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JobSmart

Gwinnett County Public Library, GA
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Innovation Summary

JobSmart is a customer service initiative focusing on career development services and programs for jobseekers and entrepreneurs in the library setting—everything from resume and interview basics to job search options and small business ownership—thus enhancing the community’s awareness of the extensive resources available at their public library.

Innovation Leader: Barbara Spruill, Branch Services Division Director, bspruill@gwinnettpl.org

Problem Statement

Gwinnett County’s unemployment rate is 9 percent and more than ever, customers are looking for smarter ways to search for jobs and job-related help is the number one requested service at GCPL . We are determined to meet this need in a very specific way: by creating a comprehensive program addressing the needs of jobseekers, entrepreneurs in the making, and career changers. JobSmart was implemented by a team of branch and administrative library staff in 2012. JobSmart would certainly fulfill a community need, but it would also address a library need as well: it would be another way for the library to continue playing an essential role in the enrichment of its community. Although many components of JobSmart already existed (print/online resources, core reference materials), the team was charged with enhancing those resources while also creating new ones. Customers could look to the JobSmart program to learn basic computer skills (from online job searches to emailing a resume attachment), improve their interview skills, study small business plans and write the ideal resume. JobSmart is set up with flexibility in mind: there is a core set of components that all fifteen branches offer and many optional components are available to branches whose library users might benefit from more in-depth services and programs—recognizing that customer needs can vary from one branch service area to another.

Innovation

Components essential to meeting JobSmart objectives: Target audiences identified: anyone looking for a job/career change, hoping to enhance their job search, resume or interview skills, or seeking information on starting a new business. Frontline staff received training on library and community job resources and the tools and materials necessary to promote JobSmart. Access to resources was crucial. Branches dedicated space to JobSmart: general information, books, specific branch service area needs (bi-lingual resources). Each branch displays a JobSmart Community Notebook, a large binder with information on library and community resources, training, pamphlets, postings, workshops and more. Branch computers often have a waiting list, so two loaner laptops are made available to customers at each branch, checking out for at least one hour so a user can access job resources and databases. Organizations that share our mission and objectives were engaged to promote the initiative and provide information on training, networking, resources: Department of Labor, Community Alliance, Goodwill, Georgia Small Business Development Center, University of Georgia and Gwinnett Technical College. GCPL partnered with career development coaches who provided free branch workshops on resume writing and interviewing skills. Future workshops: Dressing for Success and Salary Negotiation. GCPL partnered with the Chamber of Economic Development by providing resources for its popular Amazing Entrepreneur Competition, which supports growth and development by awarding funds to promising small business plans3rd Annual Amazing Entrepreneur Business Plan Competition is GCPL partnered with the Atlanta Regional Commission to provide a Mobile Career Lab—a bus offering assistance with job readiness, ten laptops, two certified job coaches and many resources not available in the library. Scheduled biweekly at strategically selected branch parking lots.

Progress

Essential objectives were achieved, while new ideas emerged for the future: Materials staff increased print holdings and database access to support the initiative, branch staff were educated on notebook contents, core reference materials, job search databases and community partner referrals. Staff-generated LibGuide devoted to JobSmart featured an extensive and cohesive list of books and web resources The Community Notebook’s extensive collection of resources became a favorite of the elusive passive library use, was frequently used, and sometimes went missing. More inclusive information (job fair schedules, multi-lingual handouts) and a backup book will be considered. Some entries become quickly outdated. Branch staff make sure notebooks are as current and accessible as possible. Increase in related web usage (+23%) and print circulation (+12%) Budget constraints limited GCPL to two per branch; public desktop computers will not be selectively converted to JobSmart computers, a decision that will need to be revisited. Clearly customers need a wide range of technology assistance from basic to advanced and computer access will need to grow. 635 participants in workshops and mobile job lab. While space and availability are limited, the mobile lab enhances GCPL’s already formidable resources. JobSmart is a program that fills an important community need, promotes the library’s relevance in the modern era and enhances the perception of the library as an enriching feature of community life in Gwinnett County— factors that are crucial to community goodwill and future funding and development.