One thing I've discovered is that it is important to delegate things in the library. I know what you are thinking, I can't tell you how many people tell me "I can't delegate, I'd rather just do it myself and do it right the first time." This is a valid concern, but here's why I believe it's one you need to let go of: if you delegate to others, they will feel as though you trust them, and they will develop a concern and passion for the work they do. This can ultimately be hugely beneficial to you, as a good volunteer is an essential asset to any library.
This doesn't mean that people will not make mistakes, it also doesn't mean that people will always care or be as careful as you will be. What it does mean is that you are willing to share and give responsibility to others, and you want them to have an investment in what it is you do. I delegate to students and adults regularly, and it has been so successful that I have students who have moved on to middle school returning to help on a regular basis, as well as parents and grandparents who no longer have students going to the school. I am truly blessed! However, this success did not come without some effort. Here are a few things to keep in mind when fostering a great volunteer work space:
1. Gratitude - I thank my volunteers, and am always genuine about it. They don't have to be there, this is time they are donating to me. I try and value it! I will throw parties for my student helpers at each semester, and offer prizes to them for various things. I thank my adult helpers (and middle school students) with small gifts at each semester end as well. This can be something simple like little soaps or a bar of chocolate. I keep my eyes out throughout the year for inexpensive things I can give as gifts, and grab things on sale when I can. I also make a point to verbalize my thank yous each time I see them.
2. Organization - This is the one that often trips people up the most. It can be hard to have volunteers because they take work. It's important to have tasks they can do, and to be able to explain the tasks to them in a way that will allow them to work on their own. I try and keep a few things in mind for this: I try and set things aside that I know kids can do without a lot of instruction (like stamping books or putting label covers on), I do the same for adults only with more advanced jobs, I also establish a work flow for jobs that need to be done regularly and constantly so that anyone can pick up where someone else left off, and I take time to train my volunteers right from the start.
3. Flexibility - Volunteers are just that, volunteers! This means that you are not going to be the top priority for them, and you need to be ready to deal with that. There will be times when someone gets sick, or someone has a vacation, or someone simply cannot make it. They will not always let you know if they will be gone. You have to be ready to roll with it. I will try and make sure that I give my volunteers things that are not needed in a hurry, or I try and give them ongoing projects that anyone can pick up and drop at any point. If the job is one I need at a specific time, I just make the effort to fill in myself to cover those things and I never am angry or resentful to my help for missing. I try and remind myself that their time is a gift.
4. Accountability - Even though I know my helpers will have any number of days when they are unavailable, I try and make sure they understand how much I need them when they DO come. For adults, I let them know how helpful their contributions are, not only because it's true, but because it always I know that it is nice to feel needed and to know that your work is meaningful. The same goes with students, but they often need more of an extrinsic reward and motivator. I do this for my students by tracking when they spend their time and rewarding them for frequency of visits. I ask that they devote their own time (during lunch recess) at least once a week. I reward those who show up (and sign in) with prizes or opportunities, and I let them know ahead of time what my expectation is.
5. Time - It took me a few tries to get this one to a manageable place. I like to offer students and adults a range of times to come in and help. I find that it works best to let both choose the time they come, and it also works best to try and restrict the help time to when I am not teaching classes or in meetings. For students, I pick a few days in the week that they are allowed to come in, and it needs to be during their own time (a recess or something). I will often clear these things with teachers and my principal beforehand. For adults, I ask some of them come in during heavy traffic times (for checking books in and out), and others to come in when I am more available to give them special projects. I generally give them a wide selection of times to work with their schedules. There's always work to be done in the library, no matter what time!
It took me some effort to discover most of these things, and I know I will need to continually tweak my systems to improve or meet new challenges, but so far these ideas have helped me maintain a great resource that often times gets neglected in school libraries.