Over the past year or so, State Library Victoria (SLV) has developed a Volunteer Greeters Program, to help two million annual visitors find their way around the Library’s majestic spaces, collections, exhibitions, and programs.
Volunteer greeters are stationed alongside staff at Library entry points to help welcome visitors, provide directions, escort visitors to where they need to go, and refer questions to Library staff as required.
The first group of 36 Volunteer Greeters commenced in April 2018, after three days of induction and training, and will be joined by a further 160 volunteers over the next eighteen months.
Recognising the value of engaging international students as volunteers
Volunteer Greeters come from diverse backgrounds and have unique reasons for deciding to join the Library as volunteers. Many are studying in areas related to libraries and information management, while other are motivated by a love of literature or a desire to get to know their community.
From the outset, SLV Volunteer Coordinator Susan McLaine recognised that the Program would also benefit from a broad language base across the team, and identified that international students would bring valuable skills and experience.
‘The motivation was to build a volunteering demographic mirroring the demographics of the Library visitor base. We were aiming to engage international student volunteers as well as developing a program that would make a significant contribution to the goals of the organisation.’
SLV Volunteer Coordinator Susan McLaine approached Study Melbourne Live Volunteers to connect with international students, and worked with Live Volunteers Program Manager Sofie Anselmi to ensure the program was inclusive and accessible.
Meet two of the SLV Volunteer Greeters
At least eight of the initial group of Volunteer Greeters are studying in Melbourne as international students, with more to join as the group of volunteers grow. The group includes Volunteer Greeters Vaishali and Franklin, who share their stories below.
My name is Vaishali and I’m an international student from Delhi, India.
I’ve been in Melbourne for the last year studying a Master of Accounting and Financial Management at La Trobe University. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with my life, but right now I’m more interested in volunteer work.
I’ve been volunteering at my university, helping international students. Helping people when they’re facing challenges for the first time – it really feels good. I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer outside of my university where I can meet more people, when I heard about the opportunity at State Library. And I love books, I always want to be surrounded by books, so I thought I’d give it a chance. I’m really happy in the place I’m in now.
My name is Franklin and I’m currently pursuing my Masters of Information Systems at the University of Melbourne.
I was born and brought up in the Middle East in the Sultanate of Oman, and I’m actually an Indian, so I lived half of my life in Oman and half my life in India. This is the third leg of my voyage from Muscat to Mumbai to Melbourne. Anything with M is where I go.
I was looking for a volunteering role because throughout my life when I learn something, I want to find a way to give back to people. Volunteering is one of those roles where I can give back and a volunteer greeter was an opportunity for me to be at the forefront of experiencing Melbourne’s diversity. If there’s one place in Melbourne that people from every culture visit, it would be the Library. I love the experience of living around different people, working around different people and learning about different cultures.
International students bring many benefits to the SLV Volunteer Greeters Program
International students are regular visitors to the Library – looking for a quiet place to study, to meet other students, or to connect with the wider community. For Susan, it made sense to ensure that some of the Volunteer Greeters were international students.
‘Including international students in the Greeters program reflects the high visitation to the Library by international students, as well as by other culturally and linguistically diverse groups.’
Drawing on the cultural and language skills of international students, Susan has also identified some unique benefits they bring to the Greeters Program.
‘The Greeter role is suited to specific skillsets including languages and soft skills. We found international students are very respectful, and highly value excellent customer service and making people feel welcome.’
As a Volunteer Coordinator, Susan encourages volunteer-involving organisations to consider how they can better engage international students as volunteers. She recommends making sure to understand the multi-layered challenges of working with ESL and diverse teams, and working together with the international students to develop strategies to support program growth.
‘Bringing in international student volunteers into a domain requires development of a thoughtful action plan, including strategies for both the volunteers and the staff within the organisation. All stages of delivery require review for changes to suit a range of cultures.’
More opportunities for international students
The SLV Greeter Program will be recruiting Volunteer Greeters in a series of recruitment and induction rounds over 2018 and 2019. For more information, and to find out when the next recruitment will take place, check the SLV website or contact Volunteer Coordinator Susan McLaine firstname.lastname@example.org or 03 8664 7215.