December 2, 2010
Library’s role expands
As almost all jobs continue to undergo a technological revolution and computers continue to become integrated with human labor, more employers are increasingly taking job applications solely over the Internet.
The human resources department then screens the hundreds or thousands of applicants and those who are to get a serious look are likely to receive their first call for an interview via email.
The Internet-driven workforce is putting pressure on the workforce to learn how to use a computer just to get a foot in the door. Now public libraries are a resource people can use to both learn how to use a computer and to apply for a job anywhere in the world.
Diane Schule, head librarian at the Marshall County Library, said it is sad but true that people are having to learn to use a computer to get a good paying job.
“Everyone who operates a business in more than one location, from the Federal government to Walmart, seems to be requiring online applications - from file clerks to physicists,” Schule said. “We see so many patrons coming in to use the library’s public access computers to look for or apply for jobs. Since the recession, public libraries all over the country have seen a sharp increase in the numbers of people coming in to use all our services.”
But when people starting losing their jobs due to factory and manufacturing shutdowns and the weak economy, those numbers really went up, she said.
“Most large employers now require online applications, and a lot of people around here not only do not have their own computers, many have never used a computer,” Schule said. “We have set aside two stations in the Holly Springs library just for job seekers.”
Individuals are given an hour, in most cases, to look for jobs online and to file applications. If there is no one waiting in line, the time may be extended for a person to work longer at the computer looking for a job.
Schule said librarians know how daunting it can be for an individual to have to learn a new skill, like how to use a computer, to get a job.
“People who have worked hard all their lives at jobs that didn’t require computer skills are suddenly faced with the cold hard fact that they now need those skills to even get in the door to talk to someone about a new job,” she said.
In order to increase computer availability, the Marshall County Library System has received a small Federal LSTA grant to start building a portable computer lab in the Holly Springs library building. The lab will be supplemented by a gift from the Friends of the Marshall County Library, and will be expanded over the next couple of years. The lab will be available for various groups to use for instruction, and the library staff will offer classes from time to time in basic computer skills and common applications. As soon as the lab is available, the library will notify the public through the newspaper.
“Along with the WIN Jobs Center on the Rust College Campus and the Catholic Outreach services, this is just another place to get started learning to use computers,” Schule said.
The library has also received a small LSTA grant to buy programming equipment for the Potts Camp library. The equipment includes an instructor’s laptop, an LCD projector and screen, and software on basic computer skills.
Small demonstration classes will be offered there and the equipment may be used in the library by groups needing to offer computer training.
“For now, job seekers should know that library staff members may not help patrons fill out job forms online for several reasons, including patron privacy and library liability,” Schule said. “So anyone with limited computer skills should bring a family member with them to help with the task. We do have some ideas of places to go on the computer to search for jobs, and we post notices we get about job opportunities at the job search stations. Patrons should also be aware of the resources available on the county library’s website, www.marshall.lib.ms.us. These include Learn-a-Test.”
L.A.T. is a free website provided by the Mississippi Library Commission with federal LSTA money to help people prepare for all sorts of entrance exams. But it also includes review materials in elementary math and language. Each person opens their own private account to work at their own pace. And people should remember that the library’s public computers can be used for this practice.
“We have a limit of 30 minutes per day if others are waiting,” said Schule. “And mornings are less crowded around the computers than after school. Just call any of the libraries for help setting up your account.”
Any of the library’s online services are available wirelessly, too, and wireless access deliberately extends to the parking lots. So, if a person has a laptop and wants to sit in the parking lot when the library is closed, a person can access the Internet to check email at any time.
Bigger library systems are doing even more, Schule said. For instance, First Regional Library has a station with webcams so military families can talk with with their deployed loved ones on First Regional’s computer connections.
Other services include movie nights and free downloads, things that the Marshall County Libraries do not offer yet because of costs.
It is good to check with a librarian, if a person wants to know more about resources.
“Libraries have plugged a lot of holes left in people’s budgets by difficult economic times,” Schule said.
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