Libraries are among the first responders to the crisis of unemployment, and unemployment is a personal crisis even when it is not a national one. The unemployed can take advantage of many library services specifically aimed at looking for work. Libraries can also help with many more problems that unemployment only intensifies.
Meanwhile, there are about 3,000 unemployment offices across the United States. There are about 16,000 libraries. Which of unemployment offices or libraries have the longer lines? Are people most likely to be embarrassed if someone recognizes them at an unemployment office or a library?
Computers at the library
Many people have been laid off after working for the same company for a long time. The process of looking for work is much different now than it was the last time they were in the labor market. Twenty years ago, no one needed to know how to use a computer to look for work. It might have been necessary ten years ago, but people use computers differently now; some important sites didn't yet exist.
Nowadays, finding any kind of a job requires some computer skills. Some people have no computer to use, and others have no computer skills at all. Libraries have computers that patrons can use free of charge. They also offer instruction on how to use a computer. Someone who has never turned a computer on can learn basic computer skills at the library.
Even people with well-developed computer skills will find that looking for work requires some different ones. On their own, they may eventually stumble on to important sites like Monster.com or Linked-In and learn to use them. Or, they can ask a librarian and come away with a list of helpful sites and instructions on how to take advantage of them.
The smallest libraries will have both some resources and at least one reference librarian on duty. Larger libraries might have a special section devoted to finding work, with all the print sources gathered in one place, some computers, and specialists as the reference librarians.
Library classes and workshops for the unemployed
As part of their overall educational and community service mission, libraries offer a number of classes and workshops. One of them might be about how to use Linked-In.
Whenever lots of people come into the library with similar questions, the library will probably look for some way to deal with them in groups. Besides basic computer skills or how to use a particular web site, you can learn how to write a resume and cover letter. In a group setting, members of the class can critique each other.
Likewise, libraries often offer some kind of group instruction in interviewing skills, how to use some of the basic reference works (both in print and online) related to finding work, how to set personal career goals, how to find suitable job openings, or how to prepare for an interview. Again, members of a class can take turns asking questions and being interviewed.
Other useful library classes and workshops
Some people decide not to look for a job any more, and to start their own business instead. Librarians can show them plenty of information on how to decide what kind of business to go into, how to prepare a business plan, how to arrange financing, and all kinds of other things new entrepreneurs need to know.
Many people have poor money management skills. They might be able to make bad decisions, max out on their credit cards, and live from paycheck to paycheck. Once they're out looking for work, they can no longer afford not to develop better money management. Libraries offer classes and workshops to help, regardless of whether the people who come are working or unemployed.
Unemployment also puts a strain on families. Larger libraries may have special parenting centers, just like the job searching centers I mentioned earlier. Many libraries offer parenting classes. Help with substance abuse and other issues may also be available at the library.
I have written many other articles and blog posts about libraries, including How to use the library if you're unemployed and a completely different approach to the subject, Library services for the unemployed.