East Sussex Libraries are open and we’re thrilled to have you all back in to visit. Our team of librarians are on hand to help with anything you may need, but did you know how much the library services also relies on our glorious volunteers? So many of our  services are supported by volunteers, from IT for You, to Rhymetime with the kids.

To celebrate Volunteers’ Week we have asked a few of our volunteers to tell us about their experiences and how much they love giving back to their local communities.

Philip Hurst – Home Library Service and IT for You volunteer, Eastbourne

“I first started volunteering with the library service as a home library volunteer – selecting, delivering and returning books for people who can’t get to a library themselves. I knew from my work with older people how important it is for people to find ways of continuing with their hobbies and pastimes if getting out and about becomes more difficult. I could also fit this volunteering around other commitments I had. I’ve got to meet some lovely people, who I wouldn’t otherwise have come across. In chatting about the books they like (and those they don’t!) I’ve heard some very interesting stories about the lives they have led – things you would never guess.

“I also started volunteering with IT for You at Eastbourne library, helping clients to use computers, tablets, smartphones etc. I’m not an IT person myself, and sometimes that helps because I can’t use technical language to describe things. But it’s good to have colleagues who are more IT-savvy; they are always happy to help-out. It’s great to see people getting more confident each week, and able to use the computer to do the things they want.

“One of the most rewarding roles has been to be part of a project set up with Mencap – to support a small group of people with learning disabilities to use the libraries’ computers. Everyone seemed to get a lot out of it, working on projects that were important to them.”

Charmaine Hill – Step Into Reading, Hastings

“I feel very strongly that everyone should be able to read not only as an essential skill, but as an enriching experience. I therefore leapt at the chance to become a reading mentor with the ‘Step into Reading’ programme.

“I was so disappointed when the pandemic halted the programme and I have missed it greatly. Not only had my learner and I built up such a great rapport but she was so keen to learn and to improve her prospects. However, I also gained greatly from the experience. I felt so humbled by the high regard that my learner held me in and I have enjoyed the experience so much. I feel that I am doing something so worthwhile and I am delighted to be back and with the same learner.”

Tanja Woodgate – Bookends, Eastbourne

“My volunteer role at Eastbourne library consists of facilitating the smooth running of the bookshop by providing assistance to customers looking to buy specific books.

I have been volunteering for several years and love the sense of purpose it gives me and it keeps me mentally and physically stimulated. Through the volunteer role my confidence has increased knowing that I can provide a helpful service to the local community.”

Annie Harper – Rhymetime, Peacehaven

“It was August 2019 when I first saw the flyer for a Rhyme Time Volunteer at our local Library in Peacehaven.  My 6-year-old daughter had been set a summer reading project and we got to talking to the lovely ladies behind the desk.  It made me feel sad that they were unable to run the group as they didn’t have a volunteer.  I used to attend when my daughter was little and I loved knowing that I had the group to look forward to on a Friday.  I was very new to Peacehaven when I had my daughter and didn’t know many people at all.  The group was always very welcoming and it was a free.  Attending each Friday felt like a real achievement, it’s not easy with a new-born and not knowing anyone but my daughter and I loved it and I would feel really positive after attending.  Sometimes my Mum would come with us too when she visited and she still has such fond memories of going too.

“I had never done any volunteering before but knowing how important this free group was to me in the early stages of motherhood, I felt like I needed to step up and support them.  I was extremely nervous; I can sing but I’m not an expert but I went for it anyway.  I can honestly say, it was one of the best decisions I had ever made.  I was extremely well supported by all involved and have made some really lovely friends at the library.

“I really enjoyed growing the group and getting to know everyone and seeing people coming out of themselves and making friends.  Singing and dancing with the babies & toddlers each week and seeing their little smiles, would bring me so much joy.  I’m so happy that I can give back to my community that helped me when I needed it.

 Find out about all the different library volunteer roles on the East Sussex County Council website