«How the American Public Benefits Opportunity for All from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries The U.S. IMPACT Study A research initiative examining the ...»
70 | Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries Completing homework, managing assignments, and providing the tools 9 MILLION LEARN necessary for successful activities in this area are all critical for success in NEW SKILLS USING education. For all these reasons, users find the library an important resource for LIBRARY COMPUTERS their education, from grade school through college and beyond.
Conclusion“I've used the services to learn how to do Across all types of educational activities, users derive enormous value from household tasks public library computers and Internet connections. The prevalence of young related to plumbing, people engaging in these activities, both formal and informal, points out the decorating, various importance of providing this publicly accessible and well-supported avenue for maintenance tasks, educational growth in our society. For youth, libraries are clearly used as a way to improve themselves and find the resources they need to pursue their gardening, etc.” education, whether it’s doing homework for school or seeking opportunities for
WEB SURVEY COMMENTfurther learning.
Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries | 71 are making a difference in the lives of individuals and their families across the nation.
In addition to finding actual jobs, people reported using the library’s online resources for preparatory steps such as creating resumes, researching job information, submitting applications online, and receiving training for jobrelated skills. Those who are employed use the library to conduct work, and entrepreneurs and small business owners use the library’s computer resources for writing business plans, finding investors, marketing, and business administration.
Today, 1 in 10 Americans are unemployed, marking the highest unemployment level since the early 1980s (Burtless 2010). Without work, people do not have the financial means to pay for their families’ basic needs—food, housing, health, education—nor meet their higher level needs for social interaction and maintaining self-esteem. When unemployment rates are high, communities and the entire country falter in their ability to provide essential services through a healthy revenue base and to support future investment.
This section presents the findings about the ways people use library computers and Internet access for employment and entrepreneurship activities, beginning with an overview of the most frequent types of activities and the characteristics of users most likely to use library technology for these purposes. The remainder of the section provides insights into how libraries support specific employment
and entrepreneurship activities in the following areas:
• Preparing a resume, from learning how to create a resume to keeping it updated and written for specific jobs;
• Searching for job opportunities, using both internal library-developed and external online resources;
• Doing work to support job-related activities, including using software and other tools and library resources to carry out tasks as a requirement of one’s job or profession;
• Getting job-related training, including learning software and applications, tools, and skills; and
• Starting or running a business, including how to write a business plan, find customers, and carry out activities in support of the enterprise.
Findings from the U.S. IMPACT Study surveys in each of these areas, together with those from case study interviews with patrons, librarians, and peer agency 72 | Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries staff are discussed to provide greater understanding of how library computers and Internet access help individuals, families, and communities with employment and entrepreneurship needs.
Most Prevalent Users for Employment and Entrepreneurship Needs Overall, 40 percent of survey respondents used their library’s public access computer and Internet services for employment activities such as looking for work, writing a resume, or getting job training (Appendix Table 23). Roughly 37 percent of these users undertook employment-related activities on behalf of someone else (Appendix Table 24). Some of the important aspects of using the library for job searching were described by Joseph, discussed previously in Section 6.1. He uses the library for a few hours a day because he doesn’t have access to the Internet at home. He reported, “In the last month, I’ve had four interviews because I was able to use the Internet. And just yesterday, I got
hired.” He goes on:
Just having a library here is amazing as far as having access to whatever you need, all the resources you need. If you’re out there filling out applications and walking around, you get so tired and you give up.
You’re like, I don’t want to go out today. But in the library, you can do what would take you a week to do in one day. Or maybe just a couple of hours, what would take many more hours.
Echoing users and service providers interviewed in other interviews, Joseph also discussed how a benefit of using library computers for job searching is that at the library one’s unemployment status is private, whereas if one is at an employment agency, it is obvious that he or she is unemployed; that carries a stigma. Moreover, libraries offer regular business hours which can help job seekers maintain regular hours and business practices in order to feel like they are still part of the workforce.
Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries | 73 Overall Employment Use In the study, 40 percent of respondents used library computers and Internet access for employment or career purposes.
Use on behalf of others is also high: 37 percent of the employment users reported that they use library computers and Internet connections to find employment information and carry-out employment-related tasks for a relative, friend, colleague, or someone else.
The use of library technology for employment needs is highest among:
• Lower income and impoverished people;
• Those of mixed race, Blacks or African Americans, and American Indians or Alaska Natives;
• Those between the ages of 19 and 64;
• Men; and
• People who speak languages other than English at home.
Characteristics of users associated with greater odds of using public access
technology for employment purposes include:
• Lower income users (people earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines) have higher odds of using library computer and Internet access than those earning more than 300 percent of the threshold, with the highest odds ratio occurring in those with household incomes below the poverty guidelines (by a factor of 2.04).
• The odds of people who are of mixed race, Blacks or African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders are higher (by a factor of 1.30, 2.46, 2.20, and 1.13, respectively) than Whites of using the library computers for these activities. The odds of Asians using library Internet connections for employment purposes was lower than for White by a factor of 0.84.
• Unlike other areas studied, the odds of library computer use was evenly reflected across all working-age age groups with highest odds of use between the ages of 19 and 64 for employment activities (compared to those over 75 years of age)—a finding to be expected given that teenagers and retirees are less likely to be job seeking or employed.
• Women show lower odds (by a factor of 0.84) of engaging in employment activities than men in this area.
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• The odds of respondents who indicated that a language other than English was spoken in their homes was greater by a factor of 1.45 for using library technology for employment purposes than people who spoke only English at home.
Activities Associated with Employment Use The top two activities reported by employment users are searching for jobs or career opportunities (Figure 11). As with many other activity areas studied, those users who rely solely on the library for their Internet access show higher use across all employment activities than users who have alternative access at home, school, or work. This is particularly evident in the activities related to searching for a job and preparing resumes: 83 percent of those who only have access at the library use library computers, compared to 72 percent of users who have alternative access; for resumes, 52 percent of sole access users engage in this activity, compared with 44 percent of employment users with alternative access to the Internet.
Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries | 75 Figure 11: Employment activities by availability of alternative access The following sections we discuss in further detail findings regarding these employment activities, including associated outcomes associated. Discussion of case study findings will also help illuminate the importance of public access technology for employment related use.
Job Seeking Many people in the current economy are using public library computers and Internet connections to seek employment or engage in other uses related to seeking employment, including learning about starting a business. Helping patrons understand and connect the micro-steps involved in job searching, giving them confidence, and being present—being open and available for service every day—makes a tremendous difference not only in helping the users to attain their end goals but in providing them with transferable skills for later use. Before an individual can apply for a job, he or she often needs several other skill sets, most notably how to create and structure a resume, how to create an email account and then send correspondence, and how to construct and manage a job search.
76 | Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries These micro-steps were discussed at length by library staff and community providers and are also shown in examples from library computer users giving assistance to other people, including complete strangers. A reference librarian
at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland, describes this process:
A man came in today; he's going to come in tomorrow. He didn't know how to put in the web address. I asked, “Do you have a resume?” He has a resume, but it's not on a disc, it's not on a flash or anything. He doesn't have an email account either. I think that without the computers, without the library, people would really be lost. They would not be able to get jobs, because that's what is required of them: to know how to fill out an application online, to be able to attach that resume. I think we offer a lot.
At the Enoch Pratt Free Library job center, a reference librarian discussed the
needs of job seekers:
I get a lot of questions about where’s a good place to look for a job. We have some search engines and local resources that we say, “Hey, this is really good.” We also have resumes, cover letters, filing for unemployment, and signing up for an email account because a lot of them start applying for a job but don’t have an email address.
The role of libraries as reinforcement to other agencies in supporting job searches in the community was remarked on by an Enoch Pratt librarian, who commented on how the Veterans Administration refers its clients to the library for assistance with job searches and computer training. This trend of alleviating workload of community agencies or supplementing their efforts, and serving as a de facto service organization, was found across all the case studies.
The difference in ease of use between computer access in libraries and that provided in other venues, specifically with regard to employment, was attributed by library staff across the case studies to the search expertise offered to patrons and to the social, information rich environment of the library
computer setting itself. As a Baltimore youth librarian reflected:
Baltimore has a lower rate of folks who have computers in their home.
Eighty percent of minimum wage jobs have to be applied for online. You walk into a library, there are state of the art computers, and somebody to answer your questions, somebody who you feel is not going to be in judgment of you because you don't know certain things. If you're applying for a job, you don't want to look like you don't know what you're doing, even if that's not what your job is going to be.
Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries | 77 This value of libraries connecting potential employers with users through 14 MILLION computers was also emphasized in an interview with a representative from the USE THE LIBRARY‘S mayor’s office in Fayetteville, Arkansas, who explained: “Library computers are COMPUTERS TO very important in lives of citizens. It’s a huge tool. Our major employers require WORK ON A RESUME 100 percent of their job applications be done online. We also tell people to
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• The highest odds ratios of engaging in this activity were shown by those of age 25–34 (14.84), 35–44 (13.44), and 45–54 (14.54) compared to those over age 75, as would be expected because these are the prime working years.
• Regarding education, users with post high school education showed higher odds of using library computers for resume preparation than those with a high school degree.
• The odds of those who speak a language other than English at home were higher by a factor of 1.66 than those who speak only English in their homes.