Volunteer-Powered Computer Classes

I coordinate the NetMaster program for the King County Library System. NetMasters are volunteer computer instructors who lead classes in the community libraries based on existing curriculum. Potential volunteers apply via our website and I contact them for orientation and training—this process is manageable, but does keep me pretty busy. Here is how it goes:

  1. NetMaster fills out online application and fills out background check
  2. NetMaster observes another instructor teaching anywhere in the system
  3. NetMaster meets with me for orientation and to go over training manuals
  4. NetMaster teaches first class with me observing and I provide feedback


Once the NetMaster has gone through these steps, they begin communicating with a branch contact that creates class schedules. I just attended a pretty exciting Advanced Volunteer Management Training put on by Betty Stalling (www.bettystallings.com) and now I’m really jazzed to start addressing the training process for staff who deal with the NetMasters. Among many suggestions and tips, Betty really encouraged us to recognize not just the volunteers who make the program work, but also the staff who interact with them on the ground level. I’m in the process of planning the first every recognition event for NetMasters (the program started in 1997) and I’m wishing I had more time to include a staff recognition piece, but I’m happily adding that to the list for next year. I’m finding that staff throughout the system (there are classes in about 35 out of 43) branches schedule and organize the classes in different ways. It is my plan to develop a comprehensive and brief training manual for staff working with the NetMasters so there can be a more cohesive and clear process for the program.

I’m asking staff for feedback about what can make their experience dealing with NetMasters better. They are all busy with other duties and would love to see the process streamlined and would appreciate clarity. I’m wondering, do you deal with volunteers? What ideas do you have for making the whole process easier?

Amber Slaven is the Public Computer Instruction Coordinator at the King County Library System in WA.