Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study
How are libraries making a difference?
The Pima County Public Library (PCPL) is partnering with Pima County ONESTOP Career Centers to offer Job Help at ten PCPL branches. Job Help includes job and employment-related computer classes and dedicated computer time for dislocated workers and others seeking jobs in the community. Job Help takes place in library computer labs on public computers reserved for job-seeking, and in mobile career centers--library meeting spaces outfitted with laptop computers. PCPL staffs Job Help with computer instructors who cover Job Help sessions, as well as the other basic computer classes offered at the library. This program started with a pilot of 8 branches in the summer of 2009, but it has grown and currently serves ten library branches. Job Help occurs for at least 4 hours, and usually for 8 hours, per week at each site. PCPL has also purchased 25 new laptops and WinWay Resume builder, the same resume software used by ONESTOP. WinWay is available on all of the library system’s public access computers and on laptops in the mobile career centers. Computer instructors attend training at ONESTOP on the use of this resume software.
A team of library staff members, “the Job Help Oversight Committee” compiled the curriculum to round out the program offerings at Job Help. The curriculum or the “Job Help Toolkit” includes setting up an email account, skills assessment, online job searching, online job applications, and “how to research a career and an employer.” This curriculum menu combines what had already been offered at several libraries via online job searching classes, and added some online elements related to ONESTOP’s Employability Skills curriculum, as well as databases and other career resources to which librarians refer job seekers at the library. The toolkit evolves as libraries discover new customer needs.
Program priorities include identifying resources and services that can aid job seekers in their career exploration and job search, improving the attractiveness of a job seeker or candidate for a job, and making job seekers more employable.
Ms. Elsie Werdin spent almost two weeks trying to get the information she needed to enroll her and her husband in Medicare Part D and ensure her husband’s expensive medications would be included in the plan she chose before her pharmacist recommended she head to the Pasco County Library System (Fla.) for help. “One day I waited on the phone 45 minutes before I hung up,” she said. “For anyone without a computer, you’re really out of luck.”
Ms. Werdin is a library card holder, but had never used the library’s computers or online resources. With assistance from the library’s e-government librarian Nancy Fredericks, she was able to complete the online information and get enrolled in less than 30 minutes. “I really received high-quality assistance and exceptionally pleasant care at the library,” Werdin said.
The Pasco library provided e-government services to more than 9,100 people from October 2008 to March 31, 2009, up 177 percent over the same period one year ago. Using funds from a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, the library has purchased and provided laptops in each of its seven branches to help alleviate wait times for library computers. “The laptops provided so much relief. Some people had been waiting two hours for a library computer,” Fredericks said. In order, the highest library e-government uses in the past year have been around Food Stamps, employment resources and unemployment resources.
Unfortunately, Pasco County library branches are now closed Mondays in the wake of FY2009 funding cuts. “What are people going to do for assistance when the public libraries close? Most do not have access to free computer service anywhere but in the public library. Many don't have computer skills and have nowhere to go to learn the skills except the public library. Yet public libraries are being closed and staff laid off,” said library director Linda Allen.
July 8, 2009, was the official opening of The Library Partnership Branch Library and Neighborhood Resource Center. This facility combines a full-service branch library with a neighborhood resource (social services) center focused on a foster care redesign program. The Alachua County Library District (ACLD) joined with the Partnership for Strong Families (PSF), the lead agency for the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) in this community, to jointly develop the 7,500 square foot storefront in the area with the highest number of children removed from homes due to abuse and neglect. The space design encourages the seamless flow between the social services office areas and the Library.
The hours of operation are nearly identical for the PSF and ACLD operations. ACLD and PSF have made a deliberate decision to treat this facility and its services as though it were one entity serving the community.
PSF, with additional support from the Casey Foundation, had initiated an intervention program based on getting social service support to families identified as at risk for child removal. ACLD has extensive experience providing e-government services. This facility places library expertise that supports social service programs (reading, computer and family literacy, job skills training, health information and programs, assistance with filling out forms, computer access, etc.) in the same facility where the social services are being offered. This should make it easier for clients to receive the support suggested by the social service agencies. This, in turn, should increase the probability of success for the clients and reduce the number of children being removed from homes.
More than 25 social service program staff will rotate through the facility to offer a one-stop center for assistance. ACLD, PSF, and DCF staff members meet with the agency representatives monthly to coordinate programs and to familiarize each other with our respective services. The social service agency workers have been surprised at the types and depth of services the public library offers to complement their work.
This project happened suddenly. In October 2008, DCF staff presented a program about the foster care redesign effort and stated they were looking for a partner agency. ACLD staff attending the meeting approached DCF and PSF and the details were worked out and a site selected within a few weeks. From first discussions about this partnership to the opening has taken 8 months. ACLD appreciates the support of the State Library of Florida, which assisted the project with mid-year LSTA funding.
The Alachua County Library District also partners with Florida Works, the local one stop career center, to bring programs that provide assistance with job hunting skills in a series called “You’re Hired!: The Skills You Need to Find a Job.” The library also offers two desktops and one laptop computer that provide unlimited access to unemployment and government assistance Web sites such as Employ Florida, Unemployment, and Department of Children and Family Services (DCF). Additionally, we continue to offer classes on computer basics, word processing and email. The Alachua County Library District is currently working on a Northeast Florida Library Information Network (NEFLIN) grant that is providing e-Government training to public library staff throughout this region.
Gene Brooks was laid off in March from his job as an aircraft inspector. When he started working at USAir almost 20 years ago, the employment process was all in paper. When he was laid off in 2003, it was a mix of paper and online applications. Now it’s all online. To conserve finances, Mr. Brooks stopped his Internet access and reduced to a basic phone line (saving about $70/month). He also has talked with the bank to make arrangements so that he can keep his home and his vehicle.
“The Middleburg-Clay Hill library has been instrumental in my job search. I’m now on my seventh resume revision – all done at the library. Everything I’ve done is online.” He also has filed for unemployment benefits at the library and is looking at books online to secure additional certification that will allow him to apply for more jobs in more places in his career area. He is hopeful to begin working under a new contract in October.
Mr. Brooks was an occasional library user before, but not of library technology resources. He is now at the library three to four days a week. While library staff members do a good job trying to manage everything, he said, there are often people waiting to use the computers. “I’m pretty patient, but it can be frustrating. Sometimes it takes time to find the right form and fill it out, but the time limit is 30 minutes if someone is waiting to use the computer. Sometimes you have to stop right in the middle of what you’re doing.” The library branch has nine computers. Library patrons can get additional computer time if no one is waiting, but they have to log in again.
“County officials are now talking about taking away the printers and cutting hours at the library, but most people are here looking for jobs. Losing these services would have a real impact,” Mr. Brooks said.
In the state of Georgia commercial truck drivers are required to renew their CDL license. When it was time to renew this time all libraries in Georgia had an influx of truck drivers who were referred to the library to renew their license. Renewing required viewing an online video and answering some questions online. It also required an e-mail address to receive the confirmation when they finished. Many of the truck drivers had never used a computer before. We assisted many with getting e-mail addresses and practically took many of them through the entire process. For those truck drivers who had some experience with computers it took sometimes a day or two to renew.
Before they could renew we had to get many of them to understand how to get an e-mail address, then how to get to the site and navigate the site. Truck drivers who had previous computer experience; had an e-mail address; and understood how to use a computer renewed their license in about 2 hours with no problem.
Two hours is the time limit for the library system for which I work for computer usage per day. One truck driver's story stands out in my memory. He came to the library and you could tell he was sick. He confided in me that he had just completed cancer treatment. He looked very feeble.He said he had to renew his license before it expired by the end of the week. We put him on a computer with his library card and after two hours he had gotten nowhere. After talking with him we figured out he had no computer experience and had actually never used one before.
After we got passed this part and he went through all the steps, we figured out he had to do it again because he didn't have an e-mail address. After he got an e-mail address he tried again and when he finished and tried to get his renewal certificate we discovered he had written the email address down incorrectly.
The next step he took was to bring his son with him, a teenager to help. They accomplished most of it but were still not able to finish because the son did not understand the logistics of renewing and how to navigate the site. Finally after a week although he still did not get his information sent to the correct e-mail address, I made a call for him to the authorities responsible for the test and asked if they could retrieve his information and fax his certificate showing he completed his requirements to the library. They did and after a week of trying and trying his license was renewed.
The Idaho Commission for Libraries began collaborating with the Idaho Department of Labor in spring 2009 to bring additional workforce resources to the citizens of Idaho through public libraries. Beginning this fall, the libraries will receive a year’s subscription to the department’s Career Information System at no cost. The Idaho Career Information System is a comprehensive computerized system for career development that helps people explore career opportunities, identify schools or sources of education and training for specific jobs and then make successful decisions about future careers or education.
The Idaho Career information System (CIS) is the only source of Idaho-specific information on jobs and training. It is widely used in all 25 Idaho Department of Labor local offices statewide.
The labor department, which has been able to provide the service because of resources received through the federal economic stimulus package, will provide training to library staff in September 2009 on CIS and the department’s primary Internet workforce development site – IdahoWorks. Job seekers can use IdahoWorks to create and update résumés and profiles, find jobs, check eligibility for unemployment benefits, file benefit claims and review benefit payment. Employers can list jobs, manage those listings, review candidates and screen applicant résumés.
“Both the Department of Labor and libraries have been investing in technology. To combine those efforts is the way to make it the most cost effective. So many IdahoWorks programs are available through the Internet, and with libraries coming in, it brings more technology infrastructure to reach more constituents,” said Gordon Graff at the Department of Labor.
Atkins Assistant Branch Manager Anika Parsons puts technology to work for young adults in the Shreveport library system. In 2007, Parsons began a Teen Life Skills program at the branch that includes email usage, Web browsing, word processing and other office applications, computer vocabulary and more; as well as resume writing, business etiquette, communication skills, and many interpersonal and workplace techniques to help Job Corps students understand the importance of and how to use these skills.
“Once the student had mastered these skills, they were given tests by Shreveport Job Corps to help them attain a performance rating which in turn would determine if they could go on to the next objective or return and go through the program again,” Parsons said. “The students loved this program for several reasons; they got a chance to utilize library skills that most of them did not know about, and there were many books and other resources that we could link them to that helped them with the process of learning these skills.
Through these workshops we have formed a strong partnership with students and staff at the local Shreveport Job Corps Center.”
In a letter to the library, the center director wrote: “As we bring this year (2008) to a close, the Shreveport Job Corps Center has attained a ranking of 38 out of 122 centers in the country, and we are still climbing. It is with your support that this has been possible. Community and employer partnerships are essential to develop a well-rounded education and our students’ preparation to enter the workforce.”
The library served 186 young adults from July 2008 to July 2009 and 166 the previous year – all of whom become registered library cardholders – through Teen Life Skills workshops.
“We had a patron trying for a job as a truck driver for Coca Cola. After some instructions from the staff (several different ones), he doggedly came back about a half dozen times, until he mastered the application process. Weeks later he came in to tell us he got the job, and he was very grateful to us for helping him. This was a rewarding experience for the staff involved. Many companies will only accept applications online now, and we are glad we can help those without computer experience.”
Kathy Radzibon, who manages the Onaway Branch Library within the Presque Isle District Library, writes that she has seen a 60 percent increase in patron use of the branch in the last year. Her northern Michigan library serves a population of about 5,000, including nine townships.
“Due to the economical handicap of this area, we find that more people are using our library services. People losing their own personal computer service at home brings more people to the library,” Radzibon says. “The library works with Michigan Works in assisting the citizens of the area with job skills, including resume writing, job applications and job search. The patron's also have access to the MEL (Michigan e-Library) database for various types of research.” The Presque Isle District Library also offers Basic computer classes and Internet classes, along with PowerPoint and Excel classes.
“Our library has also seen an increase in circulation and in loans through the MEL system. This has been a great asset to this rural area because it gives our patron a wider range of materials.”
For the past three years, Parmly Billings Library, the public library serving the 123,000 residents of Billings and Yellowstone County, Montana, has hosted Project Homeless Connect in a large meeting space within the Library. Library Director Bill Cochran, a member of the Mayor’s Committee on Homelessness and Co-Chair of the events, reports that this year’s event, held January 30, brought 47 service providers and 151 volunteers together to provide a one-day, one-stop connection to resources for 438 individuals experiencing homelessness. Partner agencies offering direct services, online benefit registration, or referrals included the Social Security Administration, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Volunteers in Service to America Income Tax Services, Montana Job Service, Montana Legal Services, Montana State University College of Nursing, Montana Vocational Rehabilitation, Riverstone City-County Health Department, Yellowstone County Commission on Aging, Family Services, Inc., Housing Authority of Billings, and the Billings MET Transit Division, among many others. Next door to the Library at the Billings School District #2 Lincoln Center gymnasium, over 500 cases of clothing and other items donated by the Billings Heights Wal-Mart Store and hygiene kits and other basic necessities donated by many other businesses and organizations in the community were distributed. Plans are already underway for next year’s event. For more information, contact Bill Cochran at CochranB@ci.billings.mt.us or (406) 657-8292.
“We are a rural library in NH experiencing a huge increase in computer use and job searches due to the economic times. As part of a literacy program I established six years ago, we have a career counselor whose workload has increased for the same reason. I have purchased two laptop computers for her to use with her clients, many of whom are now working on obtaining a GED after having lost jobs they have had for 10-20 years. New job searches require at least a GED. Our program provides study materials, tutors and the GED testing center in one location. Our career counselor works in tandem with the GED student to create resumes and do job searches. We have set up networking coffees and a local job fair.
Ironic, isn’t it, that library usage is so high and yet the threat remains of budget cuts, esp. for the coming budget year.”
When county workforce development agency DavidsonWorks (N.C.) was investigating ways to better serve displaced workers, they looked to the Davidson County Library System (N.C.) for support. “The numbers of people that need services are larger than our capacity,” said Executive Director Nancy Borrell. “The library is a natural partner – they are located in all corners of the county and have the space, computers and trained library staff we need. We’re reaching areas of the county we’ve never been able to reach before.”
Davidson County Library System Director Ruth Ann Copley and Ms. Borrell began talking almost two years ago about joining forces. Implementation of the partnership began in May 2009. “This is another way to serve our patrons when they need us most,” Ms. Copley said. DavidsonWorks, one of 24 workforce development boards in North Carolina, has three buildings for providing job training and placement services in the county. In addition to providing employment services in the libraries on a rotating basis, DavidsonWorks also is training and enabling library staff to do work on our behalf to build capacity at the library (to help job seekers). “The library already was helping people with the Internet, but now there’s a greater focus on jobs and job resources,” Ms. Borrell said.
County unemployment is above the national average – around 13.5%. In some parts of the county it is closer to 19%. Davidson has a lot of displaced workers, particularly from the textile and furniture manufacturing businesses. Employers used to recruit at the high school level, encouraging students to drop out and start working. “We cannot afford to lease a building in everyone community in the county. The beauty of the library is that they’re already established in every community,” Ms. Borrell added.
“Libraries could become a major access point for this type of service nationally, particularly in rural communities. One one-stop job center in a community is not enough.” Ms. Borrell estimates that 30 to 40 percent of displaced workers don’t know how to use a computer and may also have low literacy rates. “A lot of people with higher skill levels don’t understand the challenges many dislocated workers face.”
“An older woman came up to the reference desk and asked me for assistance getting on a computer. I thought maybe she just needed help signing on since she hadn't used our lab before. I got her signed on, and then she just sat there looking perplexed. I asked if I could help her further and she said she wasn't real comfortable with computers and didn't know where to start. So I pulled up a chair next to her and that's when she told me her story...
Her name is Ann, and she was just recently laid off from the Hanes manufacturing facility here in town. She worked there over 33 years! She has a disabled son that she takes care of so she doesn't have a whole lot of time to commit to job searching. She wanted to look for jobs online, and she knew the library had computers she could use. She said she was also hoping someone could help her learn how to use the computer. I told her she came to the right place. We not only have the computers and Internet that she needs, but we also are here to assist her in using them.
It was when I was showing her how to get to the NCESC Web site that I discovered she didn't really know how to use the mouse. So I showed her how and also told her I was planning to teach my Basic Windows class in April, which would give her some more instruction on how to use a computer. She was so thrilled to hear that.
We spent a couple minutes looking at some jobs online and then she told me she had to go. This time I was the one looking perplexed, I guess (thinking she would stay longer and look at more jobs), so she told me she already got what she came for. She said she really just wanted to come to the library today to get over this fear of using a computer. And she said she had.
It was amazing. This lady, with so much on her mind, was actually smiling by the time she left here.”
As an anchor institution in Cuyahoga County, the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL) is chartered to serve 47 communities, a population of approximately 600,000, and has an average annual visitor count of 7.4 million. The library is consistently ranked as one of the 10 busiest in the nation.
“According to local business leaders, companies are having difficulty finding individuals with the skills needed for the jobs they are bringing to Ohio,” said CCPL Director Sari Feldman. “As a result, CCPL is serving an increased number of jobseekers looking to enhance their computer/vocational skills to broaden access to job opportunities.” From 2007 to 2008, the number of individuals participating in basic computer and Microsoft Office training at the library increased 37% and continues to grow in 2009.
After seeing use of its Career Center almost double in 2009 compared with the year before and receiving significant cuts in operating funds, the library decided it needed to take action to increase its capacity. In August 2009, the library submitted its application for BTOP funding to increase the number of computers available to the public, to hire staff to provide additional training and to increase Internet access speeds from to 20Mbps from10Mbps. Operating since 1976, the Career Center provides guidance in career decision-making, constructing effective resumes, job-searching strategies, interview preparation and computer education/training.
CCPL is working to make up a projected $5.3 million shortfall in FY2009 and $9 million in FY2010 caused by a 30 percent reduction in state funding for Ohio libraries. As a result, 41 positions will be eliminated and Sunday hours will be cut at 21 of the 28 county branches starting September 13, 2009.
“I most definitely credit the computer training classes at Rocky River Library for helping me present myself as computer literate to obtain the job I have in Nursing Informatics. I have taken various Microsoft Word and Excel classes at the library and have also taken the same classes at Tri-C Corporate College West. In my assessment, the instructors at the library were superior and the class material better planned and organized. And the price difference - wow! Free versus hundreds!
Probably the most beneficial class I've taken was the class that used to be called File Maintenance. This class unlocked the mystery of files and folder setup and maintenance for me which was key to working with all the other applications. The knowledge of Windows I gained through the library classes carried over to the applications I currently work with at the Cleveland Clinic. It allowed me to combine my health care knowledge with technology knowledge to get hire as a Nursing Informatics Specialist.
I thank all of the instructors for sharing their expertise. What a wonderful service you provide.” --Barbara Mattia-Pempus
Representatives from five Franklin County area libraries (Columbus Metropolitan Library, Grandview Heights Public Library, Upper Arlington Public Library, Westerville Public Library and Worthington Libraries) are collaborating to work on job help in the county. The libraries meet monthly to share ideas, resources and plans for job help centers and programming. Together, they have planned a Job Help Day @ Your Library with job-related workshops at all five systems on September 24, 2009. They have worked together to develop the schedule of events and to publicize the activities. To make the day a success, the five area libraries have partnered with a number of governmental and non-profit agencies, including Central Ohio Workforce Investment Corporation, Jewish Family Services, Ohio State University’s Career Exploration Office and many other organizations.
In each of Worthington Libraries’ three locations, several computers are set aside as Job Help Center computers, where patrons working on job-related queries including resumes, cover letters, job searches, online applications, applying for unemployment compensation, etc. Patrons using the Job Help Center are provided ten free pages of printing. Staff has created a staff wiki as a one-stop shop for information to serve patrons’ needs. Worthington Libraries also has purchased jump drives for each service point so that if a patron is about to lose his or her work because of computer time limits then staff can save it temporarily for him or her. Additionally, Winway resume software has been purchased for all adult computers. This software allows patrons to quickly and easily make a resume or cover letter.
In addition to increased circulation at Worthington Libraries, technology usage is up, as well. Wireless usage at all three Worthington Libraries increased dramatically in 2009. In-house computer usage is up 52 percent. Circulation of digital books has increased by 25%.
There also have been a variety of publications and displays created to assist job seekers at Worthington Libraries. There are displays of resume and job-hunting books at all library locations, which have seen increased circulation. Job Help resource guides have been updated and modified for the modern job hunter. The library’s Web site was updated to include a number of job help resources, with a link prominently displayed on the library home page.
Worthington Libraries has been hosting a variety of job-help programs, including resume writing skills, interviewing, how to search for jobs and how web 2.0 can assist in your job search. Partnering with local agencies such as Ohio State University’s Career Exploration Office has made these programs very successful.
A number of patrons have commented on the effectiveness of the Job Help Center and the importance of the library in an economic downturn. One patron received extensive help from two library staff members rewriting and reformatting her resume. She also was given an overview of the various job search sites linked from our home page. At one point she marveled “…this is more than I was ever able to find on my own!” What makes this patron even more exciting is the fact that she was here on a referral from another colleague who has been actively passing the word about our Job Help Centers to friends and acquaintances outside the Library.
A frequent patron at Northwest Library was so excited by the information and resources she received at a job hunting workshop that she called the library manager to compliment the “knowledgeable and valuable staff.” She said she never has used the library more in her life than she has now. She also thanked Worthington Libraries for all the job help programs we offered, and was sure to mention all the people use the libraries a lot because they don’t have computers or high-speed access at home.
As a public building open 71 hours per week, the Abington Community Library is the second largest in Lackawanna County. Leah Ducato Rudolph, director, writes: Although there is growth in the area, a major employer, community leader and generous donor for over 72 years in the area, closed its local corporate headquarters in 1997, and the community is still adjusting to its loss. The company had employed nearly 300 local people and had provided high-paying management level positions for many. These people and others like them before and since, have turned to this library for help in times of unemployment. Joblessness among Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton area residents reached 9 percent in June 2009, a 15-year high.
Bethany Pisanchyn of Clarks Summit was one of the people who recently turned to the library when she was looking for work as a music teacher. “Over the past three months, I have found myself at the Abington Community Library for many hours a day, 4-5 days a week. One may ask what would cause me to do something like that, and I would quickly respond, “finding a job.” Ms. Pisanchyn applied to over 70 different schools using library computers after her home computer stopped working and she was unable to afford replacing it.
“The library was able to offer me a wealth of valuable resources that are not only free, but also extremely helpful in my job search. Without my own computer or Internet access, I needed some other means to assist me in this task. The library offered me up-to-date computers with fast Internet service and printing capabilities. I could easily search, review, and apply for an abundance of jobs with only a few clicks. I also was given valuable advice and assistance from the friendly library staff. One of the staff members actually informed me of the resource that ultimately led me to finding a job in my field. I am also extremely grateful to the library staff for their encouragement and support throughout my job search.
After three long, hard months of browsing job listings, completing applications, and mailing resume packets, I was delighted to celebrate my recent news with my friends at the Abington Community Library. Without the resources and help of my local library, I would have had quite a difficult time in my job search. If funding was cut, I think it would devastate the area. There are many people in the library like me who are in there all the time and need the services. I even built a curriculum for my new teaching job using library materials.”
Ben Brown also wrote to the library to thank staff for computer training he received there: “As a Clarks Green, PA resident, I would like to acknowledge the professional computer training which I received at the Abington Community Library during my recent job search. The young lady who tutored me was very knowledgeable and patient, for which I was very grateful. Our community is privileged to have such a wonderful facility and these great opportunities available.
One month after this session, I was hired at a local engineering firm. I felt confident with my computer skills thanks to this great opportunity.”
The library provides about 30 public computers patrons use to search for jobs, apply for unemployment, check email, attend Cyber School and conduct business. Rudolph reports double-digit growth in reference transactions and computer use for June/July 2009 compared with one year earlier.
"As the Technology Librarian at the North Kingstown Free Library in North Kingstown, RI, I recently started giving individualized computer lessons to our patrons. What I found was that most of my students were looking to either learn how to apply for jobs using the computer or to improve their resume with new computer skills. Navigating a job-seeking Web site has become an increasingly challenging task, as many have ads, promotions and gimmicks all meant to deceive the novice user. Teaching the art of information dissemination has become my main task, but when this is coupled with a general lack of computer knowledge, job seekers are having trouble staying ahead of the curve when it comes to the virtual job market. Hopefully, through the use of the library's resources, they can begin to utilize the Internet as a valuable tool in their job search."
We partnered with the local Alliance for Business and Training which provided quarterly sessions on how to find local jobs online and trained library staff on how to continue workshops for the public. Our Internet usage increased from 24,042 in 2007-2008 to 43,793 in 2008-2009. We created a job and college library and online collection.
We also routinely provide computer classes to the public, post special job hunting links and info on ourWeb site , and have special resume preparation software, WinWay, installed on ten of our public Internet computers.
Shelter in a Storm aka My Temporary Office
I live in a beautiful place surrounded by trees and creeks next to a 20,000 acre wildlife preserve, where the stars are like diamonds on black velvet and the Milky Way paints the sky. There is an abundance of wildlife; the song birds are plentiful and ever rotating with the seasons. A peaceful place to be sure, alas due to the topography and lack of population in the area there is no high speed Internet service available.
Prior to October of 2008 the lack of such service was like a blessing, forcing me to leave my hectic work world behind for the weekend. I had totally devoted myself to the same company for 23 Â½ years, being the 5th one hired, climbing the ladder while helping to grow the business from Zero to $735,000,000 annually. Then suddenly and unexpectedly I became the victim of corporate downsizing. In shock and hurting, with the uncertainty of my family’s future keeping me awake at night, I was none the less determined to remain positive while seeking Shelter from the Storm.
I needed a place to go during the day, a place to ponder my future and search the Internet for opportunities. A place where I could relax, be comfortable and creative, a base of operations for my quest to find my future career.
I found such a place and Shelter from the Storm in the South Cheatham County Library. There I found high speed computers at no cost. There I found a warm and friendly staff who welcomed me like family. There I found compassionate souls who listened to my story with real concern. There I even found Wireless Internet Service! I would arrive early, working on my laptop and doing phone interviews from what I now fondly called my “Temporary Office”. When the doors opened at 10:00 AM I was welcomed inside and offered hot coffee and kindness. Some days, when a librarian arrived early, they would beckon me in from the cold confines of my vehicle. On the days of special programs I was given a quiet place in the store room to continue my quest. As a specialist in Knowledge Transfer for Sales and Customer Service I was truly awed by the group of ladies that make this library what it is…a very special place.
With this letter I offer my thanks and gratitude to Janet Walker, Charlene Cullen, Pam Jackson and Mary Jo Smith who have made my life richer.
Happily, after months of searching, I am now self employed as a consultant for a previous competitor helping them find ways to take market share from my former employer.
The aforementioned special programs include Coffee &Chat, Knit-Us-Together, Pens and Parcels (a group of volunteers writing letters to the military from Cheatham County that are overseas), Story Time (stories read aloud to young children whose parents wish to add variety to their day). If you are not familiar with the South Cheatham County Library, I suggest you stop for a visit…you will be glad you did.
Michael Martin / Kingston Springs, TN
The Tennessee State Library & Archives has partnered with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development to provide training for library staff across the state on how to assist the unemployed in filling out Tennessee forms online and to answer questions about assisting those with job-related issues. To date, 65 librarians representing 45 libraries have been trained. The labor department also has a video and Power Point on their website that provides guidance on filing for unemployment. One Workforce Development staff person said she has never been so overwhelmed in her 20 years working with Career Centers across the state.
Assistant StateLibrarian for Planning and Development Jane Pinkston put it this way: “Our local communities are hurting. One county wasdevastated – with 27 percent unemployment. Public libraries are stepping up to the plate and becoming anchors of the community – offering services many people don’t have available at home.” An unofficial comparison of technology use in small- and medium-sized libraries served by the Tennessee regional library system found that computer and technology use was up 9.3 percent in FY2009, which is double the increase from the previous year.
In addition to the collaboration with the labor department, the state library has purchased resume software for 100 libraries in the state, and it has awarded six Library Service Technology Act (LSTA) direct service grants to create job-training centers in public libraries in collaboration with local agencies, such as adult education centers and career centers. “We are trying to give as much assistance as we can,” Pinkston said, particularly at a time when state funding for public libraries is being cut. The state library also has partnered in a grant proposal for American Recovery and Reinvestment (ARRA) funds with 20 other agencies, including Connected Tennessee and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. “Libraries are doing the best they can with very limited funding,” Pinkston added. Tennessee ranks 49th of 50 states in total operating revenue per capita and 47th of 50 states in state operating revenue per capita.
Some of the other programs in Tennessee public libraries currently in place include the Memphis Public Library & Information Center'sJobLINC program and the Nashville Public Library'sJob Search Computer Assistance program.
Trustee Dianne Koehler remembers when her library was just a few computers and empty shelves. "We had computers before we had our first real books," Koehler reminisces. Now the Wells Branch Community Library is a hub for job seeking in Austin, Texas. The library bought a job search database—“JOBview”—and has had a tremendous response from patrons. The library has 26 terminals for public use, wireless, evening and weekend hours, and still keeps their power and wireless on all night to meet the needs of patrons. Koehler says it plainly, “if you don’t have a job, you don’t have a home computer.”
The adult services coordinator holds programs to support job seekers.
In an effort to meet the needs of their patrons Koehler says, “We are a constant revision of ourselves, continually addressing a changing playing field.” Although Koehler is not staff, she still finds herself helping patrons. She remembers one patron who had been medical employee but had limited computer skills, inadequate to even follow up on employment activities online. She worked with her on revising her resume—directed to print and electronic material—worked with her on computer skills needed for the process and directed her to self-paced learning materials in the library. After many weeks of job searching she was able to get several interviews and, soon after, a position.
As the unemployment rate in Newport News continues to rise, more residents are getting help in finding a job at their Newport News Public Libraries.
Newport News resident Alonzo Hill said he visited the Business Information Center at Main Street Library every day for several months, which helped him land a job at the VA Medical Center in Hampton. Hill got help in updating and editing his resume, and searching and applying for jobs at the Center.
“The librarians were extremely helpful, and took their time with me,” he said. Without the library’s resources, Hill said he would have had to drive from location to location looking for a job, which would have taken more time and money. “This was more efficient for me,” he said. “I don’t know what I would have done without them.”
Hill and his wife recently moved to the area from Albemarle, NC, for a new start. “It was a dream to move and stay at the beach,” he said. “Getting a job was what I needed to do to stay here.”[ More]