At the end of every January, thousands of librarians descend upon the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to collaborate and share their expertise over a three-day conference, very aptly titled the Ontario Library Association Superconference. This annual event is the largest conference for librarians in the country and the main arena for public, academic and school librarians to share their research and insights in the constantly evolving field of librarianship.
At this year’s conference, I presented a poster entitled “Let Them Help: Encouraging Student Volunteers in the Library.” Over several years I have developed a program for student volunteers in the Senior Library at Elmwood that has allowed students to take an active role in the library, as well as gain volunteer hours needed for graduation. It seemed fitting to present the strategies I’ve developed to an audience of like-minded librarians who many not have thought of leveraging the enthusiasm and interest that students have into active volunteerism in the school library.
Over a two-hour period I had many conversations with school librarians, teachers, public librarians, Ministry of Education officials and other conference attendees about the development of the library volunteer program at Elmwood. Many people were interested in understanding how to go about recruiting and selecting student volunteers, and we also discussed the considerable time commitment involved with training a group of volunteers each year. As the program has evolved over the years, efficiencies have been found in the training process where veteran library volunteers take on the role of training the new recruits. The process is by no means perfect, but the students enjoy the work they do and they have a greater appreciation for the school library because of it.
The OLA Superconference is a tremendous professional development opportunity that I was very grateful to be able to participate in this year. Presenting a poster was just a part of the conference experience. There was an insightful presentation on how to better implement primary resources in the classroom, another on effective ways of visualizing library data and an informative panel discussion on strategies to close the information literacy gap between high school and first year university students. Library conferences are also an excellent opportunity to speak to publishers about upcoming releases related to the Ontario curriculum, as well as pick up a few Advance Reader Copy of new titles that students are eager to read.
I look forward to attending the OLA Superconference in the future, and in the meantime I will be presenting on the student volunteer program in the school library at the Quebec Library Association conference in May.