20 Nov 2011

Voluntary Work in Library Sector and Exploitation

I have just read this month's Library Association of Ireland newsletter and concern is expressed that, although relevant experience for recent graduates can be found, new opportunities for paid employment are few and far between due to the public service moratorium. Further concern is expressed that
"librarians are at risk of exploitation through the inappropriate use of unpaid service and poor employment conditions".
It seems that most library jobs advertised in Ireland for short term-medium term work are volunteer positions. Graduates are getting experience but only receive a welfare payment and travel costs as remuneration. In Australia, the professional body, ALIA, is very clear that, although there is a place for volunteers in libraries, they should never be used to replace staff as a result of cutbacks:
  1. ALIA affirms that volunteer workers must not replace appropriately trained and paid staff:
    1. to compensate for the reduction, or withdrawal of services caused by inadequate staffing establishments, failure to fill vacant posts, or cutbacks in overall library and information services funding; or
    2. to establish and maintain library services or outreach programs which would normally be established and maintained by paid library staff.
  2. The replacement of trained, paid library staff by volunteers can only lead to a deterioration in the standard and the effectiveness of services, be wasteful of resources and be detrimental to the interests of library users.
With the dire state of public finances in Ireland, one cannot expect serious change in this in the near future and recent graduates are at risk of being exploited for their skills and being only paid a pittance for their work.


  1. Yes, the "internship" conundrum. There's this website called http://www.jobbridge.ie with a rather contradictive FAQ. On the one hand an intern is defined as:
    "A person who is engaged by another person to carry out work or perform any duty or service pursuant to a placement under the JobBridge, National Internship Scheme shall, for the purposes of any enactment or rule of law (other than the Tax Acts and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005), be deemed not to be an employee of the other person or to carry out such work or perform such duties pursuant to a contract of service". Great stuff... However, they will get paid 50,- per week as an extra internship allowance by the Department Social Protection (DSP). Very interesting that one. One gets effectively paid a token amount of money to attend a training-type forum run and organised by a private sector or public employer. Make up your own mind what one could infer from this arrangement...

  2. I notice that the subject of voluntary work is also being discussed at next week's ANLTC event:


    It is certainly interesting that the INTO have been so vocal in discouraging members from partaking in such work, with a view to preventing teachers' skills from being devalued over the longer term.

  3. Also, another side to the argument as discussed here: http://t.co/L4oFevMr

    Are voluntary staff helping to keep libraries open which would otherwise be forced to close? This may have some validity if it is a temporary / short-term crisis we are seeing (though many would argue it is not!)