Contrary to popular opinion, you don't need to have separate room, dedicated equipment, or a designated librarian to create a career center at your library. Most libraries already have the necessary components--books, videos, Internet access, word processors, and basic company-research tools. It's a matter of making these resources known and readily accessible to our patrons. Forget the unemployment statistics. We are working with individuals, most of whom didn't expect to be looking for a job.
Who are our job seekers and what do they expect from us?
* Downsized managers/professionals. Corporate lifers whose layoffs have left them looking for new lives.
* Dissatisfied careerists. After 10 or 20 years in a profession, they're more than ready to do something else.
* Relocation survivors. Skill-ready workers who are new arrivals to your area are seeking local orientation.
* Workforce re-entry. People who are empty-nesters, newly divorced, or widowed early in life may need training and support in their job searches.
* Seniors. Early retirees and active octogenarians are often ready to start new projects.
The job-seeking patrons who frequent Morris County (NJ.) Library expect everything--and nothing. Many are coming to our library for the first time--some haven't set foot in a library since college--and don't know what we have to offer. They may be reticent, hesitant, angry, demanding, distracted, depressed, and/or apologetic. Some will not want to divulge the reason behind their visit.
In order to help these people, we need to be understanding, tactful, informational, proactive, and optimistic. We have to find a way to give these new patrons a crash course in library services without overwhelming them--not an easy task: Many "not-yet" patrons have no idea we offer telephone reference, let alone remote database access, e-reference, fax/e-mail services and after-hours service.
A CAREER-CENTER CHECKLIST
1 LOCATION COUNTS. Ideally all career materials should be in one place. In our library, the circulating career collection is displayed prominently next to the new books so patrons who are uncomfortable able asking for help can find what they need immediately.
Also, is there a place to sit, read, and write near this collection? Can patrons pull a chair up while they browse through the resume books? It's just as important to make this collection easy to find.
2 COLLECTION SCRUTINY. Weed voraciously, applying the three-year rule. It's better to have a small collection of current books than a large stock of resume books from the 1980s and 1990s. Know your classics, such as Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed by H. Anthony Medley (Ten Speed Press, 1992), and what's hot at Amazon and your local Barnes and Noble. These are the books job seekers want. If your library doesn't own these titles, the "not-yet" patron will probably not call the library for help next time.
3 PHYSICAL ARRANGEMENT. Override Dewey and other anathemas. If your career collection is small, consider grouping books by general topic. We mark our reference career materials with a career sticker and use colored dots to designate employment directories, career exploration, job-search handbooks, resumes/letters/interview primers, and salary guides. Patrons love the browsability, and shelvers find the collection easy to maintain.
4 INFORM PEOPLE ABOUT LOCAL RESOURCES. Job seekers often ask where they can go for help with resumes, practice interview skills, and find networking opportunities. Create a list of local (that is, within reasonable driving distance) job-search groups that offer free or low-cost services to the public. Note groups that impose requirements such as low income, age, or organizational membership. Start with your closest state department of labor's professional services group. Find the rest in local newspapers, community education brochures, social service/United Way directories, and colleges. …