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By August 2010, unemployment in Tulsa had reached 7.7% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.ok_tulsa_msa.htm
). The difficult economic times left many people struggling to find work, and those job seekers often turn to the library for help. All Tulsa City-County Libraries offer computer and Internet access, but job seekers still met with obstacles: Some lacked the computer skills to complete online job searches and applications. Daily time limits made it difficult to finish resumes and cover letters. They were unfamiliar with reliable resources to use for job searching or building their skills. Busy library staff did their best to help meet these customers’ needs, but the reality of working a public service desk made it impossible to provide in-depth, one-to-one assistance. Computer classes for a particular software or skill did not meet the needs either. Our customers needed more, and we wanted to do more to help.
To meet these needs, we started Job Lab in October 2010. Job Lab is offered monthly at three of our locations: Central, Martin Regional, and Rudisill Regional Libraries. Job Lab is a special computer lab just for job seekers. Rather than following a formal class structure, participants are encouraged to work on whatever job-related needs are most urgent for them. They can update resumes, write cover letters, search for jobs, complete online job applications, explore new careers, access library databases to build new work skills or take practice tests, and use the computers for other employment-related needs. Library staff members assist attendees individually and help them find appropriate resources.
From October 2010 to March 2011, Job Lab has helped 94 job seekers in the Tulsa area. One woman who participated in our first Job Lab continued to attend sessions, and she actually received a job offer while at a subsequent Job Lab! Job seekers of all skill levels have received the help they needed, such as setting up a free email account for communicating with employers, creating resumes and cover letters, and learning how to search our extensive business databases to find professional networking leads and prepare for interviews. We have helped job hunters from a range of educational backgrounds (from those without high school diplomas through those with postgraduate level degrees) and from a wide variety of occupational fields (including day laborer, mechanic, communication specialist, retail manager, freelance writer, property analyst, information technology and more).