Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Carla Lehn, California State Library

Jun 2, 2015 2:40 PM ET

Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Carla Lehn, California State Library

VolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement. In this series of blog posts, get to know these #35experts and their areas of expertise.

Today’s expert: Carla Campbell Lehn, CVA, Library Programs Consultant at California State Library.

First of all, what is your chapter about?
It’s about how the California State Library pioneered a statewide effort to bring the concept of skilled volunteer engagement to 183 municipal, county and special district libraries who oversee 1100+ library buildings.

Why is this topic important?
People who haven’t been in a library for a long time may not be aware of its modern roles. Engaging community members as skilled volunteers not only helps libraries enhance or expand critical services, but once those volunteers see what’s going on in today’s libraries, they are transformed into strong library supporters and advocates. Surveys of these volunteers show that they go out and tell people about what the library has to offer, and even invite their friends to volunteer!

Explain your background on this topic. (In other words, what makes you a “volunteer engagement expert?”)
I began my career as a VISTA volunteer. After receiving a Masters in Community Development from the University of California, Davis, I worked for United Way for over a decade.

Before joining the staff of the California State Library in 2001 to work on state-wide literacy, volunteerism and community involvement projects, I was a private consultant based in Hawaii in the areas of volunteer engagement, board development, program design, and community collaboration. I was the first resident of Hawaii to earn the CVA (Certification in Volunteer Administration.)

I’ve authored several published articles on volunteerism, as well as the State Library’s book: “Volunteer Involvement in California Libraries: Best Practices.”

Also, I’ve  always been an active volunteer myself. My longest volunteer commitment? Being a Girl Scout leader and volunteer for 20+ years. The most peaceful? Serving as “Whale Counter” for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

What did you learn and/ or struggle with when writing your chapter?
I found it difficult to narrow it down to share the most important things with others. The initiative has had so many exciting turns and great successes — even some unexpected ones! I hope what I was able to do was to provide a kind of success “checklist” for those who want to attempt a project on a large scale. It helped that I am currently working with state libraries in three other states who would like to replicate the model — I think that their questions and our work together helped to synthesize the critical elements.

What is the one piece of advice you would give volunteer managers to take with them to the future?
Don’t try to implement every concept everywhere all at one time. Start with a few “pilot” testers — individuals or organizations who are excited about the ideas and ready to take a shot at it. Helping them to create successes that can be shared with their peers is the best way to help others see the possibilities and want to get in the game too.

To read Carla’s full chapter, Leading Big Volunteer Operationsorder your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.