Contributor: Brandi Bette Smead
Description: Knowledgeable and patient teen volunteers can help patrons with questions about popular technology. This is an ongoing, inter-generational event designed to pair patrons who have questions about using new electronic devices (smart phones, tablets, laptops, e-readers, etc.) with teen volunteers who can dedicate 30 minutes explaining the overall device or a specific program or application.
- Teen Volunteers who have knowledge of electronic devices (preferably with great communication skills and patience for novice or older learners)
- Large Room with access to Wireless (or the ability to offer the program when the Library is closed to the public)
- Library Cards: patrons must have a working library card to access wireless (unless Library has open access without patrons having to sign into wireless).
Number of People: One volunteer can help 4 patrons during a two-hour shift, each patron for 30 minutes. Depending on the amount of volunteers you have and can manage at one time as well as the space you have in your library, you can help a lot of patrons. Try this event once or do it on a monthly or biweekly basis.
Target Audience: Intergenerational: Teens and Older Patrons
Prep Time: If you have an active group of Teen Volunteers who are looking for more ways to earn volunteer hours, you won’t have much prep time at all! A one or two-hour orientation should work to familiarize your group of volunteers with the kinds of questions they might get. The thing that might take a while to get back is the signed Teen Volunteer Application. Here is a link for a sample Teen Volunteer Application
Program Time: 2 Hours
- Find your Teen Volunteers! If you don’t have an active group of volunteers to use, go to the teen section of your library and find out which teens are into technology. You may have a gaming group that you can recruit. You can also approach the computer teachers at the local high school to see if they have students they think would be a good fit. Many teens are looking for ways to earn extra volunteering hours for their college applications. Once you have your teens, be sure to have them take home a Teen Volunteer Application. Your Library will most likely need to have a “hold harmless agreement” signed by a parent or guardian and you will also want emergency contact information just in case. If you follow this link, there is a sample form you can use. [Link broken]
- Once you have gathered your techie teens, find a large area in your library (with access to wireless) that you can use for a 2 hour period of time. When we did this ongoing program, we opened our doors to the participants of the event BEFORE the library was opened to the public. You will want to schedule this as far in advance as you can start advertising to your patrons who are device-challenged.
- Depending on how you want this event to run, you might want to have a registration form at your library’s reference desk where patrons can sign up for 30-minute time slots on specific days. (In the past, we have had people come and sign up on the day of the event since some Teen Volunteers are dependable and others are not. If you have really dependable teens and this is an ongoing event, having patrons sign up in advance is encouraged. Be sure to get a contact number to confirm their appointment before the day of the event.)
- You should meet at least once with your group of volunteers before the first event. Find out what kinds of devices they use regularly and once they are familiar with. Be sure to have everyone download the application needed for accessing whatever platform your library uses for eBooks and eAudiobooks and know how to use it. Also, they should be able to show the patrons how they can log into their accounts on their devices.
- Always make sure to be available during the event so your volunteers can approach you with questions they might not be able to answer. (Don’t forget, some questions patrons ask the teen volunteers may end up being a reference questions and not just tech questions.)
Source: Our library created this with a local high school computer class to help out with volunteer hours.