This article is from the spring edition of OPEN+ magazine, available at the Library and metro-area Hy-Vees or online: fliphtml5.com/homepage/rofy
Whether you’re looking for help updating a resume, finding job opportunities, practicing for an interview or getting training in a new job field, the Library has resources to help.
Workforce development is part of the Library’s strategic plan. It’s also one more way Library staff seek to better connect and inform the Cedar Rapids community.
“A public library is one of the entities that holistically sees a community, any age and any need, and seeks to serve them, whether it is by overcoming barriers that keep them from finding housing or employment or through entertainment and enrichment,” Librarian Meredith Crawford said. “We reflect the community and create a place for community.”
Crawford helps create the Library’s workforce development programs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of those programs have moved online. Patrons can make appointments for one-on-one virtual coaching meetings with Library staff, and they can attend virtual webinars on everything from remote work computer skills to union apprenticeship opportunities. All of those programs are available to watch anytime on the Library’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/CedarRapidsPublicLibrary.
Patrons can also make an appointment for in-person help at the Opportunity Center at Ladd Library, a collaboration between the Library, Kirkwood Community College, and United Way of East Central Iowa. Services at the Opportunity Center go beyond workforce help, and include assistance accessing job training and placement, health care navigation, housing, financial counseling, social services, and entrepreneurial training.
During the pandemic, appointments are available by calling 319.739.0456 or visiting CRLibrary.org/opportunity-center.
Crawford said Library staff have been working to identify additional community partners to collaborate with. That way, when someone comes to the Opportunity Center, staff can better connect them with resources.
“There are so many other agencies doing good work; we don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” she said. “We can support both community organizations and agencies as well as our shared patron base when we are all working toward a common goal.”
Library Programming Manager Kevin Delecki agreed.
“We don’t want to be the premiere workforce development location, we want to offer a beginning entry point and connect people to the wide world of things that exist,” he said.
He said workforce development became a priority in part because staff saw a demand for it.
“It was something the people that come in and use us regularly were asking for. It’s something our patrons have told us over and over is what they need,” he said.
The Library also offers remote access to online services including JobNow and VetNow, where patrons can find live help with job seeking. These and more resources can be found at CRLibrary.org/skills.
“They aren’t local, but they can be places to workshop resumes and figure out what they want the next career step to be,” Delecki said.
After the Library reopened on a limited basis in early February, patrons started returning to use computers in person. Access to technology can be a huge barrier for job seekers, one the Library can help overcome.
Crawford shared success stories she’s seen – like a man reentering society from jail and spending three weeks applying for jobs on a Library computer, then high-fiving staff when he secured one, or a mother of three whose children accompanied her to the Library every day after school while she looked for a job.
“My favorite part about this work is people. Any small amount of energy we can put into connecting people is incredible,” she said. “We strive to help patrons in unique and enriching ways and be as helpful as possible for our community in these challenging times.”