Employment & Public Libraries
With unemployment levels high, the public library has become a critical resource for an effective and efficient job-seeking process. Computer and Internet access is now necessary in almost every step of this process – online job listings, computer-generated resumes, and increasing requirements for job applications to be completed online. Public libraries provide important services indispensable in this process, and are seeing record use of these resources. The 2011-2012 Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study found that:1
- 77.5% of libraries help people create resumes
- 84.1% of libraries report that providing employment services is important to their communities
- 92.2% of libraries help people access online job resources
- 76.0% of libraries help people apply for jobs online
Public libraries are uniquely positioned to provide critical employment assistance to the public due to their trusted presence in the community, their evening and weekend hours, and their provision of public access to information and online resources. Public libraries offer a variety of free resources and instruction to assist patrons during the job hunt, an especially critical community role in the current economic climate. These resources range from databases and classes to partnerships intended to provide assistance to job-seekers (see Figure 1). The public library is where people go to find and research job openings, write resumes and cover letters, and complete online applications.
Last year over 30 million job-seekers use public library computers for employment related activities, including looking for jobs, working on resumes, and completing applications.2 However, public library services are not limited to finding and applying for jobs - they also offer resources and training intended to help patrons improve their job qualifications.
The employment seeking and support services provided by libraries are extensive. 92.2% of libraries provide access to online job databases and resources. Over three-quarters (77.5%) offer resources such as software to assist in resume creation and 76.0% help patrons complete online applications. Almost half of public libraries (49.2%) offer formal instruction relating to online career resources such as databases and websites. These formal classes cover general computer use, software use, Internet training, and Web searching.
Public libraries are entering partnerships with an array of other institutions and organizations on local, state and national levels. These partnerships enhance the libraries' abilities to offer assistance to job-seekers by expanding the career services they are able to offer.
The Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and the Institute of Museum and Library Studies (IMLS) developed a partnership that enables public libraries to work with state and local workforce agencies and "One-Stop Career Centers" in providing career services.3 These additional services include, for example, "co-locating One-Stop Career Centers and libraries; collaborating to train library staff about in-person and virtual employment and training resources available through the public workforce system; and training public workforce system staff about the value of partnering with libraries."4
Other examples of partnerships on local and state levels include:
- The North Carolina State Library and JobLink Career Centers hosted workshops for community college and public library staff to train them in employment resources.
- In Colorado, the Jefferson County Workforce Center and the Jefferson County Public Library worked together to equip an "eTrain Mobile Training Lab," providing computer and resource access to rural communities.5
- The South Carolina State Library has partnered with the IMLS to provide a "comprehensive job seeker & workforce skill building resource".6
Key Issues and Challenges
Public libraries face a number of challenges in providing these vital services, ranging from staffing to facility concerns (see Figure 2). 49.8% of libraries report not having enough staff to meet patron needs, and 41.3% report that the staff does not have the necessary expertise to provide employment-seeking services. Additionally, 37.2% have insufficient workstations to meet demand, an especially serious challenge in urban libraries.
The job-seeking services provided by public libraries are essential in certain communities that have been especially hard-hit during the recession. The use of library technology for employment seeking is highest among low-income persons, non-native English speakers, and people of "mixed race, Black or African Americans, and American Indians or Alaska Natives."7
Public libraries are providing additional assistance in partnership with other institutions and organizations. These partnerships enhance the services provided by the library, and increase opportunities for job-seekers. Libraries are a very effective way to reach job seekers and connect them to employment support services. Partnerships between libraries and community employment services can strengthen local economic development efforts.8
The employment seeking services provided by public libraries are crucial to the surrounding community. Millions of people access job-seeking resources through their local public library, especially resources primarily available online. Many populations hard-hit by the recent economic downturn rely on the library both for these resources as well as the formal and informal training the library provides. Finally, collaboration with other organizations allows libraries to expand services they offer, benefiting both the library and its patrons.
1 Bertot, J.C., McDermott, A., Lincoln, R., Real, B., & Peterson, K. (2012). 2011-2012 Public Library Funding & Technology Access Survey: Survey Findings & Report. College Park, MD: Information Policy & Access Center, University of Maryland College Park. Available at http://www.plinternetsurvey.org.
2 Becker, S., Crandall, M. D., Fisher, K. E., Kinney, B., Landry, C., and Rocha, A. 2010. Opportunity for all: How the American Public benefits from Internet access at U.S. libraries. Washington, DC: Institute of Museum and Library Services.
5 U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. (2010, June 29). Appendix: Highlights of Existing Partnerships Between the Public Workforce System: http://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/TEN/ten2009/ten50-09a1.pdf
7 Becker et al. (2010)
8 Becker et al. (2010)