In less than a month, the call for nominations for volunteer roles across IFLA’s will open! We will be relying on passionate individuals with something to contribute to come forwards, and on our Members and Affiliates to nominate them.

To get you thinking about what it means to be an IFLA volunteer, including the benefits it brings, we asked two of our Governing Board members, each overseeing structures of volunteer groups, to share their insights – Te Paea Paringatai (Chair, Professional Council) and Nthabiseng Kotsokoane (Chair, Regional Council).

What are the most important characteristics of IFLA’s body of volunteers for you? 

Te Paea: There are a range of key characteristics and it is so important to ensure that these characteristics demonstrate and give effect to the diversity of our volunteer membership and in doing so, are reflective of the communities our library associations and institutions serve. As a starter, my top five that comes to mind include:

  • Accountability: own your decision and actions to take full responsibility for your own performance that contributes to collective impact
  • Curiosity: stay curious to help improve IFLA culture and practices by questioning the norms and learning alternative ways to achieve shared goals
  • Reliability: being reliable helps foster a sense of trust and healthy intercultural relationships that can support predictable patterns for your actions and expectations
  • Positivity: maintain a positive attitude and offer positive affirmations to others
  • Empathetic listening: effective listening fosters meaningful connection with people who are different from you. This skill helps with conflict resolution as it allows one to consider multiple and different perspectives to find a range of options, refine them and make considered solutions

Nthabi: For me what matters are the following

  • Passion: about Libraries and IFLA’s work. IFLA needs people who will be able to share and believe in IFLA ‘s work and cause. As a volunteer you need to be able to share your mission with everyone you know, encouraging others to get involved and become motivated to give. You may even find extra-passionate volunteers who have a personal attachment to the cause and the project’s mission. That’s why passion is the most important part of any volunteer’s personality.
  • Team work: It is important to be able to work with different people and a diverse team. Be very accommodating, listen, be patient with everybody, especially with people who do not speak and understand your language.
  • Creative and Energetic: some of the roles may require one to attend long meetings and some of the work may require one to motivate the team, IFLA needs volunteers who are open-minded and creative, people who will bring a fun and exciting spirit to your organisation
  • Compassion: It is important to always remember why you have volunteered;  it must be the ability to bring change to the library field, improving the life of our users and communities we serve not only in your country or region but also by thinking globally. You should be able to learn and understand that all regions and countries are not at the same level of development, and be able to engage and again listen to and accept different viewpoints.
  • Positive attitude : this is key since you will be challenged and be pushed out of your comfort zones, you will work with diverse people from different cultures. It is important to be respectful and cautious at all times.

What benefits does volunteering with IFLA, in your experience, bring to you and those around you? 

Te Paea: There are so many benefits, but three for each

Personal benefits – Give back to the sector (it’s always better to give than receive); Professional learning and development (exposure to diverse international good practice); Refine valuable soft skills (develop an array of soft skills that are transferable and enhance your personal and professional life)

Community benefits – Advocacy (ensure all voices are heard and are represented in IFLA); Closer to the heart of IFLA (in touch with matters at the centre of the global community, a boots on the ground look, that can inform regional and local initiatives); Strengthened global networking (great way to expand your community’s overall network of peers, contacts and collaboration opportunities).

Nthabi: I would suggest the following: Professional Growth and the satisfaction of giving back to the community and knowing that you are improving people’s lives. Contributing to the development of your region and country. Meeting new people and creating networks with colleagues from all over the globe.

Putting the Library on the agenda of the governments and ensuring that IFLA becomes a sustainable, diverse and respected association in the world.

Collaboration with organisations that are outside the Library field. This elevates the LIS profession.

How important is it for IFLA to get a diverse range of people to come forward for volunteer roles? 

Te Paea: A global federation must represent the diversity of the global community. Given this, it is essential to ensure that equitable access to volunteer opportunities in IFLA  is prioritised and match fit.

Nthabi: We need to ensure that all voices from around the world are heard. We should uplift LIS services and make sure that no country or region is left behind.

What is the most common misconception you come across about volunteering with IFLA? What is your response to this? 

Te Paea: Volunteering at IFLA is stressful. In reality, working with or for the benefit of  others, staying active and expanding your worldview adds up to a healthier lifestyle and evolved perspective that impacts you personally and professionally.

Nthabi: it is a paying Job and it is also for Directors and senior managers

IFLA is an association for all library types and everyone who is in the library field can participate regardless of the level of your job. The professional sections accommodate all fields and specialities. There is a buffet menu that one can choose from and engage.

About the payment: IFLA is an association that depends on donations and membership fees just like all our library associations, there is no salary. It is a volunteering position therefore no salary.

Unfortunately you will have to have some form of financial commitment to ensure you get to conferences. But there is an opportunity to work remotely as a co-opted member.