Figures released March 9 show the United States' jobless rate held steady at 8.3 percent last month. The nation added more than 200,000 jobs in February, and recent economic growth has encouraged many people who had given up on seeking work to return to the job market. In New York City many job seekers are finding a new source of help, public libraries.
Despite having a master's degree in finance, Sushana Guthrie was unemployed for two years before opening her small tax consulting business this past December in New York. Mindful that many new businesses fail, she used a library as a resource to minimize her risk.
"I started there doing research while doing my MBA (Master of Business Administration degree) as well and looking into locations - kind of like digging up demographics, how would I be able to fare well or not be another statistic; another entrepreneur who failed within one to two years," said Guthrie.
New York's public libraries are partners in a program with Workforce1, a public agency that connects the unemployed with private sector employers. The New York City agency placed 35,000 people in jobs last year, including more than 500 through recently opened library outreach centers.
Last month, Workforce1 helped tax preparer George Espinal find a job at Sushana Guthrie's consulting business. Espinal says the library is a better resource for job seekers than newspaper or online job listings.
"Folks need to be connected, knowing what jobs are available, who is hiring, when are they going to be hiring, how to improve your skills," said Espinal.
Such specific information is the focus of collaboration between libraries and Workforce1. It involves the opening of agency centers in public libraries, or in some cases, opening a library affiliate at a Workforce1 center.
Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson says the institution offers a full spectrum of employment services, from literacy classes to recruitment. She says it required special training for librarians.
"Our employees were instructed on how to engage and assess the needs of job seekers, to provide resume cover letters, interview preparation, assist job seekers with employment barriers," noted Johnson.
Johnson says librarians can also help individuals set up an email account, which is critical to finding jobs in the computer age.
Sushana Guthrie says she already has 350 clients and is striving for 500. She and George Espinal say their aim is to help clients identify money-saving tax breaks that might otherwise be overlooked. And as newly employed individuals, they too will be paying taxes, eventually offsetting the government cost of helping them find employment.