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H&R Block Business & Career Center

Kansas City Public Library, MO
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Innovation Summary

The H&R Block Business and Career Center provides one-stop assistance to patrons attempting to re-enter the workforce or entering the workforce for the first time, starting small businesses, conducting marketing and investment research, researching careers and colleges and those seeking information about how to start and fund a non-profit.

Innovation Leader: Crosby Kemper III, Director of Kansas City Public Library, crosbyk@kclibrary.org

Problem Statement

The Kansas City Public Library serves a metropolitan community that has great diversity in economic background, education, race, age and skill level. We serve a substantial number of people for whom the Library is the first step in their self-development and their first step on the economic ladder. Our busy Reference Desk was the point of service for assisting these patrons amidst responding to other requests for information and for assistance with various services. As the US economy began to decline, the Library experienced a significant increase in the numbers of patrons seeking help with job hunting, career changes, returning to school for more academic and vocational training and an increase in patrons seeking information about starting small business. The Reference staff could spend only a short time with each patron seeking this specialized kind of assistance. Frequently these patrons needed longer periods of time to use the Library’s computers when accessing electronic resources. The Library recognized the need to serve these patrons more effectively and efficiently by expanding reference services to meet the increasing demand, offering extended assistance and providing easier and faster access to relevant print and electronic resources and consolidating materials and services in one place. We recognized that we also had an excellent opportunity to assist budding entrepreneurs of all ages and to promote the concept of entrepreneurship in the community.

Innovation

The Center and its services are branded. All Center literature and the Center’s website have the distinctive color palate and font of the Center. As part of the Center’s goal of promoting entrepreneurship in the community, the Library provides on-going programming highlighting local entrepreneurs past and present, and presents speaker programming featuring nationally-recognized representatives in the fields of economics and business. The Center works with community organizations, groups and agencies and refers patrons to these relevant community services that the patron may not have known exist or know how to access. The Center provides laptops and PCs with extended time usage for patrons to access electronic resources, and to carry out job searching and entrepreneurship activity. The Center’s PCs and laptops do not have the restrictive time usage limits that are applied to the Library’s general-use PCs. Center librarians spend as much time with each patron as needed and patrons may make appointments for extended consultations before beginning their projects. For consultations the Center provides a sit-down desk for the patron and librarian with dual patron/staff PC screens. The Library is a Cooperating Collection Library of the Foundation Center and the electronic and print Foundation resources and the Foundation Librarian have been integrated into the Center. The Center assists patrons who want to make a career change from the corporate/business world to work in the world of non-profits and those who are seeking to leave the business world to start their own non-profit. Staff conduct classes on basic job-hunting and PC skills. The Center librarians train branch staff in the use of the resources so that the basic services are also available for branches.

Progress

Our goals are to assist patrons in gaining the skills and to provide them access to the information they will need to prepare themselves for finding and securing jobs, starting their own businesses or making career changes. We have had patrons tell us that because of the help they received from the Center they were able to find a job or start up their non-profit. The learning process the patrons complete successfully by working with the staff in the Center also enhances their skills and understanding of the processes of the job market, the educational system and entrepreneurship, and this also represents success. Some patrons do not know how to fill out a job application online, create an email account, write a resume, write a business or marketing plan or know why these documents are important. Some do not have the basic keyboarding skills necessary to access information online. We know the Center has achieved successful outcomes when after several sessions with staff over several days or weeks, patrons have learned these skills and have the information they need to be successful in their individual goals. An important lesson learned is that we must provide services to meet the patron at the level from which they are starting. We had not anticipated assisting so many patrons who do not have basic PC skills and need to develop some of those skills before they can be assisted in accessing information. We are adjusting our services accordingly to meet this need.