31 May 2007
Volunteers are of great importance in the Oxford University libraries, helping in two major departments of the library services: the Accessible Resources Acquisition and Creation Unit (ARACU) and the Bodleian Library Visitor Tours. Their invaluable help is being celebrated during Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June).
The Accessible Resources Acquisition and Creation Unit (ARACU) produces library resources for disabled people. One important aspect of this work is the creation of digital ‘talking books’ for the visually impaired. These are recorded by volunteers (see photo) who read anything from literary works to medical textbooks out loud in sound-proof booths in the ARACU centre in the University Library Services building on the Osney Mead Industrial Estate.
There is a loyal team of 30 volunteers who commit themselves to one hour a week, or to two hours fortnightly, at a fixed time. Many of them have been doing this for several years. Some of them also help out with making large-print copies on the scanner and photocopier. These volunteers make a genuine contribution to the lives of dyslexic or visually impaired students.
The Unit is registering thanks to them by holding a garden party at Harris Manchester College. In addition to the ARACU volunteers and staff, invitations have been sent to students who use the service and to other University staff including the Disability Offices team.
Another group which gives vital support is the team of Bodleian Library Volunteer Guides who give their time to show visitors around and who have a wealth of knowledge which they share with great enthusiasm.
This is the twentieth year of the Volunteer Guides. In 1987 Dr Charles Mould, then Secretary, under the Librarianship of David Vaisey, initiated regular guided tours for visitors of the library and recruited a team of Volunteer Guides. The tours soon proved to be extremely popular and demand has increased year on year. The guides have welcomed thousands of visitors, local residents as well as citizens from other regions in the UK and visitors from abroad.
There are now 40 Guides, under the leadership of Leslie Critchlow, who is Chief Guide. Later this year retired and current Guides will get together to share memories in the fifteenth-century Divinity School, a favourite spot for tourists.
During Volunteers’ Week (www.volunteersweek.org.uk) organizations in Britain which work with volunteers are holding a variety of events as gestures of appreciation and thanks. Volunteers add billions of pounds of value to the nation’s economy each year but their contribution to social capital and social cohesion transcends monetary value. So much of the practical and social support for vulnerable groups, endangered species and care of our environment is achieved through volunteer time and effort.
The University libraries would like to use this opportunity to give public thanks to their volunteers who work so hard behind the scenes and who contribute so much.