Los Angeles, my current home, is an iconic city. San Francisco, where I lived for twelve years before moving here, is an iconic city. But I think most people can agree that New York City is the iconic city. It stands to reason, then, that The New York Public Library is the iconic public library. The lions that stand in front of the Schwarzman Building (named Patience and Fortitude, I learned) are recognized worldwide as a symbol for the library and even though most of its materials are not circulating, the building attracts thousands of visitors everyday. So when the ILP was presented with the opportunity to visit NYPL and meet with an incredible cross-section of their staff, you can understand why we jumped at the opportunity.
I’ve been back at the Studio City Branch Library, where I’m currently assigned, for about a week now and I’m still reeling from everything that we saw and learned while in New York. It would make for a rather long and possibly boring blog entry if I covered everything, so I thought that I would cover just one of their innovative services that really impressed me – the Career and Education Information Service (CEIS) at the Bronx Library Center.
As we all know, our current economic slump has resulted in a lot of job seekers and many of them are coming to the library for help. The CEIS is a one-stop-shop for the unemployed, students interested in learning about potential careers, and those who find themselves changing careers. They provide a large bank of computers for finding job listings, working on resumes and cover letters, researching careers and companies, and brushing up on one’s professional skills. Of course, the library has all the materials that you’d need to help you do these things, from how-to guides to books on certain careers. And though all of these things are wonderful, they are all things you’re likely to find at most public libraries.
What you won’t find at most public libraries, is Robyn Saunders, and she is what makes the CEIS so incredible and innovative. Ms. Saunders is a professional career coach, and she works full-time at the CEIS. That means that if you are looking for a job, you can make an appointment with her, for free, and she will work with you one-on-one. And she can do it all – help you find appropriate jobs to apply to, give you tips on how to craft the perfect resume and cover letter, help you identify resources to gain new skills that you’ll need in a different career, and offer general career coaching assistance.
Of course, at LAPL and public libraries everywhere, librarians are honing their job search skills to provide these much-needed services. But unfortunately, we are not professional career counselors and given the constraints on our time, we are often unable to provide in-depth assistance. However, we are a community institution that people trust and we have the space, equipment, and materials that job searchers need. I think it is very forward-thinking of NYPL to recognize the library’s limitations in providing career counseling services that our patrons sorely need, and to hire the right kind of people to fill this service gap.