Pose a problem and someone will have a solution. Share what worked for you and watch others’ eyes light up.
Those were the prevailing dynamics at Best Beginnings’ third Imagination Library training held October 13-14, 2011 in Anchorage. Forty-five volunteers came in from all over the state to learn, share, and get reinvigorated. It’s an illustration yet again of Best Beginnings’ principles about growing Imagination Library in Alaska: we’re about building community rather than simply delivering books.
That approach has won praise from The Dollywood Foundation. Dollywood President David Dotson calls Alaska “exemplary,” a leader in the nation, and one of the best examples of integrating Imagination Library into a statewide early childhood strategy.
The October gathering, which featured presentations on advocacy, baby brain development, and volunteer recruitment, included plenty of time for the volunteers to talk informally among themselves about ideas and challenges.
For most participants, learning what each other tried in their communities was the most valuable part of the training. Seward/Moose Pass Imagination Library organized a Summer Read to Me Program. North Slope Imagination Library takes a display on baby brain development to health fairs. Emmonak Imagination Library goes to great lengths to find the parents to enroll their children – to bingo, Eskimo dance practice, grocery stores – even calling relatives. And Upper Tanana Imagination Library attaches to any and every community event, whether Flag Day or the Migratory Bird Festival.
The main focus of the training was volunteer management: how to attract and keep good volunteers, which are the lifeblood of Imagination Library. Toni Massari McPherson, Anchorage Association for Volunteer Administration, helped participants look at the issue from the volunteers’ perspectives.
Among her recommendations: Determine what a prospective volunteer wants to do and find work within your organization that matches that interest. If you have a particular need, recruit prospects likely to have the skills to do it. Teamwork is important, too. Volunteers want to feel like they’re part of the team, so hold meetings or gatherings to foster teamwork. In the end, that’s what October was about also: recognizing we’re all part of Alaska’s Best Beginnings Imagination Library team.