Career Development Tools at Your Public Library
By Summer Greenwood
According to the IPAC 2014 Digital Inclusion Survey: Survey Findings and Results, "...62.3 percent of libraries offer access to subscription-based job training websites..." and "...73.1 percent of public libraries provide instruction in skills that are essential to applying for jobs." (Information Policy and Access Center, 2015). Public libraries have increased their scope of services to encourage collaboration, innovation and life-long learning within the community. Connecting with and utilizing your local public library will allow you and your clients to benefit from a variety of resources previously unavailable or only at a high cost.
Career counselors are often faced with a myriad of client needs. Those job seekers who have taken a break from the workforce or have stayed in the same position for several years may need to update their computer skills. In addition, career changers often discover they need to research their proposed career field or prepare for a certification exam.
Although library resources differ, many public libraries today offer video-based databases that teach career skills, such as computer software, programming languages and project management. In addition to video-based tutorials, some libraries offer subscriptions to online classes in accounting, medical coding, business writing, foreign languages and college readiness.
In addition to online classes, many libraries offer creative spaces that lend themselves to audio/visual, technological and craft-based endeavors. Some examples include recorded music or podcasts, a prototype of a product created using 3D-printing or laser cuts, as well as handmade items, such as quilts and screen-printed bags.
Libraries also offer instructor-led classes on a variety of computer skills and interests. For those clients who are considering possible freelance opportunities or starting a business, the library offers free resources to learn, research and plan in order to turn their dreams into reality.
Job Help Databases and Resource Lists
Your clients may also be able to access business and career assistance databases at their local library or from home through the library website. Popular public library databases include job search tools, resume and cover letter wizards, skills and interest assessments, career field guides and more. In addition, business databases offer opportunities to research a potential employer's size, management team, credit score, competitors and recent news. This will allow job seekers to discover organizations that support their values and work style, write effective cover letters, and better navigate the interview process.
Although public library resources vary, many library websites offer a career assistance page listing helpful books, DVDs, digital content and databases. Often, these pages will link to relevant websites, such as the local workforce center or Career One Stop. In addition, resource lists for career changers, recent graduates, ex-offenders and those facing other employment barriers can be found on public library websites.
According to Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries, "libraries provided job-related training through library computers to over 7 million people [in 2010]...This training included formal and drop-in classes, one-on-one assistance with library staff, and self-led tutorials." (Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2010). With evening and weekend hours and resources available online, the public library serves as an extension to the support provided by workforce and One-Stop centers.
Books and Digital Content
Don't forget the books! Although public library service has changed, libraries continue to offer an extensive collection of print materials for your clients to check out. In addition, digital collections have increased to include e-books, e-audiobooks, magazines, videos and more. Librarians specialize in helping the public find resources covering tough topics, such as workplace bullying, micro-aggression, and low self-esteem, along with resources promoting work-life balance, leadership skills, career change, and time management.
Encouraging clients to use library resources allows them to try something new in a supportive environment, recognize and discuss their progress with you, and build self-confidence in their skills. For more information on partnering with public libraries, see the Career Convergence article Three Reasons to Connect with Your Public Library. (Kittrick, 2016).
Information Policy and Access Center. (2015, October). IPAC 2014 Digital Inclusion Survey: Survey Findings and Results. Retrieved from http://digitalinclusion.umd.edu/sites/default/files/uploads/2014DigitalInclusionSurveyFinalRelease.pdf
Institute of Museum and Library Services. (2010, March). Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries. Retrieved from https://www.imls.gov/publications/opportunity-all-how-american-public-benefits-internet-access-us-libraries
Kittrick, M. (2016, August). Three Reasons to Connect with Your Public Library. Career Convergence. Retrieved from https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/125532/_self/CC_layout_details/false
Summer Greenwood, MLIS, is the career services librarian at Arapahoe Libraries in Colorado. She serves as a career resource guide for library patrons, offers job help classes and meets with patrons one-on-one (Ask a Librarian) to get them started with the next-steps in their job search. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org