The importance of library resources in boosting the workforce

2022-09-16

Many libraries offer free resources for patrons in search of employment

It’s been a tough couple of years for the global workforce, to say the least.

Unemployment hit a historic high that the world is still struggling to recover from, even as talent shortages impact employers in many industries. As we look to rebuild our economy, the importance of library support in rebuilding the workforce is clearer than ever.   

Employers have been dealing with extremes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the one hand, businesses are navigating furloughs and layoffs and scraping by just to try to afford a skeleton staff.

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A trusted, free employment resource

On the other hand, companies are losing employees who upskilled during the pandemic and are desperate to hire. But these organizations may just find themselves coming up short, unable to either compete with the global market or offer compensation that’s attractive enough to make up for the chaos and risk of COVID-era work environments.  

In other words: the workforce is in turmoil and employers will likely be reeling for years to come. Which means that the library’s role as a connector, educator and collaborator in regional employment markets is going to be more important than ever.  

It’s no secret that libraries play a critical role in supporting economic development. Helping parties that range from job seekers to employers to government, libraries are trusted, unbiased, partners to the communities they serve.

libraries helping new people connect

The library can provide inspiration

Entrepreneurs and small business owners use libraries’ computer services for everything from business plans to finding investors; job seekers can visit their local library for assistance editing their résumés or to search the internet for employment opportunities.

In fact, 40% of library computer users are there specifically to access resources related to employment.  

As Elizabeth Laukea, Digital Inclusion Librarian at Washington State Library, has said, “Libraries are in a unique position to inspire people to dream and help them learn the skills needed to discover a career track, succeed in a job interview or set up their own business.”  

libraries are a source of inspiration

Doing more with the right resources

Given more support and strategies to better communicate their role, unlock additional funding and reach more of their community, libraries could do even more.

In the meantime, here are some of the incredible, impactful ways that, even with limited resources and budgets, libraries play a role in building the workforce.  

man sits in front of a computer in a library

Skill development 

There is an incredible amount of workforce development happening in any given public library at any given time. Staff can help equip patrons with basic skills such as reading, writing and presenting, but also with more technical skills like coding.

While workers of color face disproportionate skill gaps, nearly one-third of all workers lack the digital skills needed for a basic office job — and that includes plenty of younger workers, too.

Helpfully, 92% of US libraries provide free access to internet services and basic computer-skill instruction on a regular basis, and many go beyond that with job-specific workshops and classes.

For instance, 42% of libraries run workplace-literacy programs, many tailored specifically to English language learners.  

team building

Language and literary skills 

For many new residents to a country, the library can be an important point of connection. Open to all, these are low-barrier resources to help newcomers access the tools and services they need to really thrive in a new place.  

In seating sweeps, the Vancouver Public Library has found that oftentimes more than half of the patrons were studying English. Providing a quiet place for a person to focus on language skills is just one way libraries can support immigrants trying to integrate into a new place.

Many libraries across North American offer GED programs and English-language literacy courses for adults — all of which can have a life-changing impact on families' socio-economic impact and successes.  

Career services 

In one poll of over 400 companies, researchers discovered that new graduates entering the US workforce generally disappoint employers who would like to give them their first job.

Luckily, libraries exist as a free resource to help combat the challenge of a first impression, with employment-services support such as résumé building, job hunting and applications.  

Soft skills, too, can be honed at the library, with formal and informal opportunities to practice oral and written communication, professionalism and group problem-solving.  

Career Services at Libraries

Community connection 

As a neighborhood hub, the library offers ample opportunity for patrons to connect, mingle and network. Whether that’s providing a board for job postings or fostering interpersonal connections through social literary events and workshops, libraries can breed plenty of organic connections.  

More strategically, libraries can also provide support to employers by promoting their job openings, or hosting meet-and-greet events.   

libraries provide support to students

Advocacy with local and regional government 

As pillars within the communities and institutions they serve, libraries are in a unique position to advocate for government resources in a way that individuals or businesses might not be able to. They’re also well equipped to put funding to good use, and practiced in allocating resources effectively and efficiently to best serve their patrons.   

As we continue to rebound from COVID-19, now is the perfect time for librarians to promote their career services and encourage the broader community to remember the importance of library resources as they embark on job searches or hunts for applicants.

Libraries have long been, and will long continue to be, important partners in communities’ economic development — and now is the time to lean on them for the support we need. 

Learn more about how libraries partner with PressReader to give their patrons access to more than 7,000 reputable publications.    

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