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About 60 years ago, the professional nonprofit community concluded that volunteers needed to be treated like paid employees, meaning that they needed to be subject to the same scrutiny and oversight. The result was that nonprofit agencies became more skilled at recruiting and signing up volunteers who were productive, and the volunteers were treated with the respect they deserved.

Everyone benefited as did the agencies and communities they served. Unfortunately, some libraries and library-allied organizations have not yet adopted this professional model. Instead, recruitment is hit and miss, with no guidelines and burdened with an attitude of desperation and guilt.

The biggest myth regarding volunteers is that they are “free.” They need supervision and encouragement. They might not receive a paycheck, but their compensation is the time, attention, appreciation, and recognition of co-workers, managers, and leadership, companionship, and the knowing that they have accomplished something.

Volunteers have the same lif