Worcestershire Libraries last month celebrated the contribution of volunteers to communities across the County.
The event was organised by the Libraries and Learning Service to acknowledge the contribution of Digital Champions and Job Club volunteers and to celebrate the role they play in delivering a range of services for our communities. In particular the libraries recognised the contribution these volunteers make to the quality of people's lives, helping them gain digital skills and get back into work.
Libraries were asked to nominate 18 of their Job Club and Digital Champions, and they were then invited to an event to thank them for all their hard work and effort.
Droitwich Library hosted the celebration on Thursday 1 December, where Adult Learning Manager Colin Barnett, Service Development Co-ordinator Val Ruddle and Library Manager Bev Orlowsky provided a warm welcome, encouraging the participants to share their experiences, ideas and the opportunity to discuss their work with each other.
There was a display of comments, outlining why each library had made the nomination; customer's letters of thanks and case studies about the work of these celebrated volunteers, which they were able to read.
Strategic Libraries and Learning Manager Kathy Kirk then presented each volunteer with a certificate of thanks and a small gift, after which a celebratory tea party was enjoyed.
Kathy delivered a speech in which she thanked all those present and spoke of the importance and impact the volunteer's work has on the individual, their families and the wider community.
Kathy Kirk said: "Volunteers make such a difference to our libraries and to everything we do in. Libraries play a very important role in the community, and we have many volunteers in a wide range of roles working alongside our staff. Libraries are no longer just about books; they are safe places for people of all ages, information providers and help signpost people to lots of other services.
"Over 20,000 hours were given by digital champions and job club volunteers in libraries last year, and one thing all the volunteers we spoke to agreed on is that their work gives them enormous satisfaction and that they felt they get back more than they give. We want to make sure volunteering works for the individual, as well as the library and the local community.
Cllr Lucy Hodgson, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Localism and Communities, said: "This celebratory event was well attended, with a lovely friendly atmosphere, and the volunteers in attendance told us that they really appreciated it.
"At a time when budget reductions mean libraries are closing across the country, we are proud that here in Worcestershire we are keeping all of our libraries open. One of the most important reasons we are able to do that is because of the work of volunteers who work closely with our paid staff.
"We are delighted to have been able to host an event celebrating their contribution, which is fully deserving of our recognition and appreciation now and going forward. I would like to thank every library volunteer for their fantastic work, on behalf of the Council and communities throughout Worcestershire."
To learn more about the benefits of volunteering and the range of interesting and rewarding volunteering opportunities on offer, contact your local library or visit http://www.worcestershire.gov.uk/info/20017/libraries/1118/volunteer_in_a_library
Below is a selection of comments from Job Club volunteers and Library staff:
Polly McDonald, said: "Volunteering at the Job Club has allowed me to adjust to retirement and feel I am still useful whilst making a difference for the participants."
Chris Wynn-Davies, a retired volunteer at Pershore Job Club, said: "I fell into the Job Club. I have been doing it for four-and-a-half years and get a real buzz out of helping people."
Peter Lee-Smith said: "I have been a volunteer since school days; I spent a gap year in Liverpool as a Community Service Volunteer in the late 60s and ran community service groups in secondary schools until I became a headmaster in the mid-80s. When I decided to have a change from the world of education, Evesham Volunteer Centre put me in touch with the library.
"My work with the Job Club brings me into contact with some really interesting characters-it's rarely boring! I receive a really warm welcome and tremendous support from the librarian and her team, who are a great group to work with. It's particularly satisfying when I feel that we have helped somebody back into the world of work.
"All in all, my voluntary work, including the Job Club, gives purpose, value and structure to my life and enables me to contribute something to my local community."
Holly Ferris, Library Customer Advisor at Kidderminster Library said: "(Volunteer Geoff McWhirter) has had a huge impact on our service delivery to customers. He is always friendly, professional, and welcoming to customers and helps to make the library a positive and non-judgmental place where customers can receive support and help. He has wide knowledge of digital resources and platforms and is always open to learning about new resources and to working in different ways.
"He is also inventive in the ways in which he helps customers and can adapt the way he supports depending on the customer's previous level of experience. He is very reliable and over the two years at Kidderminster I estimate that he has volunteered for approximately 450 hours. He volunteers for five hours on a Wednesday at Kidderminster but I also know that he volunteers at Stourport Library too. Thank you, Geoff!"