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Libraries’ job services help rising number of unemployed residents

Main Street, other Libraries offer job-seeking help

As the unemployment rate in Newport News continues to rise, more residents are getting help in finding a job at their Newport News Public Libraries.

Libraries’ job services help rising number of unemployed residents

Amy Blow, information services specialist at Main Street Library, right, helps Hampton resident Ralph Stewart with a question in the Business Information Center.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. 2009 Mar 31

As the unemployment rate in Newport News continues to rise, more residents are getting help in finding a job at their Newport News Public Libraries.


Newport News resident Alonzo Hill said he visited the Business Information Center at Main Street Library every day for several months, which helped him land a job at the VA Medical Center in Hampton. Hill got help in updating and editing his resume, and searching and applying for jobs at the Center.


“The librarians were extremely helpful, and took their time with me,” he said. Without the library’s resources, Hill said he would have had to drive from location to location looking for a job, which would have taken more time and money. “This was more efficient for me,” he said. “I don’t know what I would have done without them.”


Hill and his wife recently moved to the area from Albemarle, NC, for a new start. “It was a dream to move and stay at the beach,” he said. “Getting a job was what I needed to do to stay here.”


Hill isn’t alone. According to the Virginia Employment Commission, unemployment increased throughout 2008, and more people in Virginia were looking for a job in January 2009 than at any other time since 1992. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate hit 6.4 percent in January, and it was even higher – 6.7 percent – in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News area, according to the VEC.


Without access and skills in using a computer, Hill said it was difficult for him to apply for the many announcements that required online applications. His friends suggested he visit his local library. At Main Street Library, he learned computer basics, how to search for jobs on the Internet, how to save and email job announcements and more.


 “All this was new. The last time I was on a computer was in the ‘80’s,” he said. “They all helped me,” he said of the Main Street Library staff. “It was really enlightening to me. It helped me a whole lot.” The assistance and skills he gained also lifted his spirits and increased his confidence, he added.


The increase in unemployment in January led to a corresponding spike in job-seekers at the Library. In January, 142 people used the resources at Main Street Library’s Business Information Center to look for a job. The average number of people using the resources to find a job monthly in the previous six months was about 88.


Ralph Stewart, a Hampton resident, turned to the Business Information Center at the Library after using other job-seeking services, because of the quiet atmosphere, convenience and personal assistance.


“I like the environment here. It seemed like I got more assistance here,” he said. “I was never turned down – that means a lot to me. If they are busy, they just say, ‘Just a minute, Mr. Stewart, I’ll be right with you,’ and they were!”


He said his job search became more productive when he came to the Library on a regular basis. “When I found out how much information I could get, I was like a sponge,” Stewart said. “The more I came, the more I got done.” He ended up with four job offers to choose from and began working as an in-home counselor for Family Impact Inc. in January.


“I don’t know why I waited this long to use the resources at the library. People my age, and anyone who falls on hard times – everything they need to know, it’s right here,” Stewart said.


As SNAP sites, Main Street, Grissom and Pearl Bailey Libraries help unemployed and underemployed people receive free job-search services through Virginia’s SHARE Network, part of Peninsula Worklink, an organization that offers extensive career assistance at no cost to Peninsula residents.


The libraries offer public SHARE Network computers with Internet access and trained staff to help job-seekers connect to One-Stop Career Centers through the computer and direct referral.


Services offered at the libraries’ SNAP sites include:

·         Job search information and assistance

·         Local, state and national job listings

·         Schedule of local job/career fairs

·         Workspace with computers with Internet access, phone, fax and copiers

·         Unemployment insurance claim filing

·         Registration for Virginia Employment Commission services

·         Introduction to training opportunities


Those who need assistance beyond these core services are referred to the One-Stop Career Center at Virginia Workforce Center – Hampton, Peninsula Workforce Development Center, 600 Butler Farm Road, Room 1015, in Hampton.


The Career Information Center, part of the Business Information Center at Main Street Library, provides print and Internet resources to help job-seekers create resumes and cover letters and learn interview techniques. In addition, special classes and workshops are provided, and the library’s reference staff can help patrons access the Internet, create e-mail accounts and help with creating resumes. They can provide books and other print materials to assist with the job search.


Contact any of the Newport News Public Libraries or the Newport News One-Stop Career Center at 757-865-5874 for more information.


·         Grissom Library, 366 DeShazor Drive, Newport News, VA 23608, 757-369-3190

·         Main Street Library, Bookmobile, 110 Main Street, Newport News, VA 23601, 757-591-4858

·         Pearl Bailey Library, 2510 Wickham Ave., Newport News, VA 23607, 757-247-8677


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