An interesting article from Minnesota Public Radio came to my attention via Twitter. Copied below is the start of the article, which discusses the growing trend in libraries for librarians to act almost as social workers. I have to say that I have always felt that in public libraries the “social work” aspect, i.e. providing support to the lonely through friendly interactions and a listening ear (like the barkeep), has been underrated. Their certainly seems to have been an expansion in that side of the public librarians role. Through dealing with troubled teenagers to helping people apply for jobs, the Librarian as a “social worker” is a reality.
In my role I have found that apart from helping people put there pictures up on Bebo or Facebook, the other major help function on the APNK computers ahs been in the editing and sending of CVs for the functionally computer illiterate. Which is why public libraries with free Internet are becoming even more important as a core part of the community. It seems that more and more jobs are being advertised, found and applications are via the Internet. A lot of the people I deal with don’t have a computer at home, and have never used one. And it can be very distressing at times, for us and them. I had a young teen mother in the other day, who sat down and prepared a CV for applying for a job. She went to save to disc, and managed to loose the lot. She hadn’t the time to redo and I couldn’t rescue her work. So off she went in tears, and there was nothing I could do, which was painful as she is one of the young mums who actually wants to go beyond the DPB. Sigh.
It’s also quite sad to hear through the grapevine that South Taranaki Public libraries, that beacon of good and progressive management, with no fees, is about to have all that work taken away. The word I have heard, from multiple sources, is that the council is not only insisting on higher revenues, thus the reinstatement of overdues/reserve fees, but in their draft annual plan will be proposing a Adult book rental fee like Tauranga. That will rip the guts out of the service as far as I am concerned.
Edina, Minn. — The combination of a recession and changes to the typical job application process has made some local librarians into self-described social workers.
Many companies nowadays require job seekers to fill out online applications, which may be tough for people who don’t know much about using the Web, or don’t have access to it. Many job seekers are turning to their local librarians for help.
“It’s like the new normal to have social work be part of being a librarian,” said Kim Poole, a librarian at Hennepin County’s Southdale Library in Edina. “Sometimes as a librarian you feel like you’re throwing out a life preserver to a person … they are often at the edge of an abyss.”
Poole started working in the early 1980s during a recession and remembers memorizing the Dewey decimal number for a book on resumes and reciting it to each unemployed person who came in looking for help.
But when this recession began, Poole realized it would be very different.
“I could see more and more people coming in,” she said. “You often saw a lot of older people which was quite frightening for them because a lot of those people had been working at jobs for 25 to 30 years and some of those jobs never involved any computer access, so suddenly they are thrown out to find a job without any kind of computer skills.”
More people kept coming through the doors of Southdale and Hennepin County’s 40 other libraries. 5.6 million in-person visits to the libraries last year were counted.