library's role in times of economic hardship
My bro-in-law's company is still forcing all employees to work at a 3o% pay cut for the time being.
And also this week at Library X we just learned that we are still over budget (this after all of our materials budgets were cut substantially from last year) for the year and they are again cutting hours and asking people to pick up more slack. I am still safe. I honestly don't know how I would get all of my programming done if I worked any less hours.
All this got me to thinking of the library's role in our economic crisis. This article "Folks Are Flocking to the Library, a Cozy Place to Look for a Job," from the Wall Street Journal basically says what most Librarians have been noticing for a while now:
"A few years ago, public libraries were being written off as goners. The Internet had made them irrelevant, the argument went. But libraries across the country are reporting jumps in attendance of as much as 65% over the past year, as newly unemployed people flock to branches to fill out résumés and scan ads for job listings."
Here in Michigan, and at Library X we are no stranger to this. According to the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (Wednesday) Michigan's unemployment rate just hit 10.6% in December; the highest it has been in 25 years. (1984 showed the unemployment rate hitting 10.9%, "The state was then emerging from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. " [Ann Arbor News].) (Stats found here.)
I see some of the same patrons day in and day out, searching for jobs, posting resumes; and it is nice in a way to be the go-between for these people. To offer encouragement and just listen to where they are in their search, etc. I would like to think that in all of this, we as a Community will grow stronger.
We as Libraries are called to serve unfailingly during this time; to offer programs that reflect the needs of our communities; to focus on all of the great FREE things that patrons have access to with their library card: movie rentals, the Museum Adventure Pass program, internet access, story times, crafts for kids, programing, etc.
While we can't offer advice, we can offer encouragement, guidance to proper materials: GED test guides, SAT guides, Firefighter exam practice books, US Government Civil Service Test prep materials. We teach people to use the internet, send emails, copy and paste resumes from archaic programs like Microsoft Works into Microsoft Word.
And broken down in the simplest, most Pollyanna-ic of terms, we can offer a smile. For the love of God, that is the cheapest, most easily produced thing that we can offer.
Yep. Libraries are an asset to these tough economic times.