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Libraries' computers are in high demand for the unemployed

POSTED: June 16, 2009 11:44 p.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Kip Burt stops by the Hall County Library System Main Branch on Tuesday afternoon do a research on one of the library's computers for his job with AT&T. Those looking for jobs are using libraries more and more for resume and other resources offered.

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Good luck finding a parking spot at the Gainesville library, especially this summer.

On Tuesday morning, a children’s program fills the downstairs, and computer users pack the upstairs.

Around the edges of the upstairs, laptop users take advantage of the free wireless service. Many of the visitors are looking for jobs.

Christopher Cook, 54, fills out his Florida unemployment claim.

"I come to this library regularly when I’m in Gainesville. That’s about all there is to do if you don’t have a car," he said.

Cook lives in Miami Beach, Fla., but raised his four daughters in Gainesville and is visiting for the birth of his grandson. During the day, he searches for construction and engineering jobs online.

"I’ve been unemployed for a year, and the economy is bleak," he said. "Nobody’s hiring anyone for anything. ... But nothing stays the same, so I still have hope. I think there’s a reason this is all happening."

Across the room, Darold Boone, also 54, searches for computer operator openings.

"I come to the library almost every day to apply online; these jobs aren’t in Georgia," he said. "They tell you to go to the Department of Labor to find a job, but now that it moved to Oakwood it’s hard to get there if you don’t have a car."

Boone, who has been unemployed since December, uses the wireless service on his laptop because demand limits library desktop usage to two hours.

"Sometimes you can’t do all you need to in just two hours," he said.

Librarians have seen an increase in computer users, specifically those who are unemployed.

"Patrons have told us they cut off their computer services at home and come here instead," said Lisa MacKinney, assistant director for community and human resources at the Gainesville branch. "In a general sense, people aren’t buying hardback books or renting movies, they’re coming here. ... Even if the economy isn’t affecting them directly, everyone is spending more conservatively."

Attendance has increased for the free computer classes the library offers each week, and computer users regularly ask for help with online applications.

"We have regulars who are here applying for jobs," she said. "People are looking at classifieds, Department of Labor listings and filing for unemployment online."

The library will soon offer Georgia Work Ready, an online program being offered by the state to help residents obtain job readiness skills. More than 175 companies in Georgia recognize the Work Ready Certificate that displays work skills. The training programs range from general office clerk and waitressing positions to specific aircraft repair and accountant occupations.

"We received the first e-mails about the program this week, so it may be ready to go by the end of the summer," MacKinney said. "It’ll really help people to be more prepared for when they go out into the community."

Al List, a library assistant at the Spout Springs library, said a woman who attended his Resumes in Word 2007 class snagged a job the next week.

"She was very grateful and shared her homemade pasta with me at the next computer class," he said. Three others also successfully sold items on eBay to supplement their incomes after taking the Introduction to eBay class, he said.

"Several teens that I have doing shelving and programming work have told me flat out they either lost their part-time summer job or cannot find employment," said Adrianne Junius, another library assistant at Spout Springs. "One of our teen volunteers used her work experience here to gain employment with Berry College Library this fall when she goes to college there."

Although the library staff is welcoming an increase in customers, they’re facing their own furloughs and pay cuts.

"The cuts definitely create stress, but that’s happening everywhere," MacKinney said. "I think the staff enjoys helping people, and it gives us a sense of hope."



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