fall on that – opt in/volunteering usually doesn’t work to it’s full potential. In Topeka, it’s either someone’s job or it isn’t – we’re not fans of the opt-in approach.

That said, of course we get staff buy-in for new projects first, which makes the whole “this is now part of your job” thing much easier.

But this opt-in idea … in many libraries, it’s not just for whatever personal info goes on the library’s website. It’s also for other job duties, even for services of the library, like programming, teaching classes, or IM reference. I’ve seen volunteering for posting to a blog or for maintaining the library’s Facebook presence.

I think a much better way to do things is for the library to set strategic goals, with staff input into those goals. After that, it’s management’s job to change/adapt the work to be done to meet those organizational priorities. There’s really no room for opt-in there.

See where I’m going with that? And I know – some of you strongly disagree with me about the name thing – I get that. But isn’t an opt-in approach in disagreeing, you’re also asking for a sort of wishy-washy implementation, from an organizational perspective?

Isn’t it better to have an either do it or don’t do it approach?

Volunteers vs Job Duties

Some people have told me they ask for volunteers to do blog posts or write content for their website. You know what happens there, right? Asking for volunteers works great … until the volunteer “gets busy” with their “real job.”

When people volunteer, they tend to think of the thing they volunteered to do as “extra work.” If it gets in the way of their real job, they’ll stop doing the volunteer work.

It’s not necessarily that they don’t want to do the web work. It’s simply this – the library hasn’t prioritized the web work (also insert Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/etc here).

No one asks for volunteers to work the reference desk, right? How about driving the bookmobile – does it only operate when a volunteer can get around to it?

I don’t think so. It should be the same with web work. Want it to happen? Don’t ask for volunteers. Assign job duties, then expect it to happen, just like working the desk or driving the bookmobile.

pic by LShave