I Never Would Have Looked There: Help and Hope for Jobseekers

What do I do with my free time while traveling? I go to the local library, of course! While visiting Tucson, Arizona last week, I popped in to the Murphy-Wilmot Branch Library to see what the Pima County Public Library was up to. 

I grew up in Tucson, and my mom is a Pima County librarian. So I already knew my hometown library system is a finalist for the Institute of Museum and Library Service's National Medal for Museum and Library Service, and I've been thrilled to see all the attention Pima's library nurse program is getting.

But, as cool as it is, the library nurse program is just one of Pima County's nifty projects. 

Helping Interviewees Look Their Best


When I stopped by the Pima County Murphy-Wilmot branch, I was lucky enough to meet Library Program Instructor, Carmella Harmon. She gave me a tour of the library's Drop-In Job Help and other resources for jobseekers.

The very first thing that caught my attention was the flyer shown at left: "Get ready for your job interview with a complimentary haircut & manicure." It turns out, they've partnered with Pima County's Joint Technical Education District (JTED) to offer a free haircut and manicure to Job Help participants who have interviews scheduled!

This struck me as both a wonderful service to provide jobseekers and a super-innovative way to partner with another local community organization. But, to Carmella, this just seemed like a natural partnership. 

JTED is a public high school district that provides technical education to high school students in Pima County. Depending on the program, JTED students can earn high school or college credit, industry certifications, or state licenses in fields as varied as cosmetology, graphic design, automotive technologies, and veterinary assisting.

By offering free haircuts and manicures for library Job Help participants, the JTED Cosmetology program students (closely supervised by instructors) improve their skills, and library Job Help participants look sharp for their interview. 

As Carmella said, "they're community-based, we're community-based. It just made sense." Gotta say, I love that no-nonsense approach to developing library-community partnerships.

More Traditional Help for Jobseekers

Of course, the library also offers more traditional services for jobseekers. The branch offers drop-in job help two days a week, including:

  • Basic computer skills training
  • Individual instruction on interview techniques and resume building
  • Creating and using an email account
  • Assistance with online job search tools

Job Help instructors (like Carmella, right) share both online and offline resources. In addition to offering help with online job searching, the library crew maintains binders of local job listings, an enormous bulletin board highlighting local programs and opportunities (pictured behind Carmella), and printed handouts on topics like interviewing basics and writing a cover letter. 

This online-offline approach allows participants to search for jobs regardless of their comfort level with computers, Internet searches, or online job listings.

The library also offers drop-in combined job help/computer help sessions, so people can get technology and job search help simultaneously.

Impact of the Job Help Program

I also got to chat with a Job Help program participant. He said he was applying for a free ten-week culinary skills training program with a lengthy screening and interview process. When he showed up for the first interview, he said he was "the only guy that had a resume." The Pima County Job Help folks had helped him create a resume and, as he said:

"I think having that resume really made me look good and hopefully gave me a leg up."

Carmella also shared a number of ways that she's seen the Job Help program benefiting participants:

  • Expanded horizons: Carmella shared the story of a nurse who came to a Job Help session. The nurse had struggled to find a job, until Carmella suggested she expand her search to look at school nurse positions. The woman was astonished, saying "I never would have thought to look for that!"
  • Reignited hope: Among other tools, the Job Help program uses Winway Resume Deluxe to help jobseekers create resumes, cover letters, and other materials. The program also includes a basic job search that searches through several major online career sites. Winway's search function is pretty basic, just using keyword and state. So it's not super-specific, but that doesn't always matter. When Carmella demonstrated a search for "clerical" in Arizona, she excitedly noted that there were over 1,000 jobs listed.

As she said:

"Some of these people have been looking for months and haven't found anything, so seeing all these jobs gives them hope."

Many thanks to Carmella and the other folks at the Murphy-Wilmot Branch Library for the work that they do, and for giving me a peek at their Job Help program!

More Good Stuff in Pima County

In addition to job search help and the well-documented library nurse program, Pima County is meeting community needs in other intriguing ways. Here are just a few of their other programs:

  • Catalyst Café is a meetup for local nonprofits, small businesses, and experts to explore and learn about new ideas and emerging technologies.
  • The Seed Library offers a seed exchange and gardening-related educational programming, in partnership with the University of Arizona and community organizations like Native Seeds/SEARCH.
  • Bookbike volunteers pedal to community organizations and events, providing books, library cards, and information about library programs, plus bike maps and information about bicycling events. 

Learn More

Our April TechSoup for Libraries webinar focuses on improving your jobseeker instruction skills. Register for our free webinar and become a better trainer for jobseekers in your community!

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