Volunteering is very rewarding — but there’s no money in it!

June 2nd, 2019

This blog coincides with Volunteers' Week, June 1st -7th, so we are focusing on our library volunteers and their achievements.

It cannot be emphasised enough: everyone who works in and for our library is a volunteer.

That includes all the trustees, the IT co-ordinator, the volunteer co-ordinators, the library assistants, PR team, cleaners, cataloguers, book update team … yes, everyone is a volunteer!

We estimate that over 12,000 volunteer hours will be expended in our first year. Now that we open the library on Fridays, these numbers will increase even further. That's not counting all the hours put in before the library opened.

Volunteers give their time depending on their availability. Some can just manage a couple of hours, once a fortnight, while for others it's like a full time job.


Sue makes sure we are all singing from the same hymn sheet

Sue has an enormous job looking after all our volunteers, who now number 103, of whom 85 are currently active in running the library.

That requires getting along with all sorts of people, which Sue relishes. She loves to find the right niche for all every individual. Sue says that most volunteers have similar aspirations for the library - to make it a welcoming place where people can get together and feel a sense of community.

The closure of Safeways and other shops in North Harrow, has left a void of places for people to just casually meet and say hello. Sue particularly wants to include marginalised groups in our community. This is evidenced by including More than just a choir, a Harrow-based choir consisting of people with mental health issues, in our events, and welcoming volunteers with some special needs.

Start a choir

Sue aspires to start our own choir by next winter, when people are particularly looking for ways of getting out to a warm, safe space. If you are able to start this up, Sue would love to hear from you. She would also like to start a class or group for people with dementia in the future, or children with emotional difficulties. But it is early days for our library and it may take some time.

Three Rings

Sue willingly acknowledges that IT is not her forte. She has had a lot of help from Fatima setting up 3 Rings, which is a computer program designed to help organise the rota for the nine shifts (including Fridays) per week. She says she feels joy when she comes in at lunchtime seeing that everybody has turned up in the morning and everybody has also turned up for the afternoon.

Sue's background is in nurseries and the voluntary sector. She used to train nursery nurses at Stanmore College, having owned a couple of nurseries. She ran the L.B. Harrow volunteer scheme, which recruited independent visitors for children in care.

Sue is a director of Voluntary Action Harrow (VAH), which is a co-operative, supporting charities by, for example, running safeguarding programs. Sue and her colleague, Asia, ran safeguarding training for all volunteers and trustees.

A lifelong Harrow resident, Sue listens to everybody and doesn't take against people easily. Although she loves reading to little ones in the rhyme times on Thursday afternoons, she is now looking for someone else to take this over, since her other work as volunteer coordinator is extremely time consuming. If you would like to volunteer at NHCL, then Sue is your "go to" person. She will help match you to the right job for you. Sue herself is the perfect match for us!


Don't be shy - Judy invites you to join our book club

(Meets on the last Thursday of each month at 1.30.pm)

Judy loves getting actively involved in the community, after a career in the city which gave little time for her to get to know her neighbours. As a child, she used to virtually live at her local library on Saturdays, and she appreciates the ability of books to transport you to another world. Judy set up the NHCL Book Club, which now has eight members, with room for seven more. Members take it in turns to choose the book that everyone reads by the next meeting. The group's variety of tastes means that members are introduced to genres and authors they might not ordinarily have read.

Judy described a lively discussion about child soldiers in their most recent book, "A WellTempered Heart" by Jan-Philipp Sendker, set in Burma. Can we rise above the atrocities that we have witnessed? You don't need much experience or expertise to get involved in the library, Judy suggests. Although some may feel shy and intimidated, everyone at NHCL is very welcoming and friendly.


Greta keeps our books in order (no, not the library books)

Greta found the time to get more involved in local activities, such as Zumba classes and tennis, once she reduced her working week to three days, as she approaches retirement.

She also finds time now to support local causes like the Scouts and, of course, NHCL. As a qualified ACCA accountant and a Financial Controller in her day job, Greta has brought her professional skills to the library. She is not only involved with carrying out the accounting function for the library but has been instrumental in making grant applications to raise vital monies to ensure a successful start to the community library.

Greta’s biggest success so far has been the award of almost £10k from “The Big Lottery Awards for All” fund which was to help us extend the library opening hours and cover our increased running cost as a result of it.

Where the money goes

Greta says we need to raise £25K a year to pay our basic costs such as gas, electricity, water and insurance, service charge, telephone/internet fees and to ensure the library remains open and continues to build on our success so far.

Any other spending, such as on new books, is in addition to the £25K.

Applying for grants might seem an obvious way to raise money, but it is not normally possible to get grants for running costs. They must be for delivery of specific projects. For example, the £4k award from the John Lyon's Charity for children's art classes over February and Easter half terms, was for the delivery of 20 free art sessions for 240 children aged between 4 and 10 and, from this grant, only a small amount went towards paying for the library’s running cost.

Every little helps

For the months of March and April we were one of the charities chosen for the Tesco blue tokens scheme, which is funded by the “Tesco’s Bags of Help” Community Grants. For this grant we applied specifically to use the money to buy new books. With the support of Tesco customers putting in tokens for us we hope to be awarded around £2K towards buying our first new books.

Our business plan is to raise at least £10K from renting the library to other organisations and individuals. As the word spreads about the library, hiring out of the library space is increasing.

The diverse range of uses includes health seminars, training sessions, yoga, meditation and even play auditions and rehearsals.

Events in the pipeline

We also hope to raise money by putting on events such as the Quiz night, and the Christmas fair. There are a number of events in the planning stage, including the Diwali and Christmas fair and the quiz night put on by the Trinity Bar on 4th of July. Please come and support us at these events.

We are extremely grateful to our community who give their time and books to the library. However, in order to be successful over the long run in keeping the library open we will need the community to support us financially through donations.

How can I donate?

There are a number of ways to donate money – by giving a cash donation every time you visit the library, and setting up a regular standing order. We will have an online donation system set up in the next few weeks. If you donate and are a tax payer, please sign a Gift Aid form too, so that we can claim an extra 25p for every £1 donated from the government.

Standing Orders and Gift Aid

Standing Orders are great because they enable us to have a regular income without any administration cost. Every penny donated goes to keeping the library running. Gift Aid and Standing Order forms are available at the front desk in the library.

'Harrow Wins' lottery

We have also subscribed to be one of the good causes for the “Harrow Wins Lottery”. You can buy Harrow Wins Lottery tickets online at www.harrowwins.co.uk. If you choose the library as the cause to support, we will receive 50p for every £1 ticket you buy, and another 10p will go to other Harrow good causes, the fund being administered by Harrow Council. Make sure you choose North Harrow Community Library as the good cause you nominate to receive the 50p per ticket.


Anita's enthusiasm for books is infectious

Anita has been sharing her love for books throughout her career as an English teacher.

She loves giving back to a library that featured large in her children's lives and her own. She used to cut out reviews of new books and bring them to the old North Harrow library staff, who would nearly always buy those books as new stock. Alas, buying new books is simply too expensive for our charity.

Books needed

We rely on donated books, and one of Anita's first jobs is to sort out post 2015 books and prioritise them for putting on the shelves. Fortunately, we have been given quite a few fiction books, but Anita would really like more current nonfiction books such as cookery and gardening. With the help of Sue U and Wendy, she decides which books to keep, give to charity (St. Luke's), Freecycle or sell. She consciously tries not to reject any book on the grounds of her own personal taste. Weeding out less used books is anongoing job, too. A list of books not borrowed since 2009, provided by Harrow libraries, has been most helpful in making a start to this. One of Anita's aims is to involve a wider range of members of the community. She helped arrange the visits of Bhamika Bhudia, an English teacher who has written dual language Gujurati/English children's books and Barbara Towell, who gave a Holocaust Memorial talk.

A welcome for everybody

She would like to make the library an even more welcoming place by having comfy chairs and coffee tables near the front of the library, for example; perhaps having a volunteer to organise coffees and teas. Organising the stock plays to Anita's skill set, but hearing the singing of The Wheels on the Bus from our youngest users on a Thursday afternoon brings joy to her heart as she relives earlier times with her own children.


Could you join us as a volunteer?

Do you have some free time to offer? Perhaps you'd like to gain some work experience, or spend time working with others in the community? Whatever your skills and however much time you have to offer, North Harrow Community Library welcomes you. Drop in to the library for a chat, or contact us:

You can also say hello on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.