Here to Help
Central Library is the largest, the busiest, and with a plethora of special services, the most complex location in the Arlington Library system.
Newcomers entering the building often need assistance to get them oriented and to enjoy the Library’s services.
Volunteer Position: Welcome Desk at Central Library
Function: Greet patrons and answer questions
Number of current volunteers: 17
Hours: 2+ hours/week
Special Skills: Mental agility, kindness, computer skills
The Welcome Desk, centrally located on the Library’s first floor, is there to help. Welcome Desk volunteers greet new arrivals, introduce them to the Library, and answer their questions. And because they are the first person a patron may see, these volunteers play a critical role in setting and maintaining positive first impressions.
A key priority for the Library system is to provide good customer service. Welcome Desk volunteers help Central achieve this goal by relieving paid staff of some routine activities resulting in shorter wait lines and quicker responses to patron needs.
Barbara Dean, Volunteer Coordinator for Central’s Welcome Desk, took some time to discuss this important volunteer opportunity. Barbara noted that Central Library is the only Arlington Library with volunteers dedicated to assisting people as they come in to the building. (The Columbia Pike Branch Library, the second largest location in the library system, has a Library Service Desk on the second floor, but its function is somewhat different.) The Welcome Desk is staffed all the hours Central Library is open, with the exception of 5:00-9:00 PM on Sundays, when fewer patrons arrive. Shifts are a minimum of two hours, although many volunteers work longer.
Barbara told us that successful Welcome Desk volunteers love working with the public and making that one-on-one connection with the community. They believe in the value of libraries, as a community resource and as a personal one. Many of the Welcome Desk volunteers are retired, so this position is a great way to keep active and engaged with others.
Although this position does not require many physical skills (just the ability to move around the main floor of Central Library), it does require mental agility and troubleshooting skills. Welcome Desk volunteers must have an in-depth knowledge of what goes on in Central Library, so they can answer myriad questions and direct patrons in the right direction
Welcome Desk volunteers also perform important orientation services, such as signing up patrons for library cards, showing them how to use the on-line system to find books and access their account, and scheduling patrons for the ADA-compliant computer. Finally, Welcome Desk volunteers troubleshoot the Library’s copiers…a very welcome service to harried customers.
If this position sounds intriguing but you think it might be too tough, don’t worry. New Welcome Desk volunteers receive training from a long-time Welcome Desk volunteer who provides them with the knowledge and skills needed.
If you are interested in learning more about Central Library’s Welcome Desk volunteer opportunities, please email Barbara Dean Volunteer Coordinator for Central’s Welcome Desk volunteers, and Volunteer Program Manager for all volunteer positions in the Library system, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-by Laura West, Arlington Public Library Volunteer