Why I like Volunteering

by Gabrielle Spiers, Head Editor, INALJ Montana

Why I like Volunteering

gabriellespiersThere have been several articles on INALJ over the years about the pros and cons of volunteering but rather than go into that I thought I would talk about how volunteering has helped me.

So what kind of volunteer work do I do? Well I am the Head Editor for Montana on INALJ, I volunteer on several committees and I volunteer for a cat rescue group and for another non-profit with an international focus. That sounds like a lot but a lot of these are low workload types of situations.

I am talking about two different kinds of volunteering here. The professional related volunteering opportunities and the more personal related volunteer opportunities where you do something because it sounds interesting.

Why do I volunteer?

It is a good way to meet people. If you are volunteering on a committee for a professional organization then you are meeting people who are in your field and that is always good for networking purposes and just generally getting your name out there. When you go to professional events especially larger conferences it is really nice to know some people in advance.

It is also a good way to meet people with similar interests so you might end up being really good friends or who knows? Romance might blossom. That one might be a stretch but I am sure that it has happened! Especially if you are new to the area and don’t know many people yet.

It should be fun. In the interest of full disclosure here I volunteer for a cat rescue group so I can pet and play with the cats. My roommate is allergic to cats so I seized this opportunity. So there is a lot to be said for volunteering for a cause you support and doing something that you enjoy doing.

It helps you build skills. I can now legitimately tell people that I know how to use Wordpress and Archivist’s Toolkit and several other programs that I picked up during my time volunteering days. It is helpful to be able to demonstrate that you have practical experience. Committee work is also a good way of demonstrating that you can work as part of a team.

You can quit easily. In that situation it is less stressful than a job because most of us really can’t just up and quit our jobs. If for whatever reason the volunteer gig isn’t working out then you can quit with no real hard feelings. Things change and sometimes it really is just a matter of time and most organizations that deal with volunteers accept this. In fact they usually expect some kind of turnover. I have managed volunteers and the numbers do tend to dwindle.

It might turn into a job. This has never happened to me personally but it did happen to a friend of mine. This is not a library world success story but it is a success story so it counts. It would depend a lot on the setting and the organization of course. Alternatively of course you might also discover that you really don’t want to work at the organization that you thought you always wanted to work at.

That being said I also acknowledge that it is not feasible or practical for everyone to find the time to volunteer and that’s okay too. This is definitely not something that anyone should feel bad about.