If you’ve viewed one of the libraries’ new book shelves on social media, watched a YouTube video, or attended an in-person program at the library, then chances are good that you’ve benefited from the amazing efforts of our teen volunteers.
The Teen Volunteer Program is coordinated by Youth Services Specialist, Carrie Lowery, South Fayette Township Library’s Circulation Supervisor, Juli Morneweck, and Bridgeville Public Library’s Circulation Supervisor, Bree Balsamo-Carilli. We sat down with the three of them to learn more about the program.
Can you talk a little about the teen volunteer program and how it works?
Carrie: Our Teen Volunteer Program is extremely robust. We typically have between 30-70 teens within the program helping us.
For our Teen Volunteer Program, we have two sessions throughout the year (summer and school year.) Since we get so many teens involved in the program, we do ask that every teen who wants to be in the program apply, even if they have volunteered before.
Juli: Once you’ve taken part in the program for a while, we always encourage teens to offer suggestions to their teen managers. We’ve had quite a few ideas offered to us that have changed the way current programs are run or have turned into whole new opportunities.
Many of our applicants and volunteers want to know how to become teen managers. For anyone who is interested, let me just say that the expectations are the same as a job: be on time, be ready to work, and let us know if you’ll be unable to fulfil your assigned task. By showing us that you’re able to meet and exceed our expectations, we’re likely to offer you the opportunity to become a manager in future volunteer sessions.
How did it begin?
Carrie: Before COVID, we had a teen volunteer program that was mainly focused on in-library volunteer work. When COVID started, everything shut down, including volunteer opportunities within the community for teens to receive hours. This made us evolve the program to include virtual opportunities, which I think really boosted our program and made it more teen-focused. I believe we now have teens who are really interested in making an impact for our libraries, and they can do this through our Teen Volunteer Program.
How many teens are currently volunteering? What are some example tasks?
Carrie: Right now, we have around fifty teens volunteering for us. For virtual teens, we have a lot of trivia quizzes that they made in Kahoot that we’ll be using during our Trivia Night for families in August, and we’re hoping to have more trivia nights in the future.
Bree: A lot of our virtual tasks involve graphic design or video editing. For example, most of the videos that our programmers make for the libraries’ YouTube pages are edited by teen volunteers. With a few exceptions, the graphic backgrounds to the new bookshelves that are posted on social media are designed by teens as well.
Carrie: For in-person, we had a lot of teens help us by setting up and taking down programs and helping children throughout those programs as well. For inside the library, the teens helped find books on the paging list, sort items, and shelve books.
Bree: One of my favorite things to tell teen volunteers is to put their design work in their portfolio or add it to college resumes. Carrie really created a program where teens aren’t just doing busy work, but they are doing tasks that the library needs and it really helps us out. I am enormously proud of the work that the teen volunteers have done.
If a teen is interested in volunteering, what should they know before they apply?
Juli: Before signing up, I recommend talking to one or more of our teen volunteers who have experience with our program and asking them about the kind of tasks that they performed for each opportunity. This will give anyone who is interested a great idea about what volunteer options might fit their interests and talents best. We offer a wide variety of opportunities; our hope is to have enough options so that there will be something that will appeal to everyone’s interests and talents.
Carrie: One of the biggest things that I would recommend is not signing up for every single opportunity because doing so can get overwhelming quite quickly, especially with school starting back up. I would suggest looking at the opportunities and seeing what you think sounds fun and then going from there.
Bree: I would also encourage the teens to fill out the application on their own as much as possible. This is a volunteer program where we really want teens to do what they are interested in, even if that means that they are volunteering for only one or two opportunities. We appreciate any amount of time that the teens are willing to give us by volunteering.
Juli: I have to echo what Carrie and Bree said about just choosing a few opportunities. We are always willing to have teens move around and try out our other opportunities as the session continues, whether they find certain opportunities just aren’t a good fit, or just want a change.
Bree: I would also add that it’s important that the teens check their emails daily. I would encourage them to use their own emails too, if possible.
Juli: Agreed. Some of our volunteer opportunities have strict due dates for completion which require regular and consistent monitoring of your email. Learning how to assess how much time you have available and what you can accomplish is a great skill to hone now, and it will benefit you throughout your personal and professional life.
Carrie: Another thing that I would say is to make sure to have fun. If you’re not having a good time with the program, we want to hear from you and figure out how to make this a better fit. Although we want to organize the program to give teens job experience, we also want this to be a fun, engaging program for our teens.
How would a teen apply to be a volunteer?
Bree: Teens who are interested can fill out an application online. Due to high interest, we have strict deadlines for our application process.
Carrie: For the summer session, the application will be up sometime in May, and for the school year session, the application will be up sometime in August. So you’ll have to keep checking our websites and social media to see when that’s available.