Loud and proud

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

Carol Good, 61, says she acquired her library card from the Forest Park Public Library too many years ago to remember.

Over the decades, though, it didn't get much use and would regularly lapse … until Good would sheepishly renew it again.

All that changed last year when, after 35 years of service in the newspaper-clipping industry, she lost her job when her company shifted direction.

Since October, Good, who doesn't own a PC or smart phone, has headed to her local library five days a week to use their free resources, in hopes of repackaging herself for a radically different and demanding job market where having a solid resume is no longer enough.

"I sat in front of a computer for eight or nine years because I did need e-mail and I do know how to make a document, but I don't know how to use the software program Word," she says on a recent break from her ongoing job search. "To get a job in this market you have to have more computer skills than I currently do."

Nowadays she's there online, tuned in to Google's and Goodwill's free online tutorials.

"They have these little videos, and I'm currently doing their online thing at my own speed," Good says. "When I get done, I am going to do it again because there are some things I didn't even know Excel did."

The job of finding work

Providing a place where un-employed people — especially older unemployed workers — can network while learning new job skills is a strategic priority at this library, says Sarah Beth Warshauer, public relations and programming librarian.

"One of our goals at this library is to help people with job training," Warshauer says. "We are not job counselors, so some of the ways to start doing that is to be able to provide a place for people who are looking for jobs to spend the day. Here you don't have to buy or give us anything to come in and stay. If you need a break from a job search, there are millions of things to do."

So any patron of a Chicago-area public library system has free access to their bank of computers — by the hour in their "Digital Video and Design Lab" or in 15-minute increments (Express Internet.). Behind the counter they keep loaner laptops as well, and portable hard drives are available for checkout. Flash drives are sold at the reference desk.

And their website offers an online resume builder.

"We have recently partnered with Goodwill on Harlem Avenue, which is a community organization that has a Workforce Connection Center, so they are professionally staffed with people who know about how to find other people jobs," Warshauer says.

Part of helping people find new jobs, she suggests, is turning the library into a welcoming community space.

"This is a library where our patrons can come in and feel comfortable while they are working on finding a job, getting online degrees, or facebooking, you-tubing, all the things they enjoy doing online.

"So we may not be the quietest library around, but we are proud
of that."


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