|Standing out from the crowd|
That having been said, I think if you can fit voluntary work experience in somewhere, it is absolutely fantastic and will never go wrong on your CV. It is a really difficult position to be in, when you want a job in a particular field, but you don't have enough or the right experience - how do you get it, if no one will give you a chance? Sadly it's probably becoming even harder to break into new fields in this climate, as there is so much more competition for every role now. While I now have a decent amount of experience in law libraries, I have virtually no experience in any other library/information field. I volunteered in my college library at uni, and I did some voluntary work at my local library helping out with a children's reading scheme that I absolutely loved, but the latter was while I was working full time AND studying for my MSc, and so I was pretty shattered by the end of it. I would really like to do more in the children's field, because I think this kind of voluntary experience is not only useful in itself, but I believe also shows some commitment to the field you want to get into.
I realise this is different, BUT the principal is the same - when I was 14 years old I desperately wanted a Saturday job more than anything else, but I lived near a big city so there were no local shops willing to turn a blind eye to the fact I didn't have an NI number! So I had no choice to wait til I was 16 to find paid work...and in the interim, I worked in an Oxfam shop every Saturday in term time, and at least twice a week in the school holidays. It was actually fantastic experience in terms of the retail field I wanted to get a Saturday job in when I was 16, and I even made a very good friend with whom I still keep in contact. When I turned 16 I applied to loads of department stores and I got a weekend job in one 3 weeks after my birthday! So I know this is hardly a professional career, but the principal is the same - they liked the fact that I had gone out there and got some experience in dealing with the public, and it definitely made me a bit more confident once I was actually in a 'proper' shop.
All in all I would definitely say that if you can make it work financially (and sadly this can be a big barrier) - but if you can make it feasible, it's a fantastic way of showing you are committed to breaking into a particular field, and in gaining some solid experience of that field that will actually be useful when it comes to obtaining paid employment in it.
Image courtesy of: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1152