Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to consider the preliminary findings arising from two case study library authorities in the North East of England, examining current volunteer use in Public Libraries. Specific reference to quality and professionalism will be discussed, to identify key trends and ways forward. Design/methodology/approach - This research involved a series of interviews with key staff, a staff survey, user survey and volunteer focus groups. Findings - The early-stage results of the qualitative analysis are reported, including key emergent themes relating to quality and professionalism. Triangulation of the key stakeholder opinions will be carried out. Research limitations/implications - This research relates to an area that is a key factor of modern public library provision, and helps to illustrate the complex environment that exists. Practical implications - Volunteer use in public libraries is a feature of the hybrid model of library provision in the twenty-first century, and the need to ensure quality and professionalism to improve service provision is even more critical. Social implications - This research considers current thinking amongst stakeholders within public libraries and attempts to move the debate about volunteer use in library service provision forward. Originality/value - It provides initial thoughts on what features are essential for successful volunteer use in public libraries, with regard to quality and professionalism.