Public libraries are an important entry point to community services for new Americans. Programs provided through public libraries can serve as a portal to a wide range of community resources that are vital to a family’s economic self-sufficiency. Services to new Americans often involve English language classes; intergenerational literacy, foreign language GED instruction, and other basic skills training. Public libraries often serve as informal referral centers as well, directing immigrants to area support services (p. 15).
A significant amount of workforce development activity in local libraries centers on job search skills, basic computer instruction and workplace literacy. Ninety-two percent (92%) of the libraries answering the survey provide basic computer instruction on a regular basis (at least monthly); 50% of the libraries provide workplace literacy instruction; and 42% provide workplace literacy instruction specifically to English language learners. Most of these literacy training and other specialized workshops are provided in library facilities, though often conducted in partnership with local agencies (p. 14).
People must continually educate themselves, upgrade their skills, and reorient themselves to new realities. Interviews with patrons demonstrated that many individuals who were unemployed used the library as a home base to explore employment opportunities, even receiving cell phone calls in the library about job interviews. There was also much evidence that patrons were using the library as a place to make the transition into Canadian society, particularly through the learning of English. For instance, the seating sweeps in Vancouver revealed that a large number of patrons (more than half on many sweeps) in the library on any given day were involved in studying English. The central library, then, acts as a place where individuals in transition can feel included and productive in a way that would be almost impossible in other public spaces, such as cafes, parks, museums, arenas, and municipal offices (p. 354).
Public libraries can help high schools prepare students for college or 21st century careers. High schools are struggling to provide the skills that students need if they are to achieve success in college and in today’s workplace. In a 2006 poll of over 400 companies, researchers found that “new entrants to the U.S. workforce generally disappoint those who would like to give them their first job. High school-educated workers lack the level of ability employers seek in everything from writing and work ethic to oral communication.” The most important skills cited by employers fall into the area of applied or “soft” skills: professionalism and work ethic, oral and written communications, teamwork and collaboration, and critical thinking and problem solving. These skills are also essential to college success.
The economic value of the Library services that help Philadelphians locate job opportunities and develop career skills totals $6 million for FY10, comprised of:$2.2 million in career development book-reading & lending$2.1 million in job-finding online activities, including workforce database usage and online job searching/prep$1.7 million job-readiness and workforce-related programming(p.5)
Activities related to employment were the third highest reported use for library computer users, with 40 percent of the respondents indicating use in this area. In addition, 7 percent of the users used the library for activities related to starting or managing a business of their own.Results from the study show that libraries are serving as an important supplement to local and federal agencies focused on employment activities, by providing access to needed services in a setting that can offer support and access to all members of the community. In the current economy, these services are making a difference in the lives of individuals and their families across the nation.In addition to finding actual jobs, people reported using the library’s online resources for preparatory steps such as creating resumes, researching job information, submitting applications online, and receiving training for job-related skills. Those who are employed use the library to conduct work, and entrepreneurs and small business owners use the library’s computer resources for writing business plans, finding investors, marketing, and business administration. (p.71-2)