Public libraries, employment & digital inclusion

Co-Authoring the Digital inclusion blog series are John Bertot* and Larra Clark**

Chart showing the extent to which libraries are promoting entrepreneurship and small business development.

Libraries go a long ways in promoting entrepreneurship and small business development.

For more than five years, the Public Libraries and the Internet survey has explored how libraries leverage their technology resources and services to enable employment opportunity for community members. The research consistently shows libraries go beyond bridging the digital inclusion gap by providing computer and Internet access to patrons who lack such employment necessities in their homes. Librarians strive to assist individuals who lack digital literacy, which includes the skills needed to search for jobs online, fill out online forms such as applications, use software tools to create resumes, and more.

Most recently, the 2014 Digital Inclusion Survey finds that:

  • 73% of libraries provide programs that assist individuals apply for jobs, create resumes, and prepare for interviews; with access to jobs databases and job opportunity resources;
  • 68% of libraries provide access to programs that assist individuals with accessing employment databases and job opportunity resources; and
  • 62% of libraries provide access to online job/employment materials.

In addition, 36% of libraries provide work space(s) for mobile workers.

Libraries go further—promoting entrepreneurship and small business development. Of the one-third of libraries that offer such programs, 59% offer small business startup assistance, 49% help develop small business plans, 39% offer business collaboration space and meeting rooms, and 37% provide market research services.

These services are increasingly essential. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 17% percent of American households do not have broadband access, reaching up to 53% in rural communities (see full report here).

With major employers increasingly using online services as the primary means of listing open positions and only allowing applications to be completed online, library technologies are vital for many Americans to find employment.

Libraries offer millions of people access to employment and career information, certification and testing resources, assistance with online job applications, skills training and free public Internet and computing access. State and local partnerships and collaborations with employment and workforce agencies can provide stronger community employment services that not only get people back to work, but also allow patrons to achieve their full career potential or pursue entrepreneurial opportunities.

More details are available in the study’s Public Libraries & Employment issue brief.

(Note: this is the second in a series of blog posts devoted to detailing aspects of libraries’ digital inclusion roles. We welcome questions, comments and suggestions for future blogs in the comments section.)

*John Carlo Bertot is the Digital Inclusion Survey lead researcher and co-director of the Information Policy & Access Center at the University of Maryland. 

**Larra Clark is ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) deputy director

About Larra Clark

As Deputy Director of the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), Larra’s responsibilities include overall management of OITP’s telecommunications portfolio and day-to-day management of America’s Libraries for the 21st Century (AL21C) projects and those in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Previously, she served as the project manager in the ALA Office for Research & Statistics for three years.

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