«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 ...»
Many examples of how libraries help people with their resumes were described by the case study interviewees. Neal, a 24-year-old man in Fayetteville who had trained to be a plumber, valued the assistance from resume building sites, saying “The library has several suggestions on different sites and programs to use offline.” In Oakland, 24-year-old Julian, who has a computer at home and Internet access on his phone but uses the library computers daily because of the value of the library lab setting, had been editing his resume on successive visits, trying to improve it based on feedback he had gotten from different reviewers.
Uma, a 46-year-old Fayetteville woman who relies solely on the library for her daily computer access, which begins with checking her email, elaborated on how “I’ve looked up information on how to improve the resume I have, how to write a very good cover letter, and how to just make yourself more presentable to a prospective employer.” Savannah, a 37-year-old with a fourth grade education who speaks little English, was learning about computers and actually attending classes with her 5-monthold daughter in tow. She explained how her computer teacher helped her write a resume and send it to employers.
Examples of case study participants who were working on their resumes and sending them out online included Silas, a low-income, 61-year-old, wireless network user in Baltimore who shares an apartment with roommates. He said “I dig out pertinent information and start a file so I can go back and check it and put it together to make a spreadsheet.” The value of being able to track where you sent your resume and improve on it iteratively was expressed by several interviewees, including Rowan in Baltimore, a 28-year-old unemployed, wireless network user. She said, “When you turn in paper resumes and applications, Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries | 79 unless you write stuff down, you kind of forget who you sent your stuff to. But 24 MILLION SEARCH with the email, it’s in the history, you’ve got a list of everyone that you’ve sent FOR A JOB OPENING everything to.” When she became unemployed, Rowan gave up her home USING LIBRARY Internet connection and relies on the library for job searching, keeping in INTERNET ACCESS contact with her alumni associations, practicing her keyboarding skills, and seeking information for health and other everyday needs.
16 MILLION SUBMIT The manager of Oakland Public Library’s Eastmont branch explained how they
APPLICATIONS ONLINEare setting up job centers in response to local need. She also described a user who had done her resume and her paperwork, adding, “While the lady was on 8 MILLION GET email, she got a response right then and there for an interview for a job that day INTERVIEWED at 3 o’clock.”
80 | Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries The study shows that 76 percent of users who used library online services for employment purposes (24 million) search for job opportunities.
Of all library computer users, those most likely to use the library for this purpose are:
• People with household incomes less than twice the poverty guidelines;
• Latinos or Hispanics;
• People of mixed race, Blacks or African Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives;
• People between the ages of 19 and 64;
• Men; and
• People who speak a language other than English at home →Outcomes: Of users who searched for job opportunities:
• 68 percent submitted a job application online • 33 percent were interviewed for a job • 16 percent were hired Those people with household incomes less than 200 percent of the poverty guidelines had higher odds (by a factor of more than 2) of using the library for job seeking activity than those with incomes 300 percent or greater than the poverty guidelines. Likewise, other user characteristics were associated with
greater odds of using library computers for this purpose:
• People of Latino or Hispanic origin had higher odds (by a factor of 1.55) than non-Latino or non-Hispanic people, and users of mixed race, Blacks or African Americans, and American Indians or Alaska Natives had higher odds (by a factor of 1.17, 2.12, and 1.32, respectively) than Whites for this type of use.
• Users of ages 19–64 years showed much higher odds (by factors ranging between 8 and 12) of using the library for seeking jobs than those older than 75 years, as might be expected as 19–64 years of age are the primary working years.
• As in other areas, the odds of those who speak a language other than English at home were higher (by a factor of 1.29) than those who speak English in their homes for this activity.
People without alternative Internet access were more likely to engage in job seeking at the public library than those who had other access to computers and Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries | 81 the Internet. This theme was discussed by member of the Oakland Public
Library’s Board of Directors:
The difference between someone who is looking for a job who has a computer at home and Internet access and someone who doesn’t is huge. The person who has computer and Internet access is able to go on Craigslist and look at job postings that have just come up in the last hour or half hour, and given the speed at which the labor market moves these days, that’s huge…a lot of the information about jobs and employment opportunities exist on the Internet and nowhere else.
Yet even people who have home access rely on their local library and public access technology. This observation was offered by a trustee from the
Fayetteville Public Library:
Some people for whatever reason—downsizing—suddenly need to completely retool, start over, and find a new job. They probably had a computer at the job that they no longer have. They probably have some kind of setup at home, but this environment here, there’s something about it. I think there’s a comfort factor here and also expertise—“If I get stuck there is a librarian who can help me figure it out.” I think that’s one reason they utilize it instead of staying at home.
This added value from expertise provided by library staff also emerged as an important aspect of doing job searches during an interview with a reference librarian in Baltimore, Maryland, who explained, “I was talking about hidden job opportunities with a woman. She asked, ‘What’s the hidden job market?’ And I had meant networking and looking online. It’s not just the newspapers.” In addition to one-on-one assistance, libraries across the country offer classes on using technology, targeted specifically at job searching, such as the following
course offered in Fayetteville, Arkansas:
We are having “One Click Away: Finding a Job”—a workshop. One of the other reference librarians is spearheading this time in the computer lab for people to come in. So many job applications now have gone strictly online and people are like “What the heck? What do I do with this?” So she’s going to do a quick presentation on some basics, then I will have some one-on-ones: “Here’s what this means” because each site is different…. Each job site is different so “Click here, print here, fill this in.” Just kind of hold their hands and walk them through that.
Examples of people who were looking for work included Noah, a 39-year-old unemployed, homeless user in Baltimore, who was living in a shelter and taking 82 | Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries basic computer classes at an inner city branch library. He said, “I’m from the county, and I had lost my job. Coming to the library, I had seen people getting on [the Internet]. I had got some help on how to get on and everything and ever since then I been getting on and looking for different jobs.” The value of the library for supporting job searches in the community was also pointed out by an older patron from Baltimore who uses library computers to search for jobs for himself and others. He explained, “If I run across something, if I’m cruising through a job that someone else might have qualifications for, I’ll make a note of it, give it to somebody and say, ‘You might want to check this out.’” Providing help to strangers in this way is facilitated by the social environment of the library.
Filling Out Applications or Submitting Resumes Almost 68 percent of the users who searched for a job actually filled out an application or submitted a resume using the library’s computers (Appendix Table 27). Interviews with users and others in the community showed that this was not always an easy process, and that the library staff was instrumental in making their efforts successful.
A barrier described repeatedly in interviews is that low-paying jobs (often filled by people who speak languages other than English, are from other countries, and who have little information literacy training) that do not require any interaction with technology do have an online job application process that necessitates an email account and access to a computer and the Internet. An example was recounted during a focus group with library supervisors in
A woman whose friend worked as a hotel maid said, “My friend said I could apply, but they only take applications online.” For non-English speakers, it’s really hard for them. We were able to get her to come in and it took her a lot to get through the process because you had to set up an email account first. She applied and she was really happy that we helped her. The old days are gone where you could call up a number or leave an application. It’s really a shock for them.
In Baltimore, Maryland, the library was pivotal in the successful relocation of a business to the area that has meant a tremendous difference to local residents.
A librarian in Baltimore described the situation:
The grocery store that opened near the Waverly branch—the mayor, who's now the governor—worked for years to try to get any grocery store to come in to the city. They just wouldn't come here because of crime, terrible schools. Corporate people didn't want to move their Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries | 83 family here and it was hard to hire because of an unskilled workforce.
When we actually attracted that store, we're not sure it would have been staffed if it weren't for the library really helping with the job applications. It would have been a lot harder.
Another librarian in Baltimore emphasized how lower level, nonprofessional jobs require online applications, “These are for all of the larger stores—they’re not high level jobs where you would need a resume, but they do have to fill out the online applications.” In Marshalltown, Iowa, a community service provider explained the value of the library helping his clients apply for work: “There’s been a lot of employment matches. We send some of our young moms, 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds who may have a couple of kids. They go online and they’ve found jobs online and can fill out applications online. Some of those moms are still students, they do their work online here too, take online courses.” In Marshalltown we heard further successes, such as this from Cornelius: “It’s so quick and fast. You just email resumes where ever they need to go. Saves gas and time… The companies, if they don’t want you, they just email back saying no, which saves them a lot of time too.” A power user at age 51, Cornelius is a veteran who uses the computers on behalf of several members of his social network, helping them with myriad everyday life problems.
In Baltimore, Maryland, a Spanish-speaking man who wanted to apply for a job as a dishwasher and who had never used a computer relied on a librarian to help him complete the online application for a job at a local hotel.
Across all these examples, the theme emerges that the value libraries provide is not only from access to the online applications necessary for many jobs, but also the support and knowledge necessary to help those who may not have the skills or experience necessary to navigate the online application process.
The availability of trained staff who can walk users through the intricacies of setting up email accounts, finding online applications, and completing the process makes a big difference in the lives of the individuals who come to the library to find a job. Libraries are also providing significant support to other agencies offering job services and the companies looking for workforce in their communities.
Getting Interviews and Getting Hired For the 33 percent of users who received interviews as a result of their job search at the library (Appendix Table 28), and the 16 percent of those who ultimately got hired after using library resources to search for a job (Appendix 84 | Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries Table 29), the library staff was a major source of support. Community agencies working on job placement also found the library a resource for their clients.
An example was shared by a staff member from a youth program in Oakland, California, who said: “I have a parent who came to the library often to send out her child’s resumes to answer advertisements for jobs. She came back to tell us that her daughter’s now employed and she’s happy.” Emilio, a 23-year-old immigrant from El Salvador who uses the Enoch Pratt Free Library computers to communicate with friends, practice his keyboarding, and learn English obtained a job for himself working for a delivery company using the library’s computers and had also successfully arranged for a job interview for his brother the same way. Nancy, a 48-year-old massage therapist in Fayetteville, Arkansas, found her job using the computers at her library, which she also used to take online courses and to help her son attend school. Chloe of Baltimore got two interviews as a result of her search for jobs at the library which she hoped would help change her need for local homeless shelters.