How to Manage Volunteers in the Library

Decades ago leaders in the nonprofit community came to a conclusion: Volunteers needed to be treated like paid employees. They needed to be hired, evaluated, trained, supervised, and evaluated again, not “ignore them and hope for the best.”

If they handle money, they need to agree to a credit check. If they work with people under the age of 18, they need a background check and training in Florida law that requires the reporting of suspected child abuse. They need coaching and mentoring and validation and respect.

In the short term, it might feel like too much work. In the long run, with higher standards, your library will attract and sustain volunteers who are more committed and productive.


  • Research Florida personnel laws governing volunteer employees.
  • Create volunteer job descriptions and performance contracts.
  • Develop policies for addressing volunteer issues, such as nepotism and cronyism.


Pat Wagner has been a trainer and consultant for libraries and allied institutions since 1978. She has been a frequent visitor to Florida libraries and was a presenter with the Sunshine State Library Leadership Institute for several years. Pat is known for her good-humored and practical programs.