Thursday 19th September 2013
Morven MacLean explains how volunteers are the linchpin of information and support services in Glasgow’s libraries.
Macmillan is working with Glasgow Life, which delivers cultural and leisure services for Glasgow City Council, to roll out cancer information and support services in the city’s libraries.
With 14 services established in the last year, the next two years will see a further 21 open in libraries, as well as two leisure venues in the city. Our vision is to provide clear, relevant information and support to people affected by cancer across Glasgow.
Volunteers are at the heart of this programme and, without our dedicated and expanding team, Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries would not exist. Since its inception in April 2012, we have attracted more than 120 volunteers. These individuals deliver our Macmillan library services, represent us at promotional events and talks, deliver Chi Gung classes to people affected by cancer, photograph our events, and research local organisations and groups to which the team can signpost service users.
Heart of the service
Having a flexible menu of roles allows us to involve volunteers as young as 16, people who work, are in education or who are retired. This, in turn, has encouraged a diverse range of service users.
The Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries staff includes four Information and Support Officers (ISOs), responsible for the management of volunteers and services. The ISOs manage a number of services each, which means they can’t be on site with volunteers. Instead, volunteers are supported and empowered to take ownership of their services. This ensures as many people as possible in Glasgow have access to free, confidential, cancer support.
Our staff team is working hard to embed the programme in Glasgow Libraries through an intensive training programme, which includes volunteer management training for library staff.
Glasgow Life has made a commitment to ensure that Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries is mainstreamed into core services. Managing volunteers from a distance is not without its challenges. Effective communication and support are essential for the smooth running of services and retention of volunteers.
Gillian O’Donnell, who is ISO for the south of Glasgow, says: ‘I support volunteers until they feel confident to be on shift with another volunteer, knowing they can call me any time they need to. I also pair volunteers with a more experienced volunteer to encourage peer support.
‘It’s satisfying to see a volunteer grow in confidence to the point where they no longer need a staff member present and they start to own the role and the service.’
Effective communication and support is essential to keep volunteers motivated. We provide monthly talks to develop their skills and experience, quarterly development sessions with a focus on training and peer support, and monthly 1:1s, where they are supported to complete personal development plans.
We will continue to develop, inspire and innovate to ensure each volunteer has a positive experience.
Email Morven MacLean, Macmillan Volunteering Manager Glasgow Libraries.
Morven contacted Mac Voice with her idea through our LinkedIn group.
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