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Redefining Libraries


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Reprinted from Spring 2012 InterCom
By Naomi Sargent

Hunting for a job? Head to your library.

Redefining libraries

You go to the library for books and movies, but have you ever considered heading to the library for help finding a job?

South Carolina libraries are on the forefront of workforce development, and the South Carolina State Library and our School of Library and Information Science are at the heart of the movement.

Workforce development is one way the state's libraries are impacting our economy. From employment hubs to full-scale job centers, libraries are adding programs and resources to help people find jobs. Librarians and students are being trained on how to assist job-seekers by connecting them with resources to increase their chances of finding employment.

"Why should we be doing this?" asked Jason Broughton, workforce development trainer at South Carolina State Library. "Well, they're already coming in."

SCSL developed WorkSC, a program offering workshops and resources to help citizens find jobs. The program was developed in response to more people asking for job-related assistance at their libraries. Using unemployment rates and lists of closing businesses to determine community needs, Broughton prepares libraries for what is coming. Each library chooses what it will offer based on its community's needs.Work SC

"Library services continue to meet the needs of communities they serve," said Dr. Sam Hastings, director of the School of Library and Information Science. "Librarians are best at forecasting and responding to those needs."

Whether it's a single computer reserved for job searches or a floor offering full services, South Carolina's libraries are the place to go for job-seekers. Typing labs, resume workshops and mock interviews are some of the services offered. Last year, 1,021 South Carolinians participated in WorkSC training events. "The goal is to help South Carolinians become more employable," said Broughton.

How SLIS is getting involved

SLIS has a long-term relationship with the state's library system; its collaboration with WorkSC is an example of that. SLIS counts on its partnership with SCSL to help enrich its curriculum. "They give our students experiences and we help to build outreach," said Dr. Hastings.

Together, SLIS and SCSL provide workshops and classes to teach students skills they need to succeed. Students learn where to apply, how to read job descriptions, how to define accomplishments and how to modify resumes for potential employers.

These workshops prepare SLIS students for their own job searches and for the workplace they are about to enter. Ultimately, as future librarians, they learn to build and run job centers. "It's something they need to expect; it's real world experience," said Broughton.

SLIS faculty are developing a course that will help students understand how to build resources and partner with organizations as part of the school's community outreach.

"We try to keep up with what libraries are doing," said Dr. Hastings. "We want our students to be a step ahead."

Reaching beyond our state

In South Carolina, more job-seekers are going to libraries than employment centers. Richland County Public Library hosts the largest center in the state. The key is libraries' free services.

The library-powered website is not just a resource for South Carolinians. People in other states access the website to find tips and assistance for finding employment. Our state's unique services have been accessed by thousands of people in North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

"Our state is meeting a demand," said Broughton. If the job market improves and unemployment rates fall, Broughton said that libraries will be able to reposition job centers as retraining centers. This is one example of how libraries change to help people find the information they need.

So, what's next? The WorkSC program's goals are to provide resources for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and to train librarians on financial literacy. "The library has to evolve with the times," said Broughton. "We have to ensure libraries are prepared for what's next."

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