Written by Stanley Hong

Franklin Patrao, State Library Victoria Greeter

Volunteers are the lifeblood of State Library Victoria, and enrich the space with their passion and enthusiasm for educating visitors. With National Volunteer Week upon us, the 2021 theme of recognise, reconnect and reimagine couldn’t be more appropriate as we celebrate the return of our volunteer tours from 18 June.

In rejoicing the return of our volunteers, we recognise that although they weren’t able to help visitors in person during 2020, their tireless efforts continued through what turned out to be the Library’s longest closure in its 165 year history.

During lockdown, several Collection Development & Description virtual volunteers dedicated over 2000 hours to improving the accessibility of Victorian newspapers on the Trove database. Trove provides free worldwide access to digital collection items from Australian libraries, universities, galleries and archives, and the volunteers scoured every line to make sure that anyone in the world could still easily access vital, digital information.

Lockdown denied the Library family the opportunity to connect with one another in person, which was particularly difficult for some of our volunteers who were also international students, and away from their families. However, lockdown became an opportunity for the Library to reimagine how to better support our volunteers. Recognising the challenges facing some of our international student volunteers, Susan McLaine, Coordinator for the volunteer greeters, implemented a buddy system that paired up greeters for emotional and practical support.

Franklin Patrao and Vignesh Gopalakrishnan were two volunteers who benefitted from the buddy system, with both using each other as emotional support during the depths of lockdown.

“Vignesh and I proactively reached out to each other and had regular online catch-ups. We became anchors of support to each other,” says Franklin.

The dedication Susan showed to the greeters, and the greeters showed to each other, was a source of strength during such a difficult time. As Vignesh notes, “the support and help offered by the greeters community helped me bounce back and gave me positivity and new hope in my life.”

With volunteers about to make a return, reconnect takes on extra meaning as members of the public once again get to experience the joy of learning about the wonders of the Library from people passionate about the space.

Welcome back, Library volunteers. We’ve missed you.

Discover the Library’s History of the Library volunteer tours, running every Friday and Saturday morning.

Vignesh Gopalakrishnan, State Library Victoria Greeter

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