by Annette Mattei
Did you know that close to 30 percent of adults who visit the Free Library come here to look for jobs? Moreover, That’s according to a Pew survey conducted in 2012, 40 percent of adults who use our library computers are doing so for career or employment purposes.
Starting with our online resources, the Free Library has a long history of serving job seekers, especially as employment searches have almost entirely moved online. With free computers and internet access, the Free Library is a logical place for job seekers to go to create a résumé, set up an email account, search for job openings, or submit applications. In fact, many neighborhood libraries now have an on-site Digital Resource Specialist, whose job is to boost the digital literacy of customers by providing one-on-one assistance and small-group instruction in the use of computers, tablets, e-readers, and other technical resources.
At Paschalville Library in Southwest Philadelphia (6942 Woodland Avenue), the Digital Resource Specialist (DRS) is fully dedicated to staffing the Job Readiness Lab (JRL). The JRL is a special bank of computers set aside just for job seekers, who can use the JRL computers for up to three hours—significantly longer than the other public-use computers. The DRS is there on a daily basis to support job seekers wherever they are in their search—creating a résumé, navigating online search engines such as PA CareerLink’s Job Gateway system, or creating a professional network through a LinkedIn profile.
Omelio Alexander, Paschalville’s DRS says, "This summer I have been working with a job seeker on his résumé. First, we put together his basic résumé, creating a more sophisticated look. Then, after seeing some of the job opportunities available to him, I helped him create several additional versions of his résumé that speak to specific skills and expertise based on certain job requirements. He’s now ready to respond very quickly to specific job opportunities as they open up." Omelio shares more about Paschalville’s JRL in this video.
The JRL has been so successful that the Free Library worked with community partner Southwest CDC (6328 Paschall Avenue) to open a second JRL. Similar to Paschalville’s JRL, an Employment Specialist is on site providing free, ongoing support to job seekers in a lab of eight computers (with no time limit). Additionally, adults looking to improve their literacy or language skills, including non-native English speakers, can register for assessment and instruction at the myPLACESM campus located at Southwest CDC’s JRL.
Cynthia Ryant, the Employment Specialist at Southwest CDC’s JRL, talks of helping job seekers open their eyes to opportunities unlocked through online employment searches:
"A few months ago I helped a job seeker apply for a specific general manager position at a local retail operation. He was insistent that this was the job for him. But when the company was slow to respond to his application, I helped him learn how to navigate the internet so he could find similar job opportunities and apply for them as well. In the end, he agreed that he had nothing to lose and everything to gain by applying to as many jobs as he could find." Meet Cynthia in this introductory video of Southwest CDC’s JRL.
The Job Readiness Labs are open to the public—no appointment is necessary and visits are unlimited. You can download a brochure about the Job Readiness Labs for more information. Both Job Readiness Labs are presented by the Paschalville Partnership, a Free Library-led collaboration of 11 organizations working to transform services for job seekers in Southwest Philadelphia, made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Come check out one of our Job Readiness Labs and let the Free Library put you on track for your first job, new job, or next job!