New York State Library Volunteer Opportunities

On Friday, October 14th the New York State Library hosted a volunteer orientation for students from the University at Albany Information Science Department.

The meeting featured NYSL Director Loretta Ebert, as well as the section heads for the Documents and Digital Collections, Collection Development, Talking Book and Braille and Reference, and Technical Services & Systems departments.

As Ms Ebert mentioned in her opening remarks, the NYSL “depends on student assistance,” especially in the current climate of fiscal austerity. The Library is offering hands-on volunteer opportunities that involve directly applying the skills we are learning in the classroom in the setting of an ARL member institution. During the the spring 2011 semester, several of our volunteers were subsequently hired as paid student assistants. At the very least, this is a unique opportunity to get valuable experience and burnish your resume while still in school!

The following is a brief summary of some of the volunteer options available. Bear in mind that the NYSL staff is open to working with students to create a personalized volunteer experience that encompasses each individual’s unique skill sets.

The NYSL would like a student commitment of 5-10 hours per week. Students will need to complete a volunteer form and will receive ID badges to gain access to the NYSL, which is located in the Cultural Education Center on Madison Avenue, along with the New York State Archives and Museum.

Those interested please e-mail me at with your contact information/interests and I will forward this to Ms. Ebert and get the process going. Thank you for your interest.


Within the past year the NYSL received a grant to add to its public computing section, which includes 40 computers and accompanying classrooms. With limited funding, the library has not been able to hire staff to promote the availability of this resource. Students have the opportunity to facilitate classes/lectures to the public on any number of computer-related topics, from basic word-processing to video conferencing. 

Manuscripts and Special Collections:

The NYSL has an Industry Standards Collection, with thousands of standards that need cataloging. This project might include creating databases, finding aids and a web page to highlight the collection.

There are also opportunities available with collections of education, military history and federal/state documents. One particular area mentioned was helping to create a virtual exhibit of the NYSL’s collection of Civil War manuscripts and letters.. Another working with a collection of zines donated to the library by Fact Sheet Five, a guide to zines and other independent media.

Talking Book and Braille:

Assist in outreach, creating of subject headings and processing of the Talking Book and Braille program, which is funded jointly by the state and federal governments. The program circulates more than 10,000 books and technology a week to visually impaired residents around the state.

Documents and Digital Collections:

Assist in the migration of materials from the library’s warehouse in the state education building to the the NYSL. This project includes boxing and weeding thousands of unique documents, many of which are more than 200 years old. Some of these documents will be put up for sale. Assistance is needed marketing this for sale material to the public through social media and other avenues. Items from the warehouse also need to be checked against the library’s catalog to determine what is retained in the collection and what is sold.


Again, this is only a partial list of opportunities. Forward me your interests/skills and the library will work with you to find a rewarding volunteer project.


Jeremy Schwartz
Vice President, Student Chapter of the American Library Association (SCALA)


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