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An Economic Rescue Mission

Jacksonville Public Library
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Innovation Summary

To address the needs of the unemployed and economically disadvantaged in Jacksonville, the library created a set of resources, programs, partnerships and services to assist Jacksonville residents. They include the creation of computer labs, special classes and workshops, a job fair, strategic partnerships, and a job help website.

Innovation Leader: Ava Barrett, Administrative Supervisor, Main Library, abarrett@coj.net

Problem Statement

Jacksonville has been impacted by massive unemployment and steep foreclosure rates. This has left many unemployed, homeless and without internet access. Many of those affected have little to no computing skills and cannot afford to pay for classes. Additionally, since August 2011, Floridians have been required to file new unemployment claims or send updates on claimant job searches via the Internet. For people who are not familiar with computers or have no access to the internet these new requirements prove to be a significant barrier. The Jacksonville Public Library (JPL) has almost 900 computers available for the public to help fulfill this need. However, these only guarantee access for 45 minutes if others are waiting, often not enough time to complete a job application, create a resume, or apply for unemployment benefits. Library staff are forced to balance the needs of customers waiting for computers with the needs of those already on computers. Many customers also need help filling out job applications online, the only option offered now by many employers. In order to provide reference assistance to large numbers of customers, librarians are unable to provide the one-on-one assistance these customers require, leaving both customers and librarians frustrated. We realized we needed to provide additional resources and a place with staffing and equipment that would offer the access and assistance customers needed.

Innovation

Services to address these needs include our Mobile Electronic Laptop Lab comprised of two portable carts holding 16 laptops, each loaded with the full Microsoft Office Suite and WiFi capability. The labs fulfill two needs: designating them for e-government and job search use allows us to give users extra time; and they provide a way to conduct computer classes in branches that do not have a dedicated computer lab. They also provide a flexible way to add extra public access computers where demand is highest. Similarly two E-government /Job Search Open Labs provide extended computer time and one-on-one staff assistance with completing job applications, applying for government services, and learning computer skills. One of these is in a repurposed computer lab in the Main Library. At this location, e-specialists provide assistance for users of the American Sign Language and speakers of Tagalog and Spanish. The other location is in a small branch in the urban core. Here staff offer a series of daily workshops, called the Career Building Program, on topics such as resume building, online employment assistance, filling out unemployment forms and searching for employment leads. As a complement, JPL has created a Career/Jobs Website , which provides links to employment services, social services, job skill enhancement sites, and job events such as workshops. Finally, partnerships have been essential to our efforts to provide economic assistance. Partners helped make possible a job fair that was attended by over 400 residents. WorkSource, a federal stimulus funded agency providing workforce services at several of our libraries, has been another partner. They provide computers for online job searches, trained staff in resume building skills, interview coaching, and help with unemployment claims, food stamp applications, and referrals to other agencies.

Progress

In Fiscal Year 2011, 7,537 individuals benefited from WorkSource programs. This year, it has already helped over 3,000 people. 25 outside agencies participated in a job fair that attracted 408 job seekers. Several of these candidates were hired on the spot and the employing agencies have requested that we host this annually. Some of these initiatives are in their infancy, but attendance for the E-government / Job Search Open Lab has steadily increased each month since its soft launch in mid-November 2011. It has consistently gotten high ratings in various random surveys conducted where almost all participants answer “Yes” when asked whether they found the program helpful. Some have already reported that they found employment as a result of this program. Finally, since October 2011, the Mobile Electronic Laptop Lab has been in continual use in our branches.