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Mobile laptop labs

Pierce County Library System
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Innovation Leader: Michele Leininger, Information Experience Director, mleininger@piercecountylibrary.org

Problem Statement

Between 2009 and 2010, Pierce County unemployment grew from 6% to 11.4%. In 2011, it stands at 10.4%, the highest in Puget Sound. Job seekers were looking to the library for help. WorkForce Central, a local workforce development agency, wanted a way to bring more resources to individuals in rural parts of the county and approached the Library to collaboratively find a solution. With the worsening economy, the need for the individuals to be retrained after job and career changes increased, adding to the pressure. Serving the population of a large county (1,600 square miles), it was difficult to bring computers and training to many of customers, due to mobility issues and distance. Outlying branches were too small to house many computers, had insufficient tools to provide training, and limited staff to meet the need.

Innovation

PCLS, through a partnership with WorkForce Central, purchased three mobile laptop labs that are used both in the library and at community locations. The mobile labs allowed library staff to:

  • Meet the customer at their point of need.
  • Create intimate, focused, and portable job and business centers.
  • Replicate an at-home computer experience.
  • Download specialized software, allowing staff to teach current technology and trends.
  • Provide an unhurried environment to learn and practice.

Progress

With the mobile labs, PCLS has been able to increase the number, variety, and locations of the computer skills classes offered. From May to November 2010, staff presented 120 classes using Labs working out of three libraries. These have become very popular and staff are always looking for more classes to fit into busy schedules and meeting rooms. But the best example of mobile lab usage was for a large employment event to hire for temporary positions. Partnering with a Worksource office, PCLS helped a large number of diverse individuals apply online for employment at the Puyallup Fair, one of the largest fairs in the world. With a mobile lab, library staff were able to assist individuals apply not only at the smaller branches but also at the fairgrounds, where people had applied in years past. For three days, PCLS and Worksource staff helped applicants apply for the temporary positions using one of the mobile labs in a trailer at the fairgrounds. The event and partnership was an overwhelming success and has led to the purchase of more JBC mobile labs and increased partnership opportunities with Worksource and their clients.