Volunteer Survey 2017

During September and October 2017 we surveyed our volunteers. The aim was to find out what they thought of the volunteer experience, to get feedback for improvements and to discover their stories.

We currently have 133 adult volunteers, and for the purposes of the survey we also included volunteers who have stopped volunteering during the last year. Of these, almost 80% completed a survey, which is a very pleasing response rate.

All volunteer roles were represented in the survey, including those who:

  • Help people use computers
  • Assist with activities for children and young people
  • Help people research their family history
  • Run games sessions
  • Support the Home Library Service as book selectors, drivers or passengers
  • Help out at events in libraries
  • Help the Local Studies team index records
  • Assist with activities for older persons
  • Help with publicity and promotions
  • Help with surveys of library users

In addition to this we also included the 97 young volunteers who helped us during the school holidays with the Summer Reading Challenge, and received a good number of responses from them.

Volunteers and Library staff at Rugby Library


432 Years of Volunteering

Many volunteers have been with us for a long time. 40% of adult respondents have been volunteering for over 4 years – with 11 of these for more than a decade, and another two of these for more than 20 years! In total, adult volunteers clock up 432 years of volunteering experience between them. Many of our longer-term volunteers support the Home Library Service, with another large group helping people use computers.

775 Hours a Month

Most respondents volunteer once a week for 1-2 hours at a time. But many do more than this and more often. Home Library Service volunteers are more likely to do longer shifts – the role involves going out for mornings, afternoons, or whole days sometimes delivering books across the county. A few people are volunteering twice a week – and this is usually in more than one role and in more than one location. One busy person volunteers three times a week! Calculating a total is tricky, but from these responses volunteers rack up 775 hours each month between them.

Motivations for volunteering

The top three reasons given were ‘To help others, ‘To support libraries’, and ‘I enjoy working within the community’ – all indicating a willingness to be in service to others from our volunteers.

Here are some of their comments:

“Having spent my working life with small children, I was bored and lonely when I retired. Having always loved libraries and books volunteering seemed, and has proved to be, a great answer to my problem.”

“Before my father died, and during his illness, my mother benefitted from help from Age Concern in Solihull. Instead of making a monetary donation I decided to give some time to the charity – when their service was later taken on by libraries I stayed with them.”

“My wife volunteered when she first retired but her regular driver decided not to continue with the service, so she asked me to help. It gives us another opportunity to do something together in our retirement and help others in the process.”

Expectations of volunteering

Over 90% of respondents said that their experience of volunteering met their expectations.

Some respondents said their experience was not what they had expected, but went on to say:

“After retiring I needed something to occupy my time and combine my love of reading. As time went on I really enjoyed the inter-relationships that built up between myself and our customers. More than just books we become a tiny part of their lives. The down side is when you’re invited to a funeral!”

Another said:

“When I volunteered I had misunderstood, and thought that the appeal was to help with the work of the library, that is, mainly with books. However, I am very pleased with the way it has turned out – not with books, but with senior citizens enjoying friendly games together.”

A sense of enjoyment

“I am good at tracing records via the web and enjoy the thrill of a ‘hit’”

“The people we deliver to have all had lives and although now all elderly and quite often vulnerable, they are interesting. The service is invaluable in enabling them to continue to access books which are so important to them. It also provides another contact for them with the outside world, without which they could become isolated. As a volunteer, this gives me a feeling of well-being, doing a valuable job.”

Others talked about the benefits they have received for themselves:

“I have made friends with other volunteers, and I have also gained a job, which may partly be because of the interaction with the public in this role.”

“My levels of confidence have greatly improved and I can now hold conversations with people! I have been able to communicate with different people and made new friends who share similar interests.”

Would you recommend volunteering with Warwickshire Libraries?

“I would not hesitate in recommending volunteering with the library service as it gives me a sense of fulfilment and achievement as well as a sense of purpose following retirement.”

“It was a fun experience for me. Also getting to know lots of children and seeing them on graduation because they achieved something is exciting.”

“We meet lovely people most of the time and see different ways of living. I am out in Warwickshire twice a month throughout the year and enjoy the changing seasons. Many of our readers express great appreciation of the service and make us very welcome in their homes.”

Feeling good

We asked volunteers to tell us about some of their personal highlights of volunteering;

“I look forward to my delivery days with the Home Library Service. It’s fun driving round the beautiful Warwickshire countryside in the van, chatting with my fellow volunteer and catching up with all the news from our lovely customers. From them, I’ve picked up top tips ranging from what vegetables to grow, to where to stay on holiday and how to make a decent bread and butter pudding! We visit a lot of elderly folk and it’s made me realise getting older isn’t always, and doesn’t have to be, a downhill spiral so often depicted by the media. And they all love a good read…or 20!”

“I had the very good fortune to meet and serve an amazing lady aged 89 she’d become blinded. Being blinded late in her life meant that, as a keen gardener, she remembered the many trees, shrubs and plants in her garden, so I often described to her the current flowers in bloom and their various colours. Living on her own she was rightly very security conscious, and so that she knew it was the library service I used to sing to her through the letter box! Perhaps that’s why she always had a smile. We had singing in common, she had sung in the local church choir for many years, and I was at that time a member of a choir, so we would both sing along to songs that I was rehearsing, that she knew. Finally, I sadly attended her funeral in the church she’d sung at. Filing out of the church with all of her family who I’d never met, I introduced myself to her daughter. This lady immediately gave me a cuddle and started thanking me – I was taken aback! Her daughter related back to me the highlights of a holiday I’d described months before, so pleased was she to be in a position to tell her daughter something new. How lovely that compliment was to me and the service.”

“I asked my group for their comments and one lady (new to the area) said that the group had helped her to make new friends after the death of her husband. Another lives in the countryside and finds it helps with social contacts. Another said ‘it gets her out of the house’. I was looking for a volunteering role that did not need for me to stand, but would put me in contact with new people. My group all have different physical problems, due to age, but we complement and compensate for each other and we all have a sense of humour!”

“There were children who weren’t actually interested but did the challenge anyway and came to graduation extremely happy. That for me was fantastic – to see I influenced a child to read and especially as they enjoyed it!”

“One housebound reader on my home delivery library round, aged 94, asked me if I knew where to get willow to weave a basket.  I followed up a local event at Chedham’s Yard where a willow weaver was advertised, having checked with my line manager, and asked if the willow weaver could contact me. She did and after explaining the situation she offered to visit the lady, giving two hours tuition at her home. (I did not reveal my client’s name or address but reported back to my line manager who phoned the client and spoke to her carer. The carer arranged for the willow weaver to visit our client and the payment.) Next time I visited my reader she proudly showed me her basket, having woven it with help. One satisfied customer! And it gave me pleasure knowing that I had helped one elderly lady to do something creative. Age and disability had been overcome. My line manager went beyond her duties, in making the willow weaver visit possible. Other clients on my monthly round are always very pleased to get books and see a couple of friendly faces. One offers us coffee, another really cherishes all the requested books we take each month now she has lost the ability to drive, and yet another relishes a lively chat and a laugh before we depart. This service has run 25 years very successfully and I always feel I learn a lot from everyone and benefit as much as our readers scattered in isolated homes in Warwickshire.”

Constructive criticism

We also asked survey participants about their induction process, the ongoing support they received and their ideas for advertising volunteering opportunities. On the whole respondents were very positive about all of these, but we did receive some constructive comments that we shall be taking action on over the coming months.

Thanks to everyone who completed the survey, and thanks to all of our volunteers. Every contribution is hugely important, helping libraries to serve our communities.

Some quotes have been edited for brevity or to remove identifying details. I’m sorry I couldn’t include the submissions of all respondents!

If you want to find out more about volunteering in libraries and see current opportunities please click here