Two women standing at bookshelves

Skill-Based Volunteering

 “At the intersection of the challenges to be met and the expert human resources to meet those challenges is skills-based volunteering (SBV). This innovative approach takes advantage of individuals’ skills and experience to help service organizations build and sustain their capacity to bring real solutions to our most pressing social problems.”

~Corporation for National & Community Service

As librarians and information professionals, we wear many hats and possess various combinations of knowledge, skills, and experience. Through skills-based volunteering in community organizations, we have the opportunity to share our abilities and give back to our communities, including those who may not yet be library patrons. We can simultaneously give back to and expand the communities who support and advocate for us and for our libraries. For the institutions we work with, skills-based volunteering offers a priceless opportunity to continue working to fulfill their missions in times of scarcity. Many institutions lack funding for even part-time staff, and are in need of assistance and skills that librarians excel at providing!

The idea behind SBV is not necessarily “more of what I do at work,” but rather a mutually fulfilling relationship between the volunteer and the institution. While someone with library training could obviously help another library, there are endless options available, such as:

  • Boys and Girls Club or a local shelter benefiting from the skills of a Children’s/YA librarian
  • A librarian who enjoys events programming organizing a fundraiser for their local Humane Society
  • A tech-savvy librarian teaches computer classes at the local senior center

The point is that librarians and library workers, by training and education, are flexible in their strengths and experience, and they have a wealth of skills to offer.

Skills-based volunteering not only benefits the libraries and other organizations that receive assistance; it also gives librarians an opportunity to interact with their patrons and future patrons outside the library space. It is advocacy at its grass-roots best! What better way to be known in your community then to share what you can do with those who don’t already know!