Ask an Agent: How Do You Recruit New Volunteers?

askanagent2You’ve got questions,  we’ve got answers! Our volunteer Agents are on the job! Here’s what they have to say this week….

Question: What are your strategies for recruiting new teen volunteers? My core teens are aging out and I need to recruit new members before were TLAB-less.


Doris (Chemung County Library District) says: 

Answer:  Here are some strategies that have worked for me, OR I have read that worked for other librarians:

a) Ask the local school librarians who they know who might be interested in joining your TAB. b) Do any of your current TAB members have younger friends who would help out? What about any teen “regulars” that you see often in the library?  c) Recruit at school open houses. youth groups, ask youth serving organizations in your area, or ask local homeschooling groups. d) if your local schools require community volunteer hours, perhaps that would be a draw for joining TAB? e) One librarian on TSU said she sent TAB invitations on library letterhead to the top readers from her teen summer reading program. According to her, they were as excited as if they’d gotten a letter from Hogwarts! 🙂 f) I offer some incentives besides snacks and fun: such as: TAB members are fine exempt (as long as they consistently participate and don’t abuse the privilege), and I give them small gift cards for going the extra mile when helping out at large outreach events, etc.

Michele (Westwood High School) says: 

My suggestion for recruiting teen volunteers for the library is to foster a partnership with the local high school or middle school. Most high schools actively encourage service learning/ volunteer hours. If you don’t feel welcomed to the high school library you could still reach out to the counseling department or Service Learning coach. You may want to start with sophomores to begin with. The advantage for you is that they don’t have as much going on yet, they are a little more mature but they are too young for many volunteer positions that require them to be at least 16. My other suggestion is to make it a “valuable” position. By that I mean it should include an interview. The volunteers don’t have to necessarily be “library lovers” but be interested in leadership roles. Some of my best volunteers have been students with no particular love of reading.

Have a mission with some concrete ideas of what you want them to do. It will take some team building first before they are really ready to collaborate.  Have some ways they can “help” in the library for some events both at the library and at their respective schools (doing library card sign-ups for example)

I like the idea of having some special status for the summer volunteer positions. Have a clear idea of the commitment for them. (one meeting and maybe one day of volunteering for events a month to start with and add as you go) it can evolve into more but there should be a foundation for what constitutes their commitment. I send students from my teen book club every year to the library for summer volunteer work. My experience is that many of them don’t have any idea they can volunteer.

Rebecca (Palos Heights Public Library) says:

We post info about volunteering at the library where they and their parents are likely to see it. I also share the info w/ school counselors. JNHS & NHS coordinators, and of course school librarians. Whenever I get a chance to visit a school, for any reason, it’s a great opportunity to work in a fun story involving a teen volunteer (I have plenty!) and then mention that I might have a few openings for new volunteers so come apply. When we do schedule someone, esp if they are new, we suggest they can bring a friend, depending on the event of course. That way, the volunteer is less nervous and they both are exposed to the greatness of the library and of course will want to return.

And feeding them always helps:)


Thanks to our volunteer agents for the awesome answers. If you have a question about anything teen services related ask it here! Your question will be featured on the blog with answers from our agent volunteers or TSU team members. If you’d liked to be a volunteer agent, please submit your info here.

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