National Volunteers’ Week 2022

This week (1-7 June) is Volunteers’ Week and we’re taking this opportunity both to thank our current volunteers and launch some new heritage volunteering opportunities

Firstly a huge thanks to A, C, J and R for being excellent heritage volunteers. They all began pre Covid but have stuck with us through lockdowns and closures and continued to volunteer their time from home to open up some of our library collections. Together they have indexed over half of our print card catalogue and it’s proving very useful already. We are so grateful for all your hard work over the last couple of years, despite all the challenges that life has thrown at us.

Now on to the exciting news that we have carefully put together some new heritage volunteering opportunities. These are open to all – please email to ask for an application form.

The opportunities vary and some can be carried out from home, while others can only be done within Leeds Central Library. You’ll be able to visit us when best suits you – remember we’re open til 8pm every Monday – Thursday and open every Saturday 10-4.

So….. what kind of things could you be doing. All sorts really, but all with the same objectives – to make our local history collections more accessible for the people of Leeds.

Perhaps you would like to improve our playbill collection? We have over 5,000 playbills accessible on our photographic website (Leodis) but not all of these have the year of the performance listed. One volunteering task would be to try to determine which years certain shows took place through a variety of means – full training provided.

Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal, unknown year (c) Leeds Libraries

Are you any good at reading old handwriting? We house the Mary Gawthorpe Papers on microfilm in Central Library, which is a wonderful collection of letters, postcards and photographs from the local suffragist, socialist and teacher. But we are having a bit of trouble reading some of these letters and need some help. You will be provided with copies of letters and tasked with providing transcriptions and this can be done at home or in the library.

Handwritten letter from Mary Gawthorpe to Christabel Pankhurst, 1933

Another opportunity would be to work with our WWI Flag Day Committee correspondence. This was the committee charged with fund raising during WWI to send comforts those serving on the front and is full of letters and postcards. You’ll have access to these wonderful original documents that need sorting and indexing. Certainly a task for a local history lover.

Letter from Thomas Hand from Central Library to the Flag Day Committee, 1918 (c) Leeds Libraries

You might also like to help us to index our collection of newspaper cuttings in old scrapbooks. Several of these contain newspaper articles concerning Leeds Public Libraries and date from the late 19th century to mid 20th century. You’ll be able to read these articles and index them so they will be lots easier to locate in the future.

The sporting fans among our potential volunteers might like to take on the task of itemising and indexing our large collection of Leeds United fanzines, matchday programmes and ephemera – most of which date from the 1990s onwards. We’re primarily interested in creating a database of local people – fans, club employees – and businesses associated with the club, it’s on and off-field activities. This is a great chance for someone with a keen interest in football – Leeds United specifically – to spend time trawling through memories of three tumultuous decades in the club’s recent history. (No crying when you get to the Bielsa years!)

Crowd of people, mainly women, with football trophy
Image shows the smiling staff of Hepworths Ltd., tailoring factory in Claypit Lane, as they crowd round to admire the English League Division One Trophy won by Leeds United in 1973/4. (c) Leeds Libraries,

Finally, and very differently, we have an activity that will appeal to anyone with a keen interest in politics – particularly local politics. We hold a vast collection of material produced by Leeds City Council, mainly from the 19th-century and into the 20th-century, and including minutes of meetings, committee reports and Council publications of all kinds. You’ll be performing an extensive search through our catalogues and physical stock to itemise what we have – including titles but also brief descriptions – for a potential research guide to this rich collection. This is a great opportunity to really immerse yourself in some serious (sometimes very-dry) local history material.

We hope to offer other volunteering tasks in the coming months so subscribe to our newsletter to hear about upcoming events and opportunities.

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