Volunteer Introduction & Orientation
Guidelines – The Community Library Project
Volunteers are key to establishing a sustainable model of free, public-access community libraries. They drive programs like circulation, the Reading Project, Head Start To Learning, arts & craft, workshops, book clubs etc. They also participate in critical jobs like community mobilisation & relationship building, fundraising, media outreach etc. TCLP is open to different skills, talents and aptitudes volunteers bring in and in fact, many of its programs have grown from volunteer-led initiatives.
TCLP thrives when volunteers don’t just come in to ‘do good unto others’ but are motivated to work in partnership with communities and engage in thinking about empowerment strategies & activities.
When an individual expresses interest in working with TCLP, they must go through an ‘Introduction & Orientation’ process, where they are informed about core values, ideology and methodologies. They must also undergo a reflective exercise, where they can gauge their commitment and practical capabilities to take on weekly responsibilities with accountability.
For this reason, the process may be divided into 3 phases:
Phase 1: Online application & vetting of candidates
Process of Application: Those interested can send in their email addresses through our Facebook page inbox or via the website. The applicant is sent an email that contains a brief introduction to TCLP and a ‘Self-Reflection Checklist’
Applicant Self-Reflection Checklist: This is a bullet-point checklist that allows an individual to be informed not just by their personal impulses to volunteer but to consider the larger implications of their decisions on the library community. This checklist will be part of the Introduction email/ correspondence/volunteer orientation.
BEFORE VOLUNTEERING, PLEASE READ & REFLECT ON THE FOLLOWING:
Why do you want to work in a community library?
Do you love books, children or both?
Are you looking for a community-empowerment project to pour your energies into?
Do you believe that all people deserve free access to tools of knowledge and thinking?
Please think deeply about your motivations and whether they align with TCLP’s raison d’etre i.e. to bridge gaps in public access to books and other means of knowledge & thinking. TCLP is not driven to do charity. It is a community movement driven by collective thinking with a definite agenda of social justice and equality.
Can you make time? Since TCLP caters mostly to children from ages four up and runs 7 days a week, it is imperative that you are realistic about how much time to you can give.
How many hours a week can you give?
Does your job entail frequent travel or uncertain schedules?
Can you manage your home, work and social life with volunteering?
TCLP has a flexible roster and can assign duties compatible to your individual timetables, however once you have committed to a day & time-slot, you would be expected to stick to it. We generally do not have slots for ‘drop-ins’.
Can you stick to a commitment? If you commit to a role & time-slot and don’t show up, the whole program weakens (and in some cases, cannot be executed at all). If you think you might make frequent last-minute cancellations or not be able to be punctual, you might want to reconsider volunteering.
Do you like and are you comfortable with children? Patience, kindness and discipline are the cornerstone of all our interactions with children who come to the library. It is not essential that you have children to understand these values. However, if you feel any resistance or discomfort, TCLP can assign duties accordingly (e.g.: in fundraising, data-entry & digitisation and media outreach etc.)
Can you partner with or take direction from people, from different backgrounds?
TCLP welcomes all, regardless of class, caste, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or race; not just as readers but as fellow-volunteers, core-team & students council members, staff personnel etc. It is a democratic institution, where we all learn to work in teams and collaborate.
Are you willing to undergo a period of training?
Are you ready to learn from and take instructions from people from backgrounds different from your own?
Are you willing to perform tasks like cleaning, sweeping, dusting etc.?
Are you willing to head out into the community, meet local residents and forge relationships with our members on a regular basis?
Can you work in environments that might be physically uncomfortable? TCLP libraries are extremely well-equipped with books & other learning materials and with safe & comfortable reading spaces and general areas for workshops, assemblies and other activities. However, they are subject to the vagaries of weather – hot & humid in summer, cold in winter – that are generally met with, by turning on fans or opening & shutting windows.
Is your general fitness up to mark?
Those who make it through this checklist and are enthusiastic to volunteer, will be asked to attend an orientation.
Phase 2: On-Field Orientation at TCLP-Deepalaya, Ramditti branch, Sheikh Sarai
No matter which branch an individual wishes to volunteer at, they must undergo orientation at our main library and ‘lab’ at Sheikh Sarai, New Delhi. It will be recommended that they go through details about our project on our website: http://thecommunitylibraryproject.org
Candidates, who have gone through an initial email introduction & self-reflection checklist process will be invited to attend a 1-1.5 hour session which will include the following:
Warm welcome and circle of introductions, where volunteers tell us why they want to volunteer and how they heard about us.
Introduction to TCLP as a movement rather than a lending library. TCLP believes in creating free, publicly-owned and operated libraries that welcome all, regardless of caste, class, sexual orientation, religion or race.
Discussion of core values: ‘Pyaar Se’ as a value that drives everything from interactions with members to how we design our policies, ‘Reading Is Thinking’ as the cornerstone of delivering books to our members & ‘Access For All’.
Main library introduced as a lab, where methodologies are being developed so that they can be replicated anywhere in the country to set up a free library. Discussion of how we these methodologies are free & open source for anyone who wishes to use them.
Tour of Library: Explaining circulation, shelving, Honour Roll board, Reading Room, Headstart/ Arts & Crafts/ Read Aloud room, Games Room/ Workshop area, Assembly courtyard etc.
Description of key programs: Explaining the Reading Project as necessary scaffolding for first generation readers, brief description on how it’s more than just storytelling (they can be directed to our website’s ‘Curriculum’ section to know more about read-aloud strategies), Division of membership into Headstart, Lower Group, Upper Group and Adults, Book Report Clinic, Reading Fluency & other workshops & special events, Teen/YA programming including Book Clubs, Arts & Crafts, Games Room etc.
Who Runs The Library? Description & roles of workforce i.e. Founders, Staff, Volunteers, Students Council, Core Team, partnering organizations (Deepalaya, Agrasar et.)
A chat about commitment: Here we can hark back to the Self-Reflection checklist and reinforce how important it is that volunteers commit to (a) time & dates (b) community engagement via community walks
Our most urgent requirement: Talk about the activities, days and time slots that need volunteers most urgently.
Phase 3: Getting on the roster
- After the orientation, applicants must think about the dates & times they’d like to commit and the programmes they’d want to be involved in.
- They must email this information to the person in-charge of creating weekly duty-rosters and request to be included in the RSVP emails.
- Once they respond to the RSVP emails, they are officially volunteers with TCLP.