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Skills Training and Employment Project (STEP)

Brooklyn Public Library
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Problem Statement

As reports in the media continue to confirm, during a down economy people are turning to libraries in record numbers for help. While many libraries, including Brooklyn Public Library, were accustomed to having questions about jobs as part of their regular reference desk traffic, they were unprepared for the bottleneck created by the high unemployment rates. In addition, many reference librarians were ill equipped for the level of engagement necessary to effectively work with jobseekers to understand their barriers to employment. The reference interview was too short and impersonal to address the needs of jobseekers. Different tools, strategies, and resources were also required for a satisfactory interaction between job seeker and librarian. Finally, because libraries were being asked to demonstrate not only the quantity of transactions but the quality as well, an outcomes-based model of evaluation had to be created that could be used to garner future support from potential funders.


In 2007 Brooklyn Public Library was awarded a grant from the US Department of Labor to help prepare staff effectively meet the needs of jobseekers. The Skills Training & Employment Project (STEP) allowed for the training of librarians who would meet with jobseekers one on one at three library locations (a fourth was added later) to share information about library resources, community resources and services available online. Librarians received training in engaging jobseekers, the world of work, addressing the needs of specific types of jobseekers, and resources to help them help jobseekers. Librarians were allotted time, private space, a laptop, and a toolbox of databases, community agencies, and programs, as well as books and websites. In addition to meeting one on one, these librarians provided regular resume writing and interviewing programs and coordinated programs by external presenters on careers in growth industries. During the period covered by the grant, librarians also utilized various outcomes-based instruments to capture patron outcomes. Evaluation forms for sessions and workshops follow up email surveys and telephone calls, focus groups, as well as an open email address, allowed us to track progress and outcomes to share with various stakeholders.


Based on visits from US Department of Labor, an external evaluator, and patron/partner feedback, the program was a success. The Library built in a sustainability feature to have additional staff trained during the project period that would be available at more locations. Since the grant ended in 2008 the Library has had staff in at least one location within a 4 branch cluster to work with jobseekers and as a result the Library is better equipped to meet the current demand.