This is an interview with Amber Loveless, currently the Assistant Community Library Manager in a bustling community and formerly the Coordinator of Volunteers at a hospice, done by Naomi House of INALJ. This is part of INALJ’s 2020 series on non-library jobs for library workers.
On Coordinator of Volunteers Work :
an Interview with Amber Loveless
Q1: Thanks so much for taking the time to help us better understand what Coordinator of Volunteers in a Hospice work is and how LIS folk can get into this field. First could you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you got your MLIS (or your educational background) and what you do?
I have a BA in English from Illinois Wesleyan University (Bloomington, IL) and an MLS with an archives certificate from Queens College, CUNY (New York City, NY). I graduated in 2011. I’m currently an assistant community library manager. Between graduation and getting a library job, I worked for three and a half years as a volunteer coordinator in a hospice. There it was my job to recruit, interview, and onboard new volunteers. I made sure all documentation was up to date and prepared for inspection. I matched volunteers to patients. We often had emergency requests to fulfill, sometimes for 24-hr volunteer rotations.
Q2: Now can you tell us how You personally got into doing this type of work?
I had worked as a temp in human resources for the same company and really enjoyed the connections I was making in terms of how the company worked. When the volunteer services position opened, it seemed like a great fit with my MLS skills and also with the library-related soft skills I had, like empathy, readers advisory–in this case I was matching volunteers to patients rather than to books, structure and organization. I applied and got an interview. I didn’t get the regional position I applied for, but a few weeks later they called again and offered me one in another region.
Q3: What makes this a great field for LIS workers and likewise, what do you think makes LIS workers strong candidates for hiring managers in this field?
To speak generally, LIS workers tend to be professionally organized and compassionate. I didn’t work directly with patients, but the reasons people choose to volunteer in a hospice were often linked to their experience with death and their need to give back afterward. A lot of our volunteers had seen a relative die on hospice and they wanted to be part of the experience for someone else. Part of my job was to be a support to them. LIS workers often find ourselves in this situation. We’re also quick on our feet. If you can be comfortable with deadlines and not mind when something that needs immediate attention flies at you, consider volunteer coordination. Hiring managers should consider LIS workers because they have the transferable skills that will make them excellent volunteer coordinators. When I started at a library, I took the MLS skills I’d used as a coordinator and seamlessly brought them into library work.
Q4: What is the best way to get your foot in the door for your first volunteer coordinator job? And how did the experience help in your current job?
I had an advantage because I had been a temp in the HR department. That was the 2nd or 3rd HR department I’d worked for. It is always advantageous to be a temp in HR. Do your job well and keep your contacts. I also have volunteered at other places for years, so I was able to think about my experiences and conversations I’d had with my coordinators.
In my current job, I still coordinate the volunteers. As a teen librarian, I started a volunteer program that currently has about 25-30 teens. I was able to present on it at PLA 2020. That’s all due to what I learned as a volunteer coordinator. Now that the physical library is temporarily closed, things are kind of on hold for volunteers, although I have given them options for virtual volunteering. As assistant manager, I manage my staff, my teen volunteers, and adult volunteers.
Q5: Finally what are some of the most important skills / certifications / etc that LIS folk can do to prepare them? Any last tips?
I didn’t have any particular certifications, aside from my MLS. I was experienced as a volunteer, though, at places with well-run volunteer programs. Having the advantage of being a volunteer and coordinating volunteers definitely made me a better leader. It gave me the ability to look at both sides so I can always ask what does the volunteer get out of the situation and how does the company benefit from having a volunteer program. My experience in human resources also helped with managing the volunteers.
Amber Loveless (she/her) mobilized her passion for advocating for teens into a dynamic career in libraries. Amber joined Queens Public Library as a YA Librarian and is now the Assistant Community Library Manager in a bustling community where she has exercised her volunteer organization prowess to empower the youth in her community. She was an ALA Emerging Leader in 2019 and is currently an EL member guide as chair of The Learning Roundtable’s Emerging Leader Committee.
Views expressed are those of the interviewee and not INALJ or their employer. Photo provided by the interviewee and permission granted to use it for this interview.