60 (plus) Ways Libraries Can Help Job Seekers
1. Consider not charging to fax resumes; an alternative might be to allow a set number of free resume faxes per week.
2. Consider offering free photocopying to job seekers.
3. Take a close look at your guidelines for computer use and consider easing restrictions for job-seekers, particularly in the amount of time patrons are allowed to use a machine.
4. If you have a job-center of some sort, put out free coffee and forget about your no-drinking, no-eating rules; make it a clear that this is to be a comfortable place and the right place to be. If “free” is a concern, approach community businesses like banks and credit unions – let them put out their brochures in exchange for a supply of coffee.
5. Offer classes specifically aimed at job-seekers; offer individual tutoring specifically aimed at job-seekers. Think about offering help with resume-writing, job searching both on-line and off, basic computer skills, interviewing skills.
6. Bravely and aggressively weed your collection of books on resumes, interviewing, cover letters…. let no book more than two years old remain.
7. Create handouts on library services for job-seekers; create handouts on other services for job-seekers that are available in your community.
8. Make it a daily goal to chat with a job-seeker in your library. Ask them how it’s going, how many letters they’ve sent out, what they find frustrating and what they find encouraging. They may not want to talk, and if that’s the case, back off. But for many, this little bit of compassion and encouragement might be the best you can do for them that day, and it will go a long way.
9. Start a job club. It’s not that hard to do, and the benefits of a social network of others “in the same boat” can be enormous.
10. Increase programming for families that is nothing more than entertainment; consider offering these programs on a Friday or Saturday night when you may normally be closed. (You don’t need staff – you may need volunteers to help, and there are plenty those available.)
11. Exploit the elderly! Your reference librarians can identify retirees who come to the library to pass the time. Bring these people in for everything from resume evaluation to help with interviewing skills to one-on-one tutoring on basic computer skills. Everyone wins!
12. Find ways to recognize those who have managed to secure employment. Think about those signs you see outside factories – 112 days without an accident. How about – 57 people have found work using library resources; let us know when you become number 58!
13. Offer special little mini-workshops before work or during lunch or after work for you staff to learn more about online social networking. We older people know what Facebook is, sort of, but we may not know how to actually use it. Teach us!
14. If you have a high school in your community, you have access to several hundred highly qualified social network trainers. Use them!
15. Have a workshop for staff on the services offered by your state’s division of employment security. The more we all know, the more we all can share.
16. Have a breakfast early some morning for the Chamber of Commerce and local politicians. Explain what you’re trying to do for job-seekers. Solicit their ideas and help.
17. Consider opening an hour early one or two or three mornings a week only for job-seekers. You don’t need to provide anything more than coffee and computers to be used without competition from the kids playing games and the regulars doing their e-mail and reading the news.
18. Get your library board on board! Take 15 minutes at a board meeting to talk about what you’re trying to do, solicit ideas, and perhaps even get a volunteer or two.
19. Be flexible with your telephone. When you lose your job, cell phones may be among the first things to go, and what few pay phones are left require cash up front.
20. Let kids be unaccompanied in the children’s area so that their parents can concentrate on looking for work. Consider putting some “adult” computers in the children’s area so parents can work and keep an eye on their kids at the same time.
21. Form some kind of help-each-other group. One of the greatest stresses of being unemployed is having nothing to do but sit and worry. Let some of these talented people help to train those who need training – again, everybody wins!
22. Offer workshops on how to live on a restricted income.
23. Bring in representatives from your local community college to talk about training opportunities; at that same workshop, bring in people who can explain the student loan process.
24. Discreetly let people know where to find information on filing for bankruptcy.
25. Consider a message on your home page in big letters, like: WELCOME JOB-SEEKERS. LET US HELP YOU. CLICK HERE FOR A LIST OF SERVICES WE CAN PROVIDE.
26. Conduct a Job Fair at the library. Ask local employment and workforce organizations to have tables and information for job seekers and provide tours of your collection and resources related to job seeking.
27. Got lots of money? Not many do, but if you can find a way to take your job resources mobile – go for it! Some libraries have created a “JobMobile” from grant funds that allows them to drive to particularly high areas of unemployment and provide services such as career counseling and resources like computer access to those who need it most.
28. Partner with another organization to offer GED study help and testing in the library.
29. Allow temporary employment agencies to come to the library and recruit once a month.
30. Provide a flash drive for those regularly using the library computers to seek employment. They can then save their resume and job application to the flash drive if they are interrupted or run out of time.
31. Partner with other organizations to start a “work ready” program that provides skills assessment, training and certification for those who want to apply for employment.
32. Create a short video that welcomes job seekers to your library and tells them about the basic services available. Post it on YouTube and run it on one of your computers or link from your web site.
33. Provide pointers to other needed resources for those who may be going through tough times. For instance help with bill paying, utility rate reduction, food pantries and other social services.
34. Develop a logo, slogan or icon that identifies your library’s willingness to help and serve job seekers.
35. Offer library meeting rooms to be used by local workforce agencies for workshops and help promote the event to your job seekers.
36. Provide an icon on computers used by job seekers that will connect them directly to services and resources related to their job search.
37. Offer ESL workshops specifically related to job-search words and terms.
38. Provide training and guidance for your staff so that they know how to respond to job seekers in a positive and productive manner.
39. Open your library early one day a week and/or stay open one hour later one day a week for job seekers.
40. Post a Social services bulletin board with brochures/flyers for public housing, medicaid, free vaccinations for kids, filling out unemployment, scholarships for summer camps, etc.
41. Give a free copy of a resume to a job seeker on resume quality paper.
42. Invite your Agricultural Extension Agent to do a program on a home vegetable garden, a container vegetable garden or selling your produce at a farmer's market.
43. Train your front-line staff to know about local social service agencies, their hours and what they do.
44. Have someone in your community who has a successful small business be a guest speaker.
45. Partner with the local community college to present a seminar on starting a small business. Have information about the community college classes that provide information on starting a small business.
46. There are some excellent websites that provide information on the required paperwork to start a small business. Put the information on a bookmark you can share.
47. Highlight materials in your library that provide information on securing funding/ ie. grants for small businesses.
48. Ask a local college to provide free workshops to help assess job seekers' transferable skills, areas of interest, etc.
49. Assign a "PR" person on your staff who stays in touch with local media to get the word out about what you are offering (and keep the usefulness of your library "top of mind" for your community!).
50. Hold occasional "petting zoos" to help people feel more comfortable with technology.
51. Reach out to other entities for resources for financial needs (such as Dave Ramsey, Clark Howard, Suze Orman). Tell them what you are trying to do in your community and ask if they have any "giveaways" that would benefit those you are helping. The worst they can do is say no!
52. Hold a movie night for job seekers as a source of free entertainment. Make sure the movies are family-friendly and uplifting or humorous.
53. Create bright buttons for several well-versed staff members to wear that say "Ask me about our job-search resources."
54. Ask your Workforce Board where you can "fill in the gaps" so you aren't duplicating already-successful efforts.
55. For those who have laptops but have had to cancel internet service, provide laptop "stations," so they can utilize your wi-fi (these can be as simple as a table reserved for them near an electrical outlet).
56. Consider a free-standing display with only "job-seeker" information from your collection. Make the attached signage obvious and include "assessment-type" material, such as the latest version of "What Color Is Your Parachute?" (use the 2011 edition and make sure all resources are current), as well as information on how to make connections to find a job (networking).
57. Have library staff share their own "real life" stories of family and friends who have been impacted by the current employment environment. This can be done at staff meetings or lunches and will help put a "face" to the problem.
58. Enlist a mental health professional to provide pro bono workshops on dealing with the stress of job loss.
59. Team up with someone at a credit counseling service who would be willing to offer a workshop on cutting expenses, etc.
60. Start a "coupon exchange club" to help people save money.
61. Hang a "Help Wanted" bulletin board, then develop a simple template to email to employers who are interested in participating by sharing any job openings they have. Be sure to include a space for the employer's contact information on the template, so that potential applicants will know who to contact.
62. Promote your local and area newspaper subscriptions as sources of information for job hunters.
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